PUD Celebrates 5 years of Public Power

Come help us celebrate 5 years of local power, local jobs, and local service as well as 10 years since the vote that made it possible. Come by for lunch, bring your family. Our PUD Commissioners will be grilling up hot dogs and veggie dogs and handing out snacks and drinks. Say hello to the folks that keep the lights on and water flowing and meet our new GM Larry Dunbar.

1949.

That’s the last time a community in Washington State was able to take back electrical service from a private entity and make it public, when Snohomish PUD obtained part of Puget Sound Power and Light’s territory.
It would take almost 60 more years to happen again, this time here in Jefferson County. 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 5 years ago, during the first week of April 2013.