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1326renewable energy choice in Seattle

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  • Polly Ledvina
    Nov 8, 2001
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      To view the entire article, go to
      http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/134363362_greenpower07m0.html





      City Light to try an experiment in 'green power' to fund renewable energy



      By Craig Welch

      Seattle Times staff reporter



      Conservation-minded Seattleites may be able to put their money where their
      utility bills are beginning in January.

      That's when Seattle City Light plans to kick off a program allowing the
      utility's 340,000 customers to voluntarily pay more to purchase power from
      renewable energy sources.

      Residential customers can pay $3, $7 or $10 extra each month — about
      the amount surveys show customers are willing to pay for cleaner-burning
      fuels. That money would then go into a fund to buy everything from solar
      power to wind generation to geothermal power to landfill gas.

      While not yet approved by the City Council, the program is required under a
      law passed by the Legislature this year. It gives residents a chance to
      replace some of their power with renewable energy, and it encourages
      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 pollution,
      including nuclear or hydropower, even though both are often controversial
      among conservationists. Seattle City Light touts itself as primarily a green
      utility because little of its power comes from sources such as coal.

      Under the program, customers would pay monthly for green power or offer
      lump-sum payments for any amount at any time. Sixty percent of the money
      would go toward purchasing renewable resources that cost no more than twice
      as much as wind power — the cheapest of renewable resources.

      The remaining 40 percent would go toward pilot projects to encourage
      development and use of green-power technologies. Most of the 40 percent will
      be used for solar projects. Solar power is now the most expensive renewable
      resource.

      "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 minority that
      adamantly pushed for solar power in a 1996 survey of residents.

      "It's a technology that's ripe for expansion," Glaser said. "People see
      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
      landfill.

      Craig Welch can be reached at 206-464-2093 or cwelch@....


      Copyright (c) 2001 The Seattle Times Company