Independence and Obligation
In 2008, Jefferson County citizens declared independence from foreign and remote ownership of their electric grid when they voted to authorize the PUD to acquire the system. It took another five years of struggle before the PUD was able to assume full ownership and operations, but since April of 2013 the wires and cables that supply power to the homes and businesses of East Jefferson County are owned by the people of Jefferson County, and governed by representatives they elect.
Instead of an ownership model where investments in the reliability of the system are kept to a minimum so profits can be maximized and returned to shareholders around the globe, public ownership of Jefferson County’s power grid has resulted in the creation of over 40 new full time and fully benefited jobs, and the return of tens of millions of dollars back to the community in the form of reliability investments in the grid and local spending by employees who live in the community they serve.
In July’s bill, you will see the first in a series of electric rate increases passed by your locally elected commissioners. Rate increases are certainly not the most revered part of local and independent ownership, but in this case they are needed to modernize and keep reliable an electric grid that has many components reaching the end of their useful life. Is your neighborhood prone to outages on a sunny day? You probably have 30 year old wires buried right in the dirt. Seem like every storm large and small takes out power to your home? You’re probably served by a 50 year old substation transformer that lacks a back up circuit to feed power from another direction when one line goes out. (Could also be that you live at the end of miles of distribution line passing by thousands of trees).
Purchasing the electric grid cost the citizens of Jefferson County $115 million dollars. That price was “as is.” Keeping it up and running and getting it ready for the future will take millions more. Your independent and publicly owned utility must constantly balance its obligations to provide its customer owners the best possible service at a fair and reasonable price.