Change is inevitable. And what a dynamic time to be a part of the electric utility industry at the heart of key local, regional and federal policy issues. Business as usual is no longer the case when it comes to generating and delivering energy. The entire world’s appetite for energy is growing, and we are part of history right here in Franklin County as we tackle the many challenges and issues to help mold and shape the future of growing energy needs, customer choice, the environment and reliable energy supply.
More changes are soon to come. I will be retiring from my position as general manager of Franklin PUD later this spring. Yet as I reflect back on the changes that have happened during my tenure, it’s just a glimpse of what is to come in the electric industry. The nation’s electricity supply is being stretched beyond its capability to meet growing demand. Franklin PUD is looking positively at the opportunity to support more conservation, renewable energy, nuclear energy and expand the use of hydropower as the greenest, cleanest fuel source available, all of which will make a difference in carbon reduction legislation.
When I assumed the responsibilities as Franklin PUD’s general manager in 2008, I met with employees and explained my vision for the district, which included three primary focus areas: rates, reliability and relationships. Low, stable rates; high reliability of our distribution and information systems; and strong, supportive internal and external relationships are critical to providing quality customer service. All are part and parcel to the two basic tenants of public power: local control and cost-based rates.
I, along with our three elected commissioners, firmly believe in the principles of public power. Public power is a model for accountability and remains as such because of our connections with the people we serve and our unequivocal commitment to the protection of our customers’ interests and to the environment in which we are blessed to live. Two issues that are causing some strain between our customers and the environment are climate change, or cap and trade and renewable energy. Both issues are the subject of federal and state legislation and regulations. Decisions by state and federal officials could strip your pocketbooks and cripple our power system if the right decisions aren’t made.
With the passage of Initiative 937 in November 2006, now known as the Energy Independence Act, conservation programs and renewable energy resources are mandated for larger utilities in Washington. Although Franklin PUD is below the threshold size for mandated renewable and conservation programs, we have exceeded the renewable energy resource targets of the initiative’s first phase. As rapid growth in Franklin County caused demand for energy to increase, the PUD diversified its power portfolio to include not only hydropower, but wind power as well. We purchase output from the Nine Canyon Wind Project owned and operated by Energy Northwest, as well as output from the White Creek Wind Project in Klickitat County. Because wind is an intermittent source of power, hydropower becomes even more important as a resource to firm and shape wind energy. We are fortunate that Franklin PUD commissioners exhibit the foresight to position the utility with a diverse resource portfolio for increasing energy demand so that we can continue to power future growth in our service territory.
The coming years offer no signs of slowing down. As I pass the baton to the new general manager, Franklin PUD staff are well prepared to take on all challenges and to advocate on behalf of our customers for access to a reliable, affordable power supply that fuels our economy while keeping our Earth green. Commissioners and staff will continue to keep our customers first as we face the growing challenges to supplying low-cost, reliable power in a manner that supports sound business practices and the environment. With your help, we will meet those challenges together and will assure a future where the “Power is Yours.”