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Light to try an experiment in 'green power' to fund renewable
By Craig Welch
Seattle Times staff
Conservation-minded Seattleites may be able to put their
money where their
utility bills are beginning in January.
Seattle City Light plans to kick off a program allowing the
customers to voluntarily pay more to purchase power from
Residential customers can pay $3, $7 or $10 extra each month
the amount surveys show customers are willing to pay for
fuels. That money would then go into a fund to buy everything
power to wind generation to geothermal power to landfill
While not yet approved by the City Council, the program is required
law passed by the Legislature this year. It gives residents a chance
replace some of their power with renewable energy, and it
utilities to experiment with some of the most well-known
— if not
cost-effective — "green power" sources.
Green power refers to forms of energy production that don't emit
including nuclear or hydropower, even though both are often
among conservationists. Seattle City Light touts itself as
primarily a green
utility because little of its power comes from sources such
Under the program, customers would pay monthly for green power
lump-sum payments for any amount at any time. Sixty percent of the
would go toward purchasing renewable resources that cost no more than
as much as wind power — the cheapest of renewable
The remaining 40 percent would go toward pilot projects to
development and use of green-power technologies. Most of the 40
be used for solar projects. Solar power is now the most
"It's really more like
research-and-development money to prime the pump,"
said Nancy Glaser,
strategic-planning director for City Light. The
difference in costs among
some renewable-energy sources is staggering.
The cost of replacing the
average customer's residential power bill with 100
percent wind energy is
about 2 cents per kilowatt hour — roughly $14 a
month. The cost to
do the same with solar power is about 26 cents per
kilowatt hour —
$187 a month.
But, city officials said, there was a small but vocal
adamantly pushed for solar power in a 1996 survey of
"It's a technology that's ripe for expansion," Glaser said.
potential over the long haul."
If 1 percent of customers
participated in the green-power project — the
low end of the scale
among other cities that have tried such voluntary
measures — the
revenue would be roughly $324,000 for pilot projects,
which could buy only
about 11 solar panels.
The remaining 60 percent would go toward other
types of renewable energy,
such as King County's landfill gas-to-energy
project at its Cedar Hills
Craig Welch can be reached at
206-464-2093 or cwelch@...
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