Opinion

Puget Sound Energy’s future in local hands

OK, fellow Puget Sound Energy customers, belay any fears over the pending sale of PSE to a bunch of investors from Canada and Australia.

These new folks are putting up money to keep PSE operating, and will have nothing, repeat nothing to do with running of the utility. The same old hands will be in charge.

You have the word of Steve Reynolds, CEO of PSE for the last six years, who bared his soul about the company’s problems to the Bremerton Area Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Issues breakfast last week.

He was supposed to be paired with Simon Fitch of the state Attorney General’s office, which is opposing the sale, but Fitch didn’t show up. The AG has issued a statement that customers and the Washington economy would be better off if the utility remained a publicly traded company.

Whether it does or not is up to the state Utilities and Transportation Commission which is having a hearing on it the end of this month in Olympia.

Times have been tough for utilities, Reynolds said, and PSE needs to spend $1 billion a year for the next five years to rebuild and build new transmission lines and substations.

“The hydro is gone,” he said.

Explanation: Every place that could be dammed in the state to provide hydroelectric power has been dammed and it still isn’t enough to meet all the needs for fish commitments, agriculture, recreation, hiking, campsites, etc.

Use of coal has been outlawed by the Legislature, and PSE has turned to wind farms, Wild Horse by Vantage and the other in Walla Walla. They require no oil or natural gas.

He’s spent the last six years trying to raise capital, Reynolds said, but the public just hasn’t come through.

“How many of you in the audience own any PSE stock?” he asked.

Two hands went up, one of them from an employee of PSE.

“Why didn’t you ask us?” a man asked. “You could have put a note on everybody’s bill and I would have invested.” “We can’t solicit investments on our bills,” Reynolds said.

Will rates go up? Yes, Reynolds said, but because they’re tied to cost of natural gas.

PSE didn’t seek out the Canadian and Australian investors, who came to them, offering $7.4 billion, he said. “We don’t want to be an Australian company or Canadian company. We want to honor our labor agreements, have the same low income programs, have the same employees, the same commitments.”

Did government cause this? Is PSE’s financial position just part of the problems to come in other industries by the global warming alarm?

There was a huge concern over global warming, and PSE has to trend to renewable resources by 2020 and reduce carbon emissions by 2050, Reynolds said.

“It’s fascinating watching the politicians at the state and federal level. Both presidential candidates are for the carbon trading system. We don’t get a lot of say in this. We just try to minimize the cost to our customers. There is no free lunch. It will cost money to minimize carbons.”

What do we do with the new mercury light bulbs we can’t discard in the garbage?

Home Depot will take them and they will eventually be recycled into new ones.

What if the state UTC nixes the sale?

“We’ll still be here trying to be good stewards of energy,” Reynolds said.

Adele Ferguson can be reached at P.O. Box 69, Hansville, WA 98340.

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