Spokane Journal of Business

State agency OKs utilities’ targets for conservation

In all, plans would save enough to power a city size of Yakima

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Washington state Utilities and Transportation Commission regulators have approved two-year energy conservation targets for the three investor-owned utilities that provide service in Washington state. 

When realized, the agency says, those conservation efforts will save an amount of energy equivalent to that needed to power a city the size of Yakima or Federal Way for the next two years.

In separate orders, the commission approved the biennial conservation targets for Avista Corp., of Spokane; Puget Sound Energy, of Bellevue, Wash.; and Pacific Power, a Portland-based company that provides power to some communities in southern Washington. 

Combined, the companies are expected to achieve 625,600 megawatt hours (MWh) of energy savings during 2014 and 2015. The approved targets are: 65,131 MWh for Avista; 74,703 MWh for Pacific Power; and 485,768 MWh for Puget Sound Energy.

“Our state’s investor-owned utilities have embraced conservation and energy efficiency as a key part of their energy portfolios,” says UTC chairman David Danner. “I commend the companies for their commitment and hard work to establish aggressive targets and develop sound plans for achieving them.”

The Energy Independence Act, approved by voters in 2006, directs large electric utilities in the state to pursue all cost-effective energy conservation. Every two years, each affected utility must assess how much cost-effective energy conservation is possible within its service territory over the next 10 years and set a binding target for how much of that potential it will achieve over the next two years. The UTC must approve the targets and review the implementation plans for each investor-owned utility. The Washington State Department of Commerce oversees the targets and plans for the state’s consumer-owned utilities.

In establishing targets and the plans for achieving them, each utility consults with a group of external stakeholders that includes UTC staff, the Attorney General’s Office of Public Counsel, environmental organizations, and business representatives.

The 2014-2015 period will be the third cycle of conservation programs since the Energy Independence Act’s conservation requirements went into effect in 2010. To date, the utilities in aggregate have saved almost 1.8 million MWh of electricity, enough to power almost 150,000 homes for an entire year, or about half of Seattle.

The 2014-2015 targets only reflect what each company can control through programs within its service territory. Each utility also participates in regional energy efficiency initiatives and engages in experimental pilots that create additional savings not included in the targets. 

When estimated savings from those sources are counted, the utilities’ actual energy savings over the next two years are projected to be almost 788,000 MWh, enough to power more than 33,000 homes per year.

Avista provides electric service to about 340,000 customers in nine Eastern Washington counties: Spokane, Stevens, Adams, Asotin, Ferry, Franklin, Garfield, Lincoln, and Whitman. 

Pacific Power is a division of Portland-based PacifiCorp and is owned by MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., of Des Moines, Iowa. The company provides electric service to about 132,000 customers in five Eastern Washington counties: Kittitas, Columbia, Garfield, Walla Walla, and Yakima. Puget Sound Energy provides electricity service to more than 1.1 million electric customers in eight Washington counties: King, Pierce, Island, Kitsap, Kittitas, Skagit, Whatcom, and Thurston.

The UTC is the state agency that regulates private, investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities in Washington.

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