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June 2014

Utility planning to add 18 miles of transmission lines

Seattle Eastside to keep pace with robust growth

By NWREporter

June 2014

With growth studies projecting demand for reliable power on the Eastside (from Renton to Redmond), Puget Sound Energy (PSE) has embarked on a project to bring new higher capacity electric transmission to the area.

Called "Energize Eastside," the effort to upgrade the existing transmission system to assure dependable power for all Eastside communities would involve constructing around 18 miles of electric transmission lines within the state's fastest-growing region.

During a meeting with members of the SEATTLE KingCounty REALTORS® Governmental & Public Affairs Committee, representatives from PSE discussed plans for a "robust public engagement process" to evaluate requirements and constraints. Exact routing would be determined after the public input phase, with construction targeted to begin in 2017.

Andy Wappler, PSE's vice president of corporate affairs, said conservation alone is insufficient to meet the challenge.  By investing millions of dollars in energy efficiency and renewal power programs and through partnerships with customers, enough electricity was saved to power 30,000 homes in 2012, Wappler noted. But it's not enough, he added.

Eastside Customer Demand Forecast
Source: Puget Sound Energy

Key findings from an Eastside Needs Assessment identified the potential for risk outages that could affect more than 60,000 customers. That six-month study, conducted by the Quanta Technology engineering firm, evaluated population trends, electric load growth, economic development patterns, conservation programs, energy efficiency improvements, and other key trends.

Data from the Puget Sound Regional Council projects substantial growth around the Eastside whether measured by population, households or employment:

EASTSIDE GROWTH


2000

2040

change

% increase

Population

430,920

667,300

236,380

54.85%

Households

169,918

280,214

110,296

64.91%

Employment

330,982

553,300

222,318

67.17%


Source: Puget Sound Energy

Other research shows the Bellevue-Redmond area has become a major regional economic and employment hub with 140,000 jobs and 143 corporate headquarters. The FAQ published by PSE also cites estimates from the Puget Sound Regional Council that project a 275 percent growth in the Bellevue central district by 2040. 

After considering a variety of approaches to solving the imbalance between existing capacity  and anticipated demand, PSE's planners, engineers and third-party experts concluded the only way to ensure meeting needs would require bringing new high capacity electric transmission lines to the Eastside.

Routing a new electric transmission line in an urban area is a challenge, Wappler told Realtors®. In trying to identify route segments, PSE is mindful of several non-electrical factors, including geographic barriers, land uses, and impacts on the environment.

Potential Route Segments
Source: Puget Sound Energy

"Without substantial electrical infrastructure upgrades, tens of thousands of residents and businesses will be at risk of more frequent and longer outages," PSE states.

Realtors® and other residents are encouraged to provide input on which combination of route segments would best serve the Eastside's needs. PSE "pledges to work with property owners and residents, businesses, hospitals and electrical officials to reduce the impacts whenever possible. "

Wappler outlined a number of ways interested stakeholders could become involved, starting with visiting the project website, which may be translated into seven other languages. The site includes interactive maps and links to:

  • Community Advisory Group meetings;
  • Comment form, plus mail address and voice mail number for submitting comments and questions;
  • Inviting PSE to give informational briefings at neighborhood or community group meetings;
  • Joining a mailing list