Video: 10 Years of Public Power
Jefferson PUD celebrates it’s 10th year of providing public power to our region and we took a look back at the last decade with some of those who have been a part of our energy future.
What began as a water utility for the Gardiner area in 1981 has grown into the provider of power, water, and broadband for Jefferson County residents. There are 28 publicly-owned power utilities in Washington State, with Jefferson PUD being the most recent to join.
In 2008, the citizens of Jefferson County approved a ballot measure authorizing the PUD to pursue the acquisition of the county’s electrical grid from Puget Sound Energy (PSE). Skagit and Island counties had similar propositions on the ballot, but only Jefferson’s succeeded.
In 2010, 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 (RUS) program, borrowing $115M total to cover capital improvements and start up expenses as well as the agreed purchase price.
Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) had capacity to take on Jefferson PUD as a new Tier 1 customer, which meant cleaner power for the region. At the time of the purchase agreement in 2010, more than 60% of PSE’s power was generated by non-renewable, carbon-emitting coal or natural gas plants. Publicly-owned, full service BPA customers have access to power that is primarily (80% or more) generated by hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River. Hydropower is local, renewable, and carbon-free. To balance its supply of power throughout the year, the BPA also purchases around ten percent of its power from the nuclear reactor at the Columbia Generating Station in the Tri-Cities. Other small amounts of power comes from either wind, solar, gas, coal, or other generating facilities.
In April of 2013 the PUD took over operation of the grid, becoming the first public agency to take over a private system in Washington in more than 65 years. Over the last 10 years the PUD has grown from 8 to 60+ employees.
The push to bring public power to Jefferson County was led by the slogan: “local jobs, local power, and local control” which continues to this day.