Jefferson County Public Utility District NO.1 was formed in 1939 and is one of 28 PUDs in Washington. A water and sewer district for most of its history, in 2008 the PUD became the first public utility in Washington State to take back electrical service from a private entity and make it public since 1949, when Snohomish PUD obtained part of Puget Sound Power and Light’s territory.
It has not happened anywhere else in Washington state since. And not for lack of trying, the same year that Jefferson County put the issue on the ballot, 2008, community groups in Skagit County and on Whidbey Island did the same. Only Jefferson’s proposition passed.
Why? Well, Jefferson County is unique! And we were also at the far end of the line for PSE service. When PSE consolidated its customer service outside of the county and outsourced its line crew services to Sumner-based Potelco in the early 2000s, a number of residents noticed changes in service and outage response.Many residents were equally dismayed when, in 2007, PSE, a Bellevue WA based business for over 50 years, sold to an international consortium based out of Australia. Shortly after the sale, Citizens For Public Power, a local group who’d originally formed to work on green energy, approached the PUD about taking back the electrical service from PSE.
District 3 Commissioner Wayne King was on the board at the time. He encouraged the group to take the matter to the voters of Jefferson County before the PUD would consider the proposal. Which in the fall of 2008, the group did, passing Proposition 1 authorizing the PUD to pursue the acquisition of power service for Jefferson County.
After 2 years of negotiations, the PUD and PSE came to a purchase agreement of $103 million dollars for Jefferson County’s electrical system and all of its assets in 2010. In order to pay for that purchase the PUD applied for and received funding from the USDA’s Rural Utility Service program, borrowing $115 total to cover capital improvements and start up expenses.
Resource Manager Bill Graham described the process as planets aligning. “When we borrowed the money to purchase the system, interest rates were at an all time low. And the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) had capacity to take us on as a new Tier 1 customer, which very often they don’t,” said Graham.
BPA power also meant 98% carbon-free electricity, as opposed to PSE, who uses up to 60% fossil fuel generation for power.
The PUD began supplying power to the residents of Jefferson County during the first week of April in 2013
Other important power authority-related documents:
Historic contract with Bonneville Power Administration and JPUD, June 30, 2010.
Letter to BPA requesting firm electric service , dated June 14, 2010 from JPUD
A list of early PUD resolutions showing how the PUD was set up and its operating procedures.
Resolution 2010 – 008 Agreement to acquire PSE’s Jefferson County power service and infrastructure.
Jefferson PUD Utility Development Plan, June 2010 developed by Brown and Kysar, Inc.
Preliminary Feasibility Study Public Utility District No. 1 of Jefferson County Electric System Acquisition – D. Hittle & Associates study, final version released in 2008.
Electric Service Evaluation for East Jefferson County – D. Hittle & Associates performed this study in 2000 to evaluate the existing electrical service in East Jefferson County. The evaluation was needed prior to any decisions involving the PUD entering the public power business.
Projected Economic Impacts of Adding Electrical Distribution Services to PUD#1 of Jefferson County This follow-up study was performed in 2005 by Seattle University professor Paul Sommers. He looked at the impacts on both the PUD and the local community if the PUD provided public power minus capital facilities costs from a new or existing distribution system.
Customer Transition Agreement between PSE and PUD represents the last significant agreement between the two parties. It details the final hand over of Jefferson County PSE customer information to the PUD, February 2013.