Tag Archive | "Puget Sound Energy"

Colstrip

After Some Bainbridge Input, State Commission Asks PSE to Reexamine Its Position on Colstrip Coal

In its 2013 Integrated Resource Plan released last May, Puget Sound Energy argued the long-term economic viability of relying primarily on power generated by its Colstrip Coal Plant in Montana, writing that “Colstrip reduces cost and market risk in most likely scenarios.” But just last week, February 6, the State’s Utilities and Transportation Commission said the “plan fails to answer questions about the future financial viability of the older Colstrip power plants in coming years.”

The Commission’s announcement came after some members of Coal-Free Bainbridge along with former City Councilmember Kirsten Hytopoulos testified at the UTC hearings about the Colstrip Plant, urging PSE to replace coal with renewable fuel sources such as wind and solar. Erika Shriner, a founding member of CFB, reported that Bainbridge Islanders made over 1,100 written comments to both the UTC and PSE in support of replacing coal with greener alternatives.

The UTC instructed PSE to do a better job exploring “potential cost impacts, including the likelihood of higher carbon costs and tougher federal environmental regulations, as well as projected natural gas prices and demand for electricity.” The UTC’s Chairman, David Danner encouraged “the company to continue its analysis, perhaps in the context of a more formal proceeding, in order to better answer the cost-effectiveness questions.”

In its plan, PSE reported that Colstrip saves “customers about $131 million per year. Put a different way, replacing Colstrip with another resource would result in approximately a 5 percent annual rate increase, apart from any other rate pressures.” State law requires PSE to update its plan every two years. The plan helps inform the UTC in its regulatory function.

The Colstrip power plant consists of four units, and PSE owns 50 percent of the two oldest ones, which were built in 1975-1976, and 25 percent of the two others. PSE obtains about 30 percent of its electric power from the Colstrip plants to provide power to 1.1 million customers, most of whom are in the Puget Sound region.

CFB’s main concern about PSE’s plan was Colstrip’s effect on the environment. Shriner said Colstrip “is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in our part of the country. It is also a source of other toxic pollutants, and it has been estimated that the plant is responsible for 31 premature deaths each year. It has polluted the groundwater of local residents for which it paid $25 million to settle a lawsuit in 2009 and other lawsuits are currently pending.”

But CFB’s arguments to the UTC weren’t just about the pollution produced by coal. Representatives also argued for the greater cost effectiveness of alternatives to coal. Co-Chair Wendy Jones said that, “given the dramatic drop in prices of wind and solar, coal simply doesn’t compute financially as an energy source. Additionally, the job potential in the clean energy sector for Washington residents is good news for workers and our state’s economy.”

Coal-Free Bainbridge is part of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, which, Shriner said, has been instrumental in the retirement of 162 coal plants.

Related Stories:

Photo of Colstrip by David T. Hanson.

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Geek Out Graphic: Bainbridge Power Grid Map

Here is a detailed map showing the Bainbridge Island power grid.

According to Puget Sound Energy media rep Ray Lane, during the outages on November 7, 2013, the affected areas were basically in the lower two-thirds of the Island: the four circuits WIN-12, 13, 15, and 16 and the blue circuits (including MUR-15).

 

Bainbridge power grid map

Bainbridge power grid map

 

Bainbridge power grid key

Bainbridge power grid key

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Related Story

 

Images courtesy of PSE. 

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Kitsap County Courthouse

Power Outage Shuts Down Kitsap County Courthouse Until Noon

Puget Sound Energy hopes to have their work completed by noon today, August 19. But until the repairs on two major transformers are completed, a power outage in Port Orchard means the Kitsap County Courthouse, Administration Building, and Public Works Buildings will be closed.

 

Photo by Julie Hall.

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pse goal tracker

Bainbridge Gets a Butt-Kicking in City Race for Green Power

Do you subscribe for green power from Puget Sound Energy (PSE)? Doing so means PSE buys energy from renewable sources, like wind, biogas, and sun, on your behalf from independent producers in our region.

Bainbridge Island is currently competing with four other communities in the 2013 PSE Take Charge Green Power Challenge. So far Snoqualmie, Tumwater, and Kirkland are way ahead of Bainbridge, with Anacortes slightly behind us in the race to switch on green power.

Here is the status of the competition as of July 31, 2013:

take charge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If we meet our own community goal, we receive a $20,000 solar grant from PSE. If our city enrolls the highest percentage of new participants compared to the other four cities in our Green Power Challenge PSE will double that grant amount, plus we get bragging rights.

Homeowners can sign up for as little as $4 more a month, and the average business for about $20 more.

Mercer Island won the Green Challenge last year, and Olympia and Lacey won in 2011.

Learn how to sign up for Green Power from PSE.

 

Image courtesy of PSE.

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RePower

Letter to the Editor: RePower Powers Down July 15

RePower Bainbridge would like to thank all of the Islanders who helped make our Final Boarding Call event a huge success. More than 400 people attended the recent conservation and sustainability-focused event at Woodward Middle School, demonstrating once again how committed Bainbridge Islanders are to creating a more sustainable Island.

At the event, Islanders connected with RePower Bainbridge’s allied contractors and energy experts to create energy efficiency plans for their homes before the July 15 final upgrade deadline. Many attendees made at least two energy upgrade measures to qualify for the $800 cash back incentive offered through RePower. Puget Sound Energy sold 1,794 energy-saving products at the event, which will save 983,055 pounds of carbon—the equivalent of taking 122 cars off the road for a year.

Thanks are also in order for the local vendors who attended, from trade ally contractors Puget Sound Energy and Kitsap Credit Union to guest speakers Jonathan Davis, Robert Moore and Charlie Wenzlau.

A communitywide program like RePower can’t be successful without local residents. Together we’ve made huge steps for energy conservation, with over 2,230 Island homes receiving Home Energy Check-Ups to date and over 518 energy efficiency improvements made.

Thank you to everyone who was part of the Final Boarding Call event. Although there’s only limited time remaining (all projects and paperwork must be complete by July 15), it’s not too late to cash in on RePower Rewards. Call 1-877-741-4340 to find out more.

—The RePower Crew

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Coal-Free Bainbridge

Coal-Free Bainbridge & Sierra Club Challenge PSE

Erika Shriner doesn’t like Colstrip, Montana. She has nothing against the town, but she doesn’t care at all for the open pit strip mine and the coal-burning power plant of the same name. According to Puget Sound Energy, Colstrip currently provides 20 percent of the company’s power, mining and burning coal to generate electricity for PSE’s more than one million customers. 

Coal-Free Bainbridge

Shriner is one of the founding members of Coal-Free Bainbridge, which falls under the umbrella of Coal-Free Washington, which is part of Beyond Coal, a Sierra Club initiative. The goal of all of these organizations and sub-organizations is the same: to pressure power companies to stop relying so heavily on coal-generated power. Beyond Coal and its member groups are devoting their time to 100 days of action between the Presidential Inauguration and Earth Day.

Colstrip

An aerial photograph of Colstrip by David T. Hanson from his exhibition. Learn more at http://www.davidthanson.net/.

The Bainbridge group has been employing education tactics for about a year, including hosting information tables at the Fourth of July parade and at the Bluegrass Festival. For their 100 days of action, they are  focusing on Tuesday evening “living billboards” for ferry drive-off passengers. A living billboard is a montage of people with signs and costumes conveying their message quickly for people driving by. One of their best assets is Coal Man, a Deathlike, shrouded creature carrying a sign that reads, “I’m Lethal.”

Shriner said that it used to be rare for them to run into anyone who knew how involved PSE was with coal. But now they get friendly gestures of recognition from drivers, and she feels they are making progress in terms of raising awareness. She hopes to get “as many people as possible” to the Utility and Transportation Commission hearing in April. She explained that the UTC is primarily concerned with the cost of utilities and wonders whether they shouldn’t also have an obligation to look at all costs of coal.

The “True” Costs of Coal

She expects the same of PSE: “PSE has got to start reflecting the true cost of coal.” What she means by the true cost is the cost of lawsuits, health costs, the cost of air and water pollution, the cost of carbon emissions, and other costs associated with coal-related problems. She feels that coal looks cheap on paper because these costs are not usually factored into the equation. She said, “We’re the ones paying for it, so it’s critical customers voice their concern. In the not too distant future, the actual cost will be clear.”

The Sierra Club is sending a memo to PSE Board Chairman William Ayer to convey this message. Shriner said they sent a similar memo to CEO Kimberly Harris, but they never received a response. Inside Bainbridge did get a response, a swift one, from a spokesperson for PSE, Roger Thompson.

Thompson said that, with coal providing such a sizable percentage of total power supply, “simply shutting that off would create a significant reliability issue.” On the other hand, he agrees that finding ways to replace coal is the way to go: “Relying more on renewable energy is a goal we share wholeheartedly. Our record proves that. We operate three large windfarms in eastern Washington.” He explained that PSE is the Pacific Northwest’s largest utility producer of renewable energy and the second-largest utility generator of wind power in the United States.

Another reason Thompson doesn’t see PSE cutting off its reliance on coal any time soon is that, he said, “coal is the cheapest way to acquire energy.” But is it truly cheap? What are the extra costs Shriner is talking about?

Coal PlantBeyond Coal reports the following statistics about coal:

  • Coal pollution is responsible for 13,000 premature deaths every year, more than $100 billion in annual health costs, and over 200,000 asthma attacks annually.
  • Coal burning is responsible for nearly one-third of U.S. carbon emissions—the air pollution that is the main contributor to climate disruption.
  • Mining companies dump millions of tons of rubble and toxic waste into the streams and valleys below the mining sites.
  • In the United States, more than 40 percent of people live in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution. Pollution from coal-fired power plants leads to smog (or ozone), a toxic compound and a dangerous irritant.
  • Burning coal releases toxic mercury that rains down into rivers and streams. This poison then accumulates in the food chain, eventually making its way into our bodies when we eat contaminated fish.
  • Every year, the nation’s coal plants produce 140 million tons of coal ash pollution, the toxic byproduct that is left over after the coal is burned.
  • Coal dust and diesel exhaust from coal trains and cargo ships can cause serious long-term health problems like lung and heart disease and cancer. The wide-ranging health dangers of coal dust include exposure to toxic heavy metals like mercury and increased rates of asthma, especially in children. Burlington Northern Sante Fe (BNSF) railroad estimates up to 500 pounds of coal can be lost in the form of dust from each rail car en route.

Colstrip in particular is a heavy offender. That’s because, as The Huffington Post reports, the Colstrip plant was grandfathered in under the Clean Air Act. That exempted it from having to comply with tougher pollution control standards unless and until the plant’s operator made upgrades, modernizing it.

Coal= deathWhen questioned about Shriner’s argument that it actually isn’t that cheap if you take into consideration all the costs, Thompson emphasized the company’s need “to provide our customers with safe, reliable energy,” for which there are currently no existing alternatives to Colstrip. He also explained that there are regulatory requirements in our state for energy providers to supply the cheapest energy to customers.In other words, these extra costs are not being taken into consideration on paper or in an official way by, say, state or federal government, and, therefore, coal still looks cheap to customers and regulators.
PSE’s Integrated Resources Plan
Thompson said that PSE will be coming out with its Integrated Resource Plan in May. They update and publish this guide every two years. It projects 20 years into the future, analyzing resources available to the company and considering potential company responses to potentially evolving scenarios. For example, he said the IRP might consider the cost of replacing Colstrip with renewable energy. Another scenario the IRP might consider, he said, is what the company might do if very strict emissions controls were imposed by the government. He cautioned that the IRP is “not a directive.” Instead, he said, it “anticipates need and growth and restraints.”
Coal-Free Bainbridge
Of course, Beyond Coal and other organizations working to achieve wider use of renewable energy might use the IRP as the basis for a conversation about how exactly PSE might change its policies, not necessarily in reaction to future scenarios but in response to the very real one of coal creating health and environmental problems. If the company is agile enough to anticipate problems and come up with solutions to them, why can’t it change the way it looks at the Colstrip scenario, seeing it as a problem, and solve it?

Thompson said, “It’s not a goal that we as a utility can reach overnight.” He added, “We will be acquiring more renewable energy in the future. We continue to assess our customers’ needs and resources on an ongoing basis.”

Of course, given the scenarios detailed by Beyond Coal and the current legislation pending against Colstrip (as many as seven lawsuits), unless the plant wins all of the suits, at the very least legal costs will soon be trickling down to customers, and this could change the perception that coal is the cheapest source of energy. In 2008, for example, the five corporations that then owned the Colstrip power plant agreed via a settlement to pay $25 million in response to a groundwater contamination lawsuit brought by Montana residents. (The plant is now owned by six corporations, one of which is PSE.)

Green Power Program

In the meantime, as Coal-Free Bainbridge’s living billboards share information about the costs of coal and as PSE develops alternative sources of energy, Thompson points out that there is something very real customers can do right now to reduce their reliance on coal-supplied energy: “A majority of our customers want to see cleaner energy and we share that. The Green Power Program is a way to get there.”

Customers can sign up for the program right now and elect to pay a little more for their energy, thereby guaranteeing it will be provided by renewable sources. The PSE website explains: “When you make your contribution of $4 to $12 a month, PSE buys clean energy on your behalf from independent producers in our region. Your commitment to purchase green power makes it possible for these energy innovators to secure funding, sustain their businesses, and create jobs—making a brighter, cleaner future for everyone.” To sign up go here.

Photos by Coal-Free Bainbridge, David T. Hanson, Emilian Robert Vicol, and elibeck.

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New Incentives for Homeowners as RePower Powers Down

7:47 p.m.

RePower Bainbridge—the Island-based program promoting sustainability through energy assessments, cash-back incentives, energy-efficiency financing, and information about local, skilled contractors—is beginning its final phase of operation. With less than one year left in its mandate, RePower is offering some new incentives to attract the holdouts who have not yet taken advantage of the program’s offerings.

Since its inception in March of 2011, the Island has become dotted with hundreds of yard signs that read, “My Home Makes an Impact,” given to participants in the assessments. RePower has conducted more than 2,000 free home energy checkups, and more than 500 participants have completed the recommended energy-efficiency improvements. The completed improvements are calculated to have saved more than 3,000,000 kWh of electricity, enough to power 153 Island homes.

RePower Bainbridge Map showing completed assessment sites

RePower Bainbridge Map showing completed assessment sites.

Although these numbers are significant, RePower set its sights on 4,000 checkups and 2,000 completed improvements. And time is running out on the program’s funding. Before that happens, Islanders are encouraged to cash in on RePower’s incentives, which are now better than ever:

  • RePower Reward is a $400 cash incentive for homeowners who complete two or more qualifying improvements.
  • Homeowners can get a Referral Bonus of up to $200.
  • A $400 Whole House Air Sealing Incentive is now available.
  • Also available is a $400 RePower Home Performance with Energy Star® bonus.
  • RePower has coordinated with Kitsap County to increase the Home Energy Assessment with EPS incentive. This assessment uses diagnostic equipment to inspect a home and make suggestions for saving money and improving energy usage. The incentive is now $450, bringing the out-of-pocket cost down to approximately $50 to $150, depending on the size of the home.

To find out about all the available incentives click here. To find out which incentives may be applicable to your home, click here. Read more about RePower Bainbridge. Read our poll about the RePower energy audits. Read about RePower’s one-year anniversary.

RePower Bainbridge was implemented by the City of Bainbridge Island and its partners, Puget Sound Energy, Positive Energy, Kitsap Credit Union, Olympic Community College, Earth Advantage, Worksource Kitsap, and Conservation Services Group (CSG).

To learn more about RePower incentives or to schedule a free Home Energy Checkup or Home Energy Assessment with EPS, visit RePowerBainbridge.org or call 1-877-741-4340.

Photo by Sarah Lane.

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Treefall Closes Fletcher Bay Between Island Center and Bucklin Hill

UPDATE: This issue has been resolved.

The City of Bainbridge Island Public Works Department has shut down a portion of Fletcher Bay Road due to a tree fall today that took along some wires with it in the process. The treefall happened near Sutherland, somewhere between 7142 and 7188. A spokesperson for Public Works said that Puget Sound Energy had been notified and workers were expected to show up by 12:30. There was no estimate for when the road would reopen.

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Five Buildings Added to Bainbridge Historic Registry Tell Stories of Island’s Past

Joyce and Tad (Frederic) Lhamon bought their Port Madison home in 1970, exactly 100 years after it was first built by a Port Madison Mill sea captain named John Farnum who transported monthly shipments of lumber from the Port Madison Mill to Pacific ports. Since their purchase of the home, the Lhamons have been dedicated to its upkeep, modernizing it enough to make it liveable but not so much as to destroy its historical character.

Because of their dedication to preserving its history, the home is one of five buildings newly added to the Bainbridge Island Historical registry. The others are the Bucklin House (also in Port Madison), the Lynwood Center, Bay Hay and Feed in Rolling Bay, and the Bartel Fire Station at Fort Ward.

The Tidal Wave

Captain Farnum's ship "The Tidal Wave." With this ship, Farnum held the record for sailing to San Francisco and back. He also used it to deliver lumber to China.

Historic Preservation on Bainbridge

Joyce, who is also a board member of the Historic Preservation Commission, tells me that our city has a single ordinance for promoting the preservation of historic properties. This ordinance enabled Bainbridge Island to become in 2004 a Certified Local Government (CLG) under a program managed by the National Park Service and the Washington State Office of Historic Preservation, making Bainbridge eligible for grants and opportunities offered by the state and federal governments. The Historic Preservation Commission, which was created through the certification, provides owners of historic properties with technical assistance and maintains the register of historic properties. The owner of an historic property must approve its placement on the registry. The commission reviews any Bainbridge Island applications to the National Historic register.

Although the local registry doesn’t guarantee preservation, it is the best protection available, says Joyce. I asked her what being on the registry does for a home if it doesn’t guarantee preservation. She said that owners of historic homes on the register are given special recognition for their preservation efforts. They also must go through the Historic Preservation Commission to make permitted changes. The City of Bainbridge Island cannot issue a permit to those properties unless the HPC approves. But a homeowner could simply decide to remove a property from the register.

Removal would take away certain tax benefits. During a ten-year special tax valuation period, substantial improvements made to a historic property are not reflected in property taxes as long as the owners (1) maintain the property in good condition, (2) obtain approval from the HPC before making any improvements, and, if the structure is not visible from a public right of way, (3) make the home available for public view once a year.

Removal also takes away potential discounts from local businesses. Ace Hardware, Bainbridge Island Plumbing, Island Floors, Probuild, Rolling Bay Electric, and Winslow Paint Company all offer discounts on labor or materials related to building preservation.

Our local Register of Historic Places now lists 23 locations. The HPC says that structures that are more than 50 years old and are associated with Bainbridge Island’s history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, or cultural heritage are worthy of consideration.

The Farnum House

The Farnum House

The Farnum House

Historical character comes at a price. Joyce told me that she and her husband were young at the time of the purchase and had no idea what they were getting into.

The Farnum house originally had external wiring, meaning that all wiring was on the outside of the interior walls where it could be seen. The kitchen was lit by a bulb hanging from a wire. Surrounding the plate where the bulb was attached to the ceiling were outlets for plugging in the kitchen appliances, which was not the most attractive or most convenient setup. Rewiring the home was one of the modernizations the Lhamons decided to pursue.

The Farnum House

Original paned window

The house was originally heated by several fireplaces including one upstairs. The Lhamons closed off the upstairs fireplace and added a furnace to heat the home. They also made some changes to the plumbing, which had all been centered on the first floor along one wall, and added a a bathroom to the upstairs. In their preservation efforts, they removed five garbage cans of paint from the floors and insulated the home.

One year, they made the mistake of opening the windows, which had been painted shut. They quickly learned that the single-paned windows were a significant entry point for cold air, so they contacted Puget Sound Energy for help. PSE was able to connect them with a manufacturer of storm windows that would fit over the original paned windows without obscuring them. So they solved the problem of heat loss with a fix that didn’t alter the historic character of the home.

Original paned window

Bucklin House

Because historical home preservation is such specialized work, when the Lhamons visit Port Gamble and see someone working on the historic homes there, they stop to collect the worker’s business card so they can call when they need someone to work on their home.

On a whim, and because they didn’t have furniture of their own, the Lhamons bought the home furnished from its second owners, the Cameron family. Much of the furniture in the home today feels in keeping with the home’s historical character. For example, a hardbacked chair in the living room is the 13th juror’s chair from the original Kitsap County courthouse, which used to be known as Slaughter County and was based in Port Madison.

Bucklin House

Bay Hay and Feed

The Bucklin Home

The Lhamons own another house in the list of five new additions to the registry. The Bucklin home sits adjacent to the Farnum home but sports a Washington Avenue address. Nathan Bucklin, who was a supervisor at the mill, and his family once lived in a home that used to exist right next to the Farnum home, but after his wife died, Bucklin married the woman he had hired to care for his children and built for them the home that still sits farther up the hill, on the other end of the property.

The Bucklin house once served as a busy laundry and service center for the Port Madison Mill and shipyard. According to Fredi Perry’s Port Madison Washington Territory 1854–1889, Bucklin’s home was the first in Kitsap County to have plaster walls, the first to have a piano, and the second with a bathtub.

It still sits on its original foundation and, according to Joyce, appears to be almost totally unchanged.

Bay Hay and Feed

Bay Hay and Feed

Bay Hay and Feed

Bay Hay and Feed occupies a 100-year old building, the original home of Rodal’s Central Store, and has carried on the business of merchandising, uninterrupted since the Rodal days when goods were delivered by wheelbarrow before passable roads were built. Howard Block and Ce-Ann Parker purchased the business in 1979.

Lynwood Center

Lynwood Center

Lynwood Center Building

The Lynwood Center Building was built in 1926 by Edna and Emanuel Olsen as a Tudor-style shopping village that originally housed a grocery, butcher shop, hardware and variety stores, and a restaurant. Bainbridge Island’s first talking movie theater opened there in 1936 and is still screening movies today. Steve Romein and Ty Cramer purchased Lynwood Center in 2009. They made substantial renovations to the second floor and center building while maintaining the builings’ historic architecture. In recognition of their contributions to historic preservation on Bainbridge Island, Romein and Cramer were presented with the Blakely Award in 2011.

old fort ward firehouse

Fort Ward Firehouse

Fort Ward Firehouse

The Fort Ward Firehouse, which dates from 1912, remains one of the few original structures from the turn-of-the-century U.S. Army Coastal Artillery Corps construction. It was eventually converted into a residence.

Preservation of the Island’s Historical Buildings

Joyce told me that one of the benefits of the re-do of the sewage system along Winslow Way is that, because Federal money was involved, the city was required to conduct an investigation of the buildings on the streetfront. In the process, it was discovered that all the buildings along Winslow Way, from Erickson to Madison, are of the same post-war historical period, between 1940 and 1955. Although this may not be the most charming of historical periods in terms of architecture, Joyce told me that the look of Winslow Way is unique because of this historical consistency, and it is an important part of what gives our town its flavor and character.

The HPC wants to help preserve this flavor and character. Joyce said that “The main job of the HPC is the education of citizens to appreciate and value historic treasures we have on the Island so they won’t be lost for future generations.” Talking with Joyce gave me a taste of some of that education. I learned about Port Madison Mill and its eventual economic downfall. That’s when Captain Farnum moved to Seattle and ran what was known as the “Pest House” or poor house there. One day, the original owner of Joyce’s home, maybe missing his life at sea, filled his pockets with rocks and walked off a dock. Joyce said that Dexter Horton Bank took over the Mill property when it ran aground financially. They platted it and built spec houses with the goal of turning it into a summer community. The vision of that community was never realized, but some of those spec houses exist still in the neighborhood, relatively unchanged, and their legacy creates a yet-enduring glimpse of what used to be the important county seat, the once-thriving community of Port Madison.

Photos by Sarah Lane and Julie Hall.

 

 

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PSE Calculation Error Lead to Fears That Bainbridge Exceeded the Energy Threshold

At last week’s City Council meeting, Linda Streissguth, Puget Sound Energy Local Government and Community Relations Manager for Kitsap, asserted that Bainbridge Island has exceeded the energy use threshold twice so far this winter. But her assertions were based on a calculation error, and, in fact, Bainbridge has not exceeded that threshold since December 2009.

The energy use cap was determined by an agreement between Bainbridge Island and PSE in which PSE promised to refrain from building a new substation on the Island over a three-year period as long as the community kept energy use below 58 megawatts.

Subtstation PowerEric Rehm, of Positive Energy, says that the threshold defined by PSE should be the sum of the readings at two substations: Murden Cove and Winslow. Rehm shared with us the readings for the two days PSE said the Island had exceeded the 58 megawatts:

  • Dec 13   07:30     Murden Cove + Winslow = 17.74 + 27.84 = 45.58 MW
  • Jan 19    08:45    Murden Cove + Winslow = 15.43 + 27.96 = 43.39 MW

Subtstation PowerWhat lead to PSE’s error was the inclusion of a third substation (Port Madison) in the calculation. Rehm brought the error to Streissguth’s attention in an e-mail on February 3. In the e-mail, Rehm tells Streissguth that the agreement with PSE as reaffirmed in a meeting on December 7 is that the two-substation total would be calculated to determine the threshold reading. As Rehm explains in his e-mail, “this only makes sense as the nameplate capacity of each substation is 25 MW, thus 50 MW is the nameplate capacity for two substations. . . .”

Streissguth responded to Rehm in e-mail and acknowledged the error. In her e-mail she reiterated that PSE was not that concerned about what they had believed were two instances of the Island exceeding the threshold.

In her e-mail she repeated the point made at her City Council presentation that newly emerging risk issues with the Winslow substation are of greater concern to PSE than the threshold in terms of the utility’s commitment to the agreement with the Island. Inside Bainbridge reported on these emerging risks in our post on February 6..

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PSE Warns About Emerging Risks to Its Agreement with Bainbridge Community

During a Study Session at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Linda Streissguth, the Puget Sound Energy Local Government and Community Relations Manager for Kitsap, told councilmembers about risks to PSE’s three-year commitment to the Bainbridge Island community. In this commitment, PSE agreed to refrain from building a new substation on the Island over a three-year period as long as the community keeps energy use below 58 megawatts. But Streissguth reminded the Council that the utility cannot promise to honor the agreement if significant operational stresses should arise that put customers at risk or that threaten PSE’s ability to serve those customers.

Streissguth said three risks have developed:

  1. Transformers between substations are exceeding their nameplate capacity, which is the recommended operating level. Streissguth warned that this could lead to equipment failure.
  2. In addition, during a recent oil leak, PSE had to take a substation off line, leaving the community to rely on only two. During that period, the Port Madison and Winslow substations exceeded their recommended peak loads.
  3. At the end of November, PSE measured low voltage on several distribution lines. Streissguth explained that that’s a situation where there’s not enough capacity to meet the demand on an individual line. She said that can cause what customers see as problems with their electronics.

Streissguth said that PSE is simply monitoring the three areas of concern for now and no further action is being taken.

She said that the community exceeded the megawatt threshold only twice so far this winter: on December 13 when it reached 65.9 and on January 19 when it peaked at 64. She said those incidents were not “triggers,” but they serve as a reminder to the community to start lowering usage when the needle on the energy dashboard goes into the orange and red zone. You can see the real-time dashboard in the lower right sidebar on our home page.

 

Photo by Paul Chernikhowsky.

 

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City Hall

City Council This Week: January 31, 2012

Councilmember Scales was not there at the outset, but there was a quorum. The meeting followed an Executive Session about the collective bargaining negotiations.

Councilmember Blair explained how a study session works. She said it’s more informal and includes community reports and commentary. She said it helps the Council to be briefed on issues. Staff, community groups, committees may bring the issues. She added that it’s also a regular meeting in that a vote may be taken.

Here were the elements of the Study Session:

A. Puget Sound Energy Briefing

A representative from PSE named Linda (sorry–couldn’t get that last name) spoke to the council.

1. 3-year commitment with community. The speaker reviewed this commitment, which is that if the community keeps energy use below the threshold of 58 megawatts, PSE will avoid the need for a new substation or a rebuild. She added the caveat that the threshold will exist unless they discover some significant operational stresses on that system that put customers at risk or their ability to serve them. She said that we did exceed the threshold twice, on December 13 (65.9) and on January 19 (64). She said that’s not a trigger but it is a reminder to the community to start lowering usage when the needle goes into the orange and red zone on the dashboard (which we have on our home page). She said there are a couple of risks that have surfaced:

  • She said our transformers between substations are exceeding their nameplate capacity (the recommended operating level), which could lead to equipment failure.
  • She said we had an oil leak and had to take the substation off line. So we were down to two substations. When that happened, the Port Madison sub peaked at 28.3. There were three other days of peaking on the Winslow substation. They are exceeding their recommended peak loads.
  • On November 30, PSE measured low voltage on several distribution lines. That’s a situation where there’s not enough capacity to meet the demand on an individual line. She said that can cause what customers see as problems with their electronics. The pumps at sewer treatment plant can trigger off, for example.

2. 2012 work plan. PSE is focusing on the distribution system this year:

  • Five treewire projects (treewire is coated electric line less susceptible to branches; it doesn’t trip out as easily): Miller between Arrow Point and New Brooklyn; Fletcher Bay between New Brooklyn and Bucklin; Eagle Harbor Drive; New Sweden, Taylor, and Blakely; and Baker Hill. These are all places where we have impacts from limbs.
  • Structural analysis on steel towers at Agate Pass.
  • Underground express feed to Winslow project, which will continue with Phase II of the project. The speaker said Phase I is complete, on time, underbudget. Some trees on Madison Avenue are in the way that may need to be replaced or relocated.
  • Annual tree trimming and maintenance (26.5 miles of distribution line, 7.5 miles of transmission) and the changing out of 51 poles.

3. Look ahead. PSE wants to start making multiyear plans (5 or 6 years out). The speaker said they’re trying to sequence with City capital improvement projects, for example. She showed a watch map, looking at data of outages in those areas.

Councilmember Hytopoulos asked about the potential tree removal in Murden Cove Phase II.

Mayor Lester pointed out that there is new stormwater load with the removal of some mature trees in the Murden Cove area and that we will need to look at that in the future.

A citizen from RAISE asked for data from PSE about capacity.

B. Unocal Site Park Project Update, AB 12-006

Mayor Lester said that in 2010 a citizen group formed to figure out what to do with the Unocal Property. The group included Rotarians, Women in Black, Arts and Humanities Council reps, and others.

Bruce Weiland spoke on behalf of that group. They’ve talked to Parks Department, they’ve reached out and expanded the membership of the original group, they received a 100 percent endorsement from Kitsap Transit, and they spoke with the Department of Energy (because of site issues).

Weiland reviewed the history. The property is jointly owned by COBI and Kitsap Transit. It was the site of a gas station. There was some leakage, as is typical of gas stations.

The initial vision is that this is a crossroads for the Island and a gateway to Kitsap and Olympics. He described it now as an embarrassment. Group is envisioning a passive, attractive design for the area. He clarified that it’s not about playgrounds or firepits. He described it as a landscape walkthrough with paths, benches, low-maintenance landscaping. Weiland said there are 60 groups on the roster including the Rotary. He said it would be privately funded, and he listed a range of group members.

He said he was hoping for formal approval from the Council. They’re scheduled to be on the agenda tomorrow with the Parks Board. He made four pledges:

  1. He emphasized it will not cost the City anything.
  2. He committed to a broad, public process involving asking the community what they think belongs in the park.
  3. He stressed that the Parks Dept. has tentatively said they will maintain the park.
  4. He promised they would do nothing environmentally irresponsible. He explained that the park would not slow down cleanup of the area and he explained how future remediation would work.

One citizen pointed requested that the City find out what specifically is in the soil there to avoid liability. She said there are grants available for cleanup. She thought the process could be completed quickly. Robert Dashiell said that the last monitoring was done in 2009 but that it had been monitored constantly before that. He said it is a safe site but that there are 43 other sites on the island that are dangerous. Weiland said that he supports the efforts to continue testing the site and that the improvements his group are proposing could easily be removed if needed down the road.

Ward wanted to know if Weiland and his group objected to the voluntary cleanup program of the DOE. Jill Johnson of Parametrix said that the only reason to avoid that is funding.

Lester moved to adopt Resolution No. 2012-02 regarding the park at the site. The Council voted to begin developing the park site (with the understanding that further exploration would be made into cleaning up the site).

C. Rockaway Beach Road Stabilization

Lance Newkirk of Public Works was the speaker. He explained what the city is planning to do to stabilize Rockaway Beach Road. He gave a historical over view of the slope failure. The city became aware in 1999 of the problem after a slide. There was a slope failure in 2005. Berger/Abam’s Bob Hernandez spoke about the design. He talked about the public safety issue and the pressure to get permits quickly. Because the Council declared this an emergency there is an obligation to follow through. He spoke about risks to the cost estimate. The council affirmed the proposed design approach. The Council voted to authorize the staff to negotiate phase II of the design.

D. Multi-Agency Police Response Interlocal Agreement, AB 12-010

Police Chief John Fehlman requested that the city authorize him and the city manager to sign the Kitsap County  investigative response team mutual aid agreement. The Council did so.

E. Shoreline Master Program Update Schedule

Morgan Smith presented the updated schedule. The planning commission will need 4 to 7 further meetings to complete the SMP and the Grow Community review. Then there would be four weeks to prepare for the public hearing. This would mean that the Council would be ready to consider the matter in June or July.

Councilmember Hytopoulos expressed “shock” and “concern” that the process was taking so long. She had understood that the Council would be reviewing this in February. An ad hoc committee was proposed to help push things along.

In citizen comment, Debbi Vann agreed with Hytopoulos that the Council would not be able to meet the SMP deadline if they weren’t presented with the draft until June or July. She encouraged councilmembers to begin educating themselves now on the complex issues involved.

F. City Manager’s Contract, AB 12-012

Councilmember Blair said that Councilmember Scales had asked to speak about the Executive Session on this matter. The Executive Session had preceded the Council meeting. Councilmember Scales moved that Executive Session confidentiality be waived from January 2012 for the limited purpose of discussing how the council reached its decision on the amendment. Mayor Lester seconded it.

The motion was unanimously approved. Blair said that the Council had asked Councilmember Bonkowski to be their spokesperson on this matter. He said that he, Scales, and Ward had been tasked to draft an amendment to the contract to enable them to seek a new manager.

In citizen comment, Barry Peters expressed concern about the city’s need for continuity and effective management. He said he was worried that the move to find a new manager would hurt the city. He asked the Council to reconsider its decision.

Debbi Vann thanked the council for taking its move on the manager issue.

Hillary Franz talked about what she described as Bauer’s leadership in transforming the city financially. She referred to a communication gap between the Council and the community. She warned the Council that they would be spending their tenure looking to rebuild the leadership they have right now with Bauer as manager.

Robert Dashiell said he had been hoping for transparency and openness when he voted for a change in government and deplored the lack of transparency that he perceives. Applause erupted after his words.

Yeta Hammer (sp?) wondered why the prior council needed a consultant to determine whether the manager was the right one. She said that transparency is very difficult to have. She said she was discouraged from speaking with the city attorney and is not so pleased with the city management.

Hytopoulos said that regardless of the different positions on the Council, the council worked together very well in their conversations. She said that some communitymembers have been worried about councilmembers’ ability to work together, but that so far she is impressed, that the outcome is the result of adult conversation. Ward agreed.

Bonkowski moved that the Council approve the amendment to the City Mangers’ contract. It was unanimously approved.

After a recess, Ward moved that they use a search firm to look for a replacement for Bauer and begin a study session on the matter.

Scales said he supported the amendment because he believed that it was in the best interest of the City because it provides for a transition period. He said there is no question that the Council has the authority to search for a new manager. He said that he believes he has a very different perspective on this issue from his colleagues. He said he has more experience on this council than his colleagues combined. He said he has been through the selection process before and that he understands how the departure of a key person can negatively impact operations and how the selection process often comes down to luck, that there’s no way to know if someone will be successful in that position.

Hytopoulos called a point of order. She said she was concerned that Scales was being allowed to state his position because the Council is not allowed to have this conversation within the confines of their agreement. She also said she was concerned that his words on the record would impact their future ability to secure a manager. Blair ruled that Scales could have 5 more minutes and that it should relate specifically to this motion.

Scales said he didn’t know that councilmembers could be limited in time and that he didn’t know if he would have time to complete his remarks. Blair said she would allow him 10 minutes.

Scales continued. He said you can’t turn in a city manager every 18 months like a used car. He said that no city manager candidate would knowingly enter into an abusive relationship, likening the relationship between city manager and council to that of a marriage.

Blair interrupted him. She said that his comments would be appropriate as part of the discussion next week about how to proceed. Scales said he did not understand why he wasn’t allowed to make his comments. He said it was outrageous. He said his comments were relevant to the decision to look for a new manager and so it was appropriate to the motion. Blair allowed him to continue.

He referred to the split vote on whether to make the manager’s position permanent as a destabilizing move. He referred to the Bainbridge Review and the Bainbridge Islander (we weren’t mentioned at all) as being singular in focus about one person and her accusations. A point of order was called again. Blair asked Scales to conclude by remaking his point. Scales said that the recent history on the Island will be extremely important to potential candidates and that this is why he doesn’t believe we will be able to attract a city manager.

The council moved to a vote to initiate a search for a new city manager and have a study session at the next meeting.

Hytopoulos said she wanted an opportunity to respond and make a comment. The council voted 5 to 2 to continue discussion. Scales complained again that he was being silenced and that he no longer felt it was productive to be there and he left.

Hytopoulos said it was absolutely unfair to the Council to be put in the position of not being able to explain how they reached their decision. She said there was a reason the Council could not be transparent about a private conversation. She said it was not serving the community’s interest to create a record of this not being a viable place for a candidate.

Hillary Franz returned to the podium. She said she went through three interview processes when she was a coucilmember. She said every one of them looked back through the newspapers and said,  “Can you explain the six years of bad press? This doesn’t look like a great place to work.” She told the Council they don’t have a history or a reputation to show to a potential candidate.

Hammer returned to the podium and said we did get to know the council through the election process.

 

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Storm Watch Update: High Winds Today

The National Weather Service predicts high south-southwest winds on Bainbridge Island Saturday, January 21, with gusts up to 55 mph. Tonight showers are likely (60 percent chance). Tomorrow through tomorrow night, there will be more rain, with a 90 percent likelihood, and it will continue to be breezy.

Fire Station 22 responded to a call about a tree that fell on a house on Springridge Road. There were no injuries to the occupants.

The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch for urban and small streams in Kitsap and other surrounding counties.

Puget Sound Energy reports that this week’s snowfall and freezing rain caused extensive power outages in the Puget Sound area “due to sagging or breaking tree limbs and fallen trees.” As of 6 a.m. this morning, there were still approximately 205,000 homes and businesses without electric service throughout the region, and more outages expected from today’s high winds.

 

Photo by Sarah Lane.

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Disaster Preparedness Part 2: People, Get Ready

This is the second part of our series on Disaster Preparedness on the Island. Inside Bainbridge has been meeting and working with The Bainbridge Island Fire Department and with Prepared Neighborhoods, a new citizen group, to prepare citizens through education and information dissemination for potential disasters. We’re setting up systems so that, in the event of an actual disaster, Inside Bainbridge can help keep you alerted to the latest information from the Fire Department, Kitsap Department of Emergency Management, and Prepared Neighborhoods. Read Part 1.

If you want to (1) be part of or (2) find out about the new Disaster Preparedness effort on Bainbridge Island, set aside tomorrow evening, Monday October 3, from 7 to 9 p.m., and get on down to the Commons for the public meeting hosted by Prepared Neighborhoods.

Prepared Neighborhoods, which operates under the umbrella of Sustainable Bainbridge, is dedicated to helping the Island get to a satisfactory level of disaster preparedness. It is the brainchild of Bainbridge Islander Scott James.

Scott James

Scott James

When James first became a member of Sustainable Bainbridge, he noticed that the same group of people kept showing up for the organization’s events and projects. He wanted to come up with some sort of project that would appeal to a broader segment of the population, reaching more people with the organization’s sustainability message. Then he had an idea: One thing that most people would be interested in is how to prepare themselves, their families, and their neighborhoods for emergencies.

James explained the connection between disaster prep and sustainability: “Once you start getting direct neighbors to talk to each other about where to meet in an emergency, it’s a short step to having them talk about doing a community vegetable garden in the cul-de-sac or the local pea patch. About turning their apartment building into a zero-waste complex.”

For James, who is the owner of Fair Trade Sports, provider of sustainably made sports balls, this kind of thinking is nothing new. “Most of my day jobs are related to sustainability,” he said to me. “That’s what I think about all day long anyway.”

James started looking for collaborators to help him develop Prepared Neighborhoods. That part happened quickly—”one of the joys of living on a small island,” in his opinion. He brought on Cathie Currie, the Energy Efficient Communities Program Coordinator at Puget Sound Energy. Then he and Currie recruited Marit Saltrones, a partner at Bainbridge-based JSL Communications, provider of continuing education training for emergency responders. And they recruited Sandra Davis, a managing partner of ECO Resource Group, an organizational consultant firm that focuses on achieving sustainability.

“One of our express goals,” James said, “is we want to embed this kind of sustainability thinking and cooperation in as many different civic, faith-based, and community groups as possible.” To that end, Prepared Neighborhoods recruited Jenni Brewster, who is married to Grant Brewster, pastor of Island Church. And the group contacted David Cowan, a doctor at the Virginia Mason Winslow clinic. He has been compiling a network of medically trained professionals who can be called upon during an emergency. James then recruited Inside Bainbridge to help with information dissemination, both before and during an emergency.

Bainbridge Island Fire Department Phelps Road StationCentral to the Prepared Neighborhoods’ strategy is the creation of emergency centers all over the island, so that each neighborhood has a central location at which people can convene during an emergency situation or its aftermath. These centers, which will each be equipped with a generator, will serve as warming stations during power outages. During larger emergencies, they will serve as temporary information, supply distribution, emotional support, and medical centers. The organization plans to locate them in already-existing locations, such as churches and religious centers.

Although Prepared Neighborhoods is working on a five-year plan to establish and equip all of the centers, James said that they want people to see many results of their work right away. The key to their success, he said, is citizen involvement. Because of severe budget cuts and overworked civil servants, the city needs people to get involved in helping their own families and local communities. Prepared Neighborhoods is creating a framework for that involvement, but the plan will not work unless citizens sign up and find out how to connect with their neighbors in advance of an emergency and how to establish warming stations/emergency centers in their own neighborhoods.

And that’s where tomorrow night’s meeting comes in. James is hoping that citizens from a wide range of backgrounds will show up to find out how they can get involved and how to apply their specific skills and interests.

At the meeting, Bainbridge Island Fire Chief Hank Teran and Phyllis Mann, Director of the Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management, will be on hand to define their departments’ roles. And a host of other representatives from the media, schools, the medical establishment, and the nonmotorized transportation community will be participating as well.

Map Your NeighborhoodPrepared Neighborhoods will introduce meeting attendees to the Map Your Neighborhood program. And they will distribute lists of emergency supplies recommended for family emergency kits. James encourages citizens to bring their questions.

James told me, “I have a personal passion for staying prepared, for keeping my family and neighbors looked after. About turning off Facebook and knowing who the people are around you. There’s nothing wrong with social media for staying in touch with people around the globe, but for local relationships face to face is better.” So bring your face to the meeting tomorrow and start the emergency preparation process.

The meeting is from 7-9 p.m. Monday, October 3, at the Commons, at 370 Brien Drive.

 

Images courtesy of Sarah Lane, Scott James, and Washington State Map Your Neighborhood.

 

 

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Sportsman and New Brooklyn

PSE Work on Sportsman Club Road Will Disrupt School & Coppertop Traffic Through December

Starting Monday (October 3), you might want to avoid Sportsman Club Road. Puget Sound Energy’s construction of a new underground neighborhood distribution power line is going to slow you down—especially between 6:45 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays. The work will continue through December of this year.

The work will happen along the right-of-way between the Murden Cove Road substation and New Brooklyn. PSE says it is working with the school district to have signs and flaggers help direct traffic safely around their crews. But it warns that at times traffic will be limited to one lane. The school district “strongly recommends” that parents avoid navigating Sportsman Club by having students ride the school bus.

Puget Sound EnergyPSE describes the work as “Electric Reliability Improvements” for nearly 1,600 residential and business customers in and around Winslow, easing stress on the existing line, which the company says is the fourth most heavily loaded power line in PSE’s 1.1 million customer service area. It says that the distribution line “does NOT involve installation of transmission lines which carry significantly higher levels of electricity than neighborhood lines.”

PSE also warns that the schedule may change due to weather.

You can get more information about this project, the Murden Cove distribution upgrade, on the Construction project tab at PSE.com/KitsapCounty.

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Island Energy Dashboard Website Widget Debuts Here at Inside Bainbridge

Perhaps you’ve seen the dashboard on screens in businesses around town. The dashboard shows the current electrical usage on Bainbridge Island by substation. It continually rotates to show usage in different parts of the Island. Positive Energy (the Bainbridge Alliance for Clean Power) created the dashboard with data supplied by Puget Sound Energy to help Islanders track their own energy usage.

[swfobj src="http://www.insidebainbridge.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/FirstWidget_9_320widec1.swf"]Island Energy Dashboard[/swfobj]

Now Inside Bainbridge is the first third-party website to get to display the dashboard. We’re hoping that having it in our sidebar will help Islanders manage their energy usage. What you will see on the dashboard is real-time power consumption. The goal is to avoid the red zone of the dial, or 100% capacity, which is 29 MW of power demand. When we stay below that number we can avoid the need for an additional substation on the Island.

On particularly hot or cold days, monitor the dashboard in our sidebar. If the needle is inching toward red, do what you can to reduce your own energy usage. This will help our community control our energy footprint and prevent the construction of a fourth substation, which would be costly in terms of money and space.

For more information, visit the Positive Energy site.

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My Home Makes an Impact RePowerBainbridge.org sign

RePower Bainbridge: The Home Energy Audit

You’ve seen the signs around the Island. Maybe you’ve talked to friends who have had the energy audit and just haven’t quite gotten there yourself. Or maybe, like my family, you did the audit and are now trying to figure out how to finance the upgrades your home really needs.

What exactly is RePower Bainbridge? Last summer Bainbridge Island was chosen as one of 20 communities in the nation to receive a BetterBuildings award from the U.S. Department of Energy. The City of Bainbridge Island and partners such as the Bainbridge Alliance for Clean Power and Puget Sound Energy (PSE) joined forces to create the RePower Bainbridge program. The program’s specific goals are to

  • complete energy assessments in 4,000 homes and 100 businesses;
  • complete energy upgrades in 2,000 homes and 25 businesses to result in more than 15 percent energy savings in each home or business; and
  • reduce approximately 7,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

Positive EnergyFrom a home owner’s perspective, the process is this: You call RePower Bainbridge at 877.741.4340 or sign up on-line at repowerbainbridge.org to schedule an energy auditor to come to your home. It took a couple of weeks for our appointment, and our FREE audit lasted about 2 hours, which is the long side of normal. You need (and will want) to be involved during the scheduled time. At our house, the auditor assessed our roof, wall, and floor insulation; heating system; water heater; appliances and electronics; windows and doors; lighting; and water use. He showed us problem areas along the way and made recommendations for energy conservation and savings upgrades with a list of the highest priority items.

At the end of the process, our auditor gave us a list of recommended licensed and bonded contractors to help us with whatever we couldn’t or didn’t want to handle ourselves (just about everything), as well as cost-saving incentive rebates worth several hundred dollars. Too bad for us, his suitcase of 40 CFL bulbs was an audit freebie we couldn’t take advantage of because we already have CFLs installed everywhere. But we did get a free water-saving shower head.

In our 1960s-era home our greatest needs were a new energy-efficient water heater, better insulation, and a ductless heat pump system to replace our energy-vampire wall unit heaters. The recommended organization we called to give us a quote for the upgrades sent a knowledgeable, friendly representative, who came up with some cost-saving measures and, a week later, a quote for the work.

I was surprised to learn that on average Bainbridge Island residents use 60 percent more electricity than PSE’s average regional customer. This is because, as RePower Bainbridge explains, “less than half of Bainbridge Island homes are up to current energy code standards and fewer than 20 percent of those homes are properly insulated. These inefficiencies create a significant opportunity for the average homeowner to achieve energy and dollar savings.”

But, as we all know, you have to spend money to “make” money, so we’re taking our audit recommendations step by step, grateful to be more informed in our ongoing movement toward more sustainable living.

 

Julie Hall is the author of A Hot Planet Needs Cool Kids: Understanding Climate Change and What You Can Do About It, endorsed by Jay Inslee, Bill McKibben, and the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

Photo by Julie Hall, 2011.

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