Whatcom utility provider to continue contracting PSE


Whatcom County Public Utility District 1 (PUD) have concluded extending its electric system to include all of Whatcom County, replacing Puget Sound Energy (PSE), would have added costs to the community that outweigh the benefits at this time.

PUD’s board of commissioners authorized EES Consulting, an engineering consultant in Kirkland, to conduct an expansion study in fall 2022 that evaluated the costs and benefits of expanding the district’s electric system to supply power to all customers in its territory. PUD general manager Chris Heimgartner wrote in a March 8 statement that the study determined an expansion would have clear local benefits, but costs outweighed the net value. 

“Current market rates for power would push customer costs to be higher than they are currently paying,” Heimgartner said in the statement.

PUD currently provides electric service to one industrial customer at Cherry Point and two water treatment plants that consume about 27 average megawatts of electricity. PUD purchases power from a nonfederal nuclear plant, several small nonfederal power plants and the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), a federal agency that markets wholesale electrical power produced at 31 federal dams in the Pacific Northwest. 

Except for the cities of Blaine and Sumas, PSE provides electricity to the rest of Whatcom County. The study examined whether PUD could replace PSE. 

According to the study’s findings, the largest single added cost would be power supply. PUD would have to purchase electricity in the wholesale market because BPA has limited low-cost power available to serve an expanded customer base in Whatcom County.

The commission will hold a public workshop Thursday, April 13 to hear directly from community members that may have questions, comments or suggestions on the study and the PUD’s next steps with regard to energy supply. Heimgartner told The Northern Light in an email a time and location will be announced soon. He also said the workshop will be held in person at a large venue in Ferndale.  

“Many of the costs and benefits studied are changing over time so we could reach a different conclusion in the future,” Whatcom PUD commissioner Christine Grant said in the statement. “Our commission is committed to revisiting this decision as those numbers change.”

To view the report, visit bit.ly/3JV1QPY.


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