Puget Sound Energy Files Updated Resource Strategy

Heightened energy efficiency, the development of more renewable power and additional natural gas-fired power generation are the linchpins of Puget Sound Energy's newly updated strategy for meeting customers' growing energy needs.

The utility's Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), filed on July 30 with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, guides the company's efforts for acquiring new energy resources over the next 20 years. PSE revises the plan every two years with an updated forecast of customer energy requirements and analyses of the economic, environmental and technological issues involved in securing new energy supplies.

Despite the current economic slump, PSE's resource plan forecasts long-term growth in the utility's 11-county service area. Approximately 1 million more Puget Sound residents will be relying on PSE service 20 years from now, the IRP predicts. Regional growth, together with the potential retirement of aging power plants and expiration of large purchased-power contracts, is driving PSE's need to secure about 5,000 megawatts (MW) of additional power capacity over the next two decades.

"Our challenge is not only to meet our customers' growing energy needs in an economically prudent way, but in a way that protects our planet as well," said Kimberly Harris, executive vice president and chief resource officer for PSE. "Our resource plan takes the right approach with more energy efficiency and renewable resources, augmented by more clean-burning natural gas generation."

The 2009 IRP calls for greater energy efficiency. More than 530 average-MWs of additional power savings can be achieved over the next 20 years, according to the resource plan. Those savings, sufficient to meet the electricity requirements of 400,000 households, would forestall the need to build four average-sized natural gas-fired power plants. The plan also identifies 90 million therms of achievable natural-gas savings by PSE customers, enough to satisfy the total gas needs of 108,000 households.

The new energy-efficiency targets represent 22 percent and 30 percent increases, respectively, in the electricity and natural gas efficiency goals cited in PSE's 2007 IRP. The 2009 IRP also underscores PSE's commitment to developing more renewable-energy resources, primarily wind power. Today, PSE's Hopkins Ridge Wind Facility, in Southeast Washington, and Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility, in Central Washington, make the company the second-largest utility producer of wind power in the United States, according to the American Wind Energy Association. The two wind facilities have a combined generating capacity of 386 MW. Their annual energy output is sufficient to serve the total power needs of 100,000 homes. A 44-MW expansion of Wild Horse, now under way, is scheduled for completion in late 2009.

PSE is working to develop the Lower Snake River Wind Energy Project in Southeast Washington's Garfield and Columbia counties. The PSE initiative proposes as much as 1,432 MW of new wind power to be built there.

Nearly all of the company's remaining power-supply acquisitions will involve natural gas-fired power because economic, political and environmental considerations virtually preclude the development of new hydro, nuclear or coal-fired power resources in the region.

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