March 1, 2021

Power utilities tackle climate crisis

The region’s power suppliers are taking meaningful steps to combat climate change. From setting beyond-carbon-free goals to elevating renewable energy efforts that have been making a difference for decades, Puget Sound Energy (PSE) and Tacoma Public Utilities (TPU) are doing their part to solve the region’s environmental challenges.

Puget Sound Energy: Beyond net zero carbon

Puget Sound Energy has set an aspirational goal to be a Beyond Net Zero Carbon company by 2045. That’s a huge deal, and a big environmental win. PSE aims to not just reduce its own carbon emissions to net zero, it plans to surpass net-zero carbon by helping other sectors, such as transportation, reduce carbon emissions across the state.

“Climate change cannot be ignored, and PSE is doing its part,” said Andy Wappler, PSE Vice President of Customer Operations and Communications. “Using data and facts, we will work with our customers, lawmakers and regulators to drive significant and meaningful change.”

PSE created a set of commitments and aspirational goals to achieve the following:

  • Reduce emissions from PSE electric and gas operations and electric supply to net zero by 2030. By 2045, PSE will have a 100% carbon-free electric supply.
  • Reach net zero carbon emissions for natural gas sales by 2045—customer use in homes and businesses—with an interim target of a 30% emissions reduction by 2030.
  • Go beyond PSE’s emissions to reduce carbon emissions in other sectors. PSE will partner with customers and industry to identify programs and products that cost-effectively reduce carbon across sectors and across the region and state (i.e., transportation through electric vehicle implementation and the support of low carbon fuels, upstream methane emission reduction, and renewable natural gas projects for municipal solid waste, agricultural waste and forestry sources).

“Pierce County has and will continue to grow at a rapid pace, and as such represents a critical piece of our customer base,” Wappler said. “We look forward to working with all of our community partners in Pierce County and beyond to reach this aspirational goal.”

For more information, visit the PSE website.

Tacoma Power: Optimization through electrification

Tacoma Power, a division of Tacoma Public Utilities, is a national leader in providing renewable and affordable energy. The utility’s electricity is 97% carbon free and comes primarily from clean, renewable hydroelectricity. Because Tacoma Power has more carbon-free power than its retail customers use, it sells its surplus energy on the open power market to keep rates low.

For the last few years, Tacoma Power has set its sights on transportation electrification. They helped the City of Tacoma launch the first Electric Vehicle Discount Program in Washington State, worked with the Franklin Pierce School District to roll out the state’s first electric school buses, installed electric vehicle charging stations in the community and hosted multiple outreach events.

In 2019 when Washington State lawmakers passed legislation providing authority to utilities to invest in the electrification of transportation infrastructure, Tacoma Power put the pedal to the metal. The utility adopted a Transportation Electrification Planto optimize future use of electric grid infrastructure, improve electric load management, expand retail power sales and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

Tacoma Power also plays an important role in heavy-duty vehicle electrification, especially at the Port of Tacoma. Last year, Tacoma Power and their Northwest Seaport Alliance partners secured funding for new shore-power equipment at Husky Terminal and approved a shore-power tariff. They’re also assisting companies at the Port with electrifying cargo-handling equipment.

“These significant steps at the Port of Tacoma make it easier for ships to plug in rather than use bunker fuel while in port,” said Clay Norris, TPU Power Management manager. “It’s good for the environment and the economy.”

Another big part of the plan revolves around electrofuels—carbon-neutral alternatives to fossil fuels made with renewable power. Late last year, Tacoma Power became the first utility in the U.S. to offer electrofuel producers a below-market rate. As a result, several electrofuel producers are interested in coming to the Tacoma area to take advantage of the rate.

Tacoma Power’s energy research and development team continues to explore transportation electrification projects to further reduce carbon emissions, including a mobile electrofuel generator to use for shore power at sites lacking infrastructure, and for other portable uses like powering food trucks or providing alternative backup power. And with the region’s bustling maritime industry, Tacoma Power is looking to a day to when electrofuels from renewable electricity are used as a zero-emission fuel for ocean-going vessels.

“We’re always prodding the beehive to see what’s available,” said Michael Catsi, TPU Economic Development manager. “All our efforts tie in with long-term sustainability and resilience. We want to have the least impact on the environment we can. It makes business sense now and into the future.”


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