To a standing-room only crowd of Newcastle residents at the Newcastle City Hall, CENSE marshaled its arguments to the City Council why PSE’s proposed project can be safely delayed at least 4 years and probably much more, and the council should support efforts in Bellevue and elsewhere to hire an independent third party expert to investigate whether the project is needed and what reasonable alternatives exist.
Don Marsh of CENSE made the chief presentation with PowerPoints, one of which contains this powerful graphic questioning whether Eastside demand has plateaued and drastic increases in wattage are at all necessary:
This flat-lining of demand parallels the national trend, as indicated in this graph from a Barron’s article at http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-07-13/what-power-consumption-telling-us-about-us-economy:
From the article: “US power consumption peaked in 2006 (red line), approximately in line with the peak in the US housing market, and the trend line has flatlined since.”
Here is CENSE’s press release summarizing the presentation, which was scheduled for 30 minutes but which wound up, following several questions from council members, to be 90 minutes in duration:
On Tuesday evening, July 15, 2014, CENSE co-founders Steve O’Donnell and Don Marsh were joined by Newcastle resident Larry Johnson to give a half-hour presentation that was highly critical of PSE’s proposed Energize Eastside project.
At the outset, they questioned PSE’s projections of electricity demand growing at an annual rate of 2%. Demand has been flat or declining, both on the Eastside and nationally, for at least the past 6 years, even with population growth and fluctuations in the economy. A Bellevue study anticipates a rate of growth that is less than half of PSE’s projections.
PSE also ignored the recommendations of their own reports that showed 56 MW could be saved. That would delay need for the project for at least 4 years, and save rate payers $40 million. “I’ve never seen a choice so stark,” Marsh said. “We can pay PSE hundreds of millions of dollars to deface our cities and neighborhoods, or we can ask PSE to implement the recommendations in their own report, watch the trends and evolving technologies for at least 4 years, and save $40 million.”
Even if growth proceeds in line with PSE’s projections, there are a number of alternative solutions that are transforming the electric utility industry. For example, Tesla is beginning to market a residential-sized battery that can run a home during power outages and can reduce demand during peak usage hours. Dean Kamen is about to introduce a dishwasher-sized Stirling engine that runs on natural gas. It produces enough electricity to power a home, and it recycles the waste heat to heat water. As residents invest in these and other technologies, the need for new transmission lines will recede.
At the grid level, large batteries are being used in projects in California, Hawaii, and New York City. PSE recently received a grant of $3.8 million from the state to run a pilot battery project.
Another well-known option for addressing peak load issues is time-of-day pricing. Marsh read from a study PSE did in 2001 on time-of-day pricing. At that time, PSE was quoted saying the program would solve a crisis of exactly the sort PSE claims we are facing now.
Marsh noted that the Energize Eastside project includes no efficiency incentives or conservation proposals: “PSE says there are no opportunities for conservation left. The only solution is poles and wires.” For a fraction of the price of Energize Eastside, targeted incentives could achieve the same goals, he said. “That’s the smart choice when climate change and environmental impacts are a real concern for our children and grandchildren.”
All three presenters encouraged the city council to work with other Eastside cities and hire an independent expert to evaluate the needs and alternative solutions. Many residents don’t know enough about the project, and cities need to educate their residents and keep them updated on developments as they happen.