PSE Coal-Free by 2027?

UTC_8312017Background: On August 31st, the WA Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC)  held a hearing regarding Puget Sound Energy (General Rate Case), Dockets UE-170033 & UG-170034. It was standing room only. The Fire Marshall had to move people into the hallway to meet code. Erika from Climate Action Bainbridge and I didn’t get to speak until 8:30pm. Everyone from 6-8:30pm asked UTC to direct Puget Sound Energy (PSE) to stop using coal-generated electricity by 2025. So many eloquent speakers: Vashon Climate Action, League of Women Voters from Tacoma, Pierce and Thurston Counties, King County Council, Bellevue City Council,scientists, grad students, mayor of Olympia, 350.org from Seattle and Tacoma, Native American groups, Seattle city council, Redline Tacoma (now Redefine Tacoma), CENSE from the Eastside, and Sierra Club’s Seattle Chapter, to name a few. Over 20 pages of people signed up to speak, Erika and I were on page 6 and didn’t get to speak until 8:30pm. It’s a #revolution.

Everyone urged the commission to direct PSE to close units 3 & 4 of Colstrip and stop buying and selling coal-generated electricity by 2025. It was awe-inspiring.

Then on Sept 15th, the Sierra Club sent this email:

Today the Sierra Club, PSE, and other stakeholders in the rate case filed a settlement today with the UTC that moves up the depreciation date for Colstrip Units 3&4 to 2027 and provides $10 million dollars for transition for Colstrip, half of which comes straight out of shareholders’ pockets! The Commissioners still have to approve the settlement, but we have no reason to believe they won’t.

YOU DID THIS! Thanks to your tremendous work this summer calling PSE out for its dirty coal and gas secrets and packing rate case hearings, we just took a HUGE step towards retiring the 3rd largest source of carbon pollution in the ENTIRE United States.

The fight’s not over yet…we need to move PSE to 2025 and get a binding retirement deal. BUT WE’VE NEVER BEEN CLOSER!

Outstanding debt for Colstrip was the single biggest obstacle to retiring the plant by 2025. Not anymore!! Plus, PSE’s $10M towards transition sets a critical bar for the other owners to step up and do what’s right by the community.

I can’t tell you what an honor it is to work with each and every one of you. There have been some dark moments this year, but your passion and commitment are constant source of joy and light. THANK YOU!

Link >> to Sierra Club statement on settlement 9.15.17

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Ash Falling on Cedars

Fires in WA State - screen grab of Climate Central map.

Fires in WA State – screen grab of Climate Central map.

Much of the world is understandably focused on hurricanes Harvey, Irma,  Jose and Katia on the East Coast. Communities are being battered by some of the largest hurricanes ever recorded. Meanwhile, on the West Coast, where I live, there are more than 80 fires raging in Washington state.

Last year was the first time in more than 20 years of living on Bainbridge Island that I remember the sky turning white due to fires in Eastern Washington. It lasted for a day. This year it lasted for weeks. The smoke was so bad that we could no longer see Seattle from Bainbridge, we could smell smoke inside our house and outside the air stung our eyes. Fires were 90 miles away and rained ash down on our island and other parts of the state.

A local paper, the Kitsap Sun, put it best, “Kitsap residents — along with those in the wider Puget Sound region — woke to find a thin coating of ash on their cars. The sun, blood red, struggled to pierce a curtain of smoky air, turning the atmosphere an eerie yellow.”

Screen grab of New York Times article about WA fires.

Screen grab of New York Times article about WA fires.

All living things need forests. They protect the world’s water sources, and act as the lungs of the earth, taking in CO2 and exhaling oxygen.

For days we woke up to an orange sun and white sky. It felt apocalyptic. And, for me, someone who is acutely aware that the C02 from the forest fires is a horrible feedback loop. They release sequestered C02 into the atmosphere, heating up the world, drying out underbrush, making tinder for wildfires and all but ensuring more fires next year.

Clean water and air are vital to every living thing on this planet.

I know people are connecting the dots, but I think we need to continue to pull back and look at our entire earth as one biosphere, one living organism – only then can we see it is suffering from our waste byproducts (C02, plastics, removing wetland habitat, burning rainforests, green house gases, bleaching coral, polluting both water and air, etc.). Maybe then we’ll be willing to work together to reduce our impact on our life support system?

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From the Ashes – Hope

From the Ashes documentaryIf you haven’t seen From the Ashes, a National Geographic documentary, it is well worth renting. Along with Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth sequel, which our local nonprofit environmental groups (EcoAdapt, Climate Action Bainbridge, Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Island Power and Sustainable Bainbridge) brought to Bainbridge, they make a strong case for first getting off of coal, and second, getting off of fossil fuels all together.

One Biosphere
After Island Power’s campaign was tabled unanimously on June 13th by the Bainbridge City Council I started to wonder – do people just not get that coal and fossil fuels pollute both air and water – two things that are vital to every living thing on this planet? And, that we have one biosphere (earth) where everything and everyone are connected? People seem to think that we can pollute one part of the world completely forgetting that the earth doesn’t have partitions.

Hope
The idea of public power may have just been too big a concept for Bainbridge Island right now. Hopefully, a climate forum that was started in the wake of the campaign by other environmental groups on the island will provide a better opportunity to educate and discuss how we might mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Climate Leaders in Washington State
The City of Bainbridge Island council chose not to lead, even after they received a positive feasibility study, which they said would inform their decision on whether to move forward with a ballot measure. What gives me hope is that there are many organizations, businesses and local governments that see the bigger picture and are working to mitigate climate change by getting off of fossil fuels. Here are a few:

  • Microsoft: State regulators approve Microsoft move to lower its carbon footprint by acquiring clean power on wholesale markets rather than buying from PSE. Read more…
  • City of Edmonds: City Council recently approved a resolution establishing a community-wide goal of transitioning to 100 percent clean and renewable energy by 2025. Read more…
  • YES! Magazine: Our Best Shot at Meeting Paris Goals? Make Energy Public A new report finds public ownership is the best way for cities and towns to meet renewable energy and efficiency targets. Read more…
  • CarbonWA: Their initiative 732 campaign was admirable. An amazing grassroots organization that is still working toward a clean-energy economy.
  • Climate Action Bainbridge: They have worked on numerous campaigns from Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal to CarbonWA’s initiative 732. And, now CAB members Mike Cox, Gary Lagerloef, Deb Rudnick, and Lara Hansen have been chosen as members of the city’s 9-person Climate Change Advisory Committee.
  • Jefferson County: Our neighbors continue to show us what is possible. Jefferson PUD has grown from 8 to 45 employees since 2013. Read more…
  • EcoAdapt: Meeting the challenges of climate change. A nonprofit here on the island with national reach.
  • Citizens Climate Lobby: Your local chapter.
  • Sierra Club: Their Beyond Coal Campaign is now Beyond Fossil Fuels. Their campaign is featured in the new documentary From the Ashes, on the National Geographic Channel. Join them to get involved in the fight for a cleaner, healthier future.
  • 350.org: The Seattle chapter.
  • Greenpeace: Climate campaigns.
  • Backbone Campaign they’re working with RedLine Tacoma and 350.org to stop the #LNG pipeline: http://www.backbonecampaign.org/
  • Redline Tacoma (changing their name soon) Working to stop PSE’s LNG pipeline.
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Island Power Effort Tabled for Now

From Bainbridge Island City Manager Doug Schultz’s Report June 16th, “After over two years of studying the feasibility of forming a municipal electrical utility, the City Council voted during their meeting on June 13 to cease further consideration of forming a municipal utility at this time.

City Manager Doug Schulze is featured in PSE promotion of a grant to Island Church.

City Manager Doug Schulze is featured in PSE promotion of a grant to Island Church.

We didn’t even get our measure on the ballot. As one confused person asked at the June 13th Council Meeting “how can this go forward with a 10% vote, don’t we need 51% or something?” Yes, it’s called a ballot measure. We had hoped that the council would write an ordinance to put our measure on the ballot so that the island could vote on it. But, PSE wasn’t going to make the Thurston mistake again. They were going to stop our campaign before it reached the ballot.

One concerned person wrote council:

“It was stated that there is little public support for this issue, which is no surprise seeing the constant negative press leveled by PSE using ratepayers’ dollars. Regardless if there is support now or not, it is perhaps the only meaningful way for the public to engage in dialog and debate as a democratic tool of education on this matter. The council has wisely spent the 100k of taxpayers money for the Hittle report, which lays out a positive process forward, so it seems that the public should at least have a right to a full debate and vote.”

I couldn’t agree more. People seem to like the word democracy but don’t always know what it entails.

PSE is completely embedded in our community, giving money (via their foundation) and participating in the following events (only a small sample):

  • Bainbridge in Bloom – sponsors
  • Bainbridge Farmers’ Market – booth
  • Bainbridge Museum of Art – sponsored fundraising BASH
  • Bainbridge Rotary Auction – sponsors
  • Bainbridge Chamber of Commerce – on the board
  • Bainbridge City Hall – PSE employees attend the following meetings: City Council, Utility Advisory Committee, Comprehensive Planning, and Planning Commission.
  • Bainbridge Island Downtown Association – $14,000
  • Bainbridge Schools Foundation – $5,000 grant from PSE
  • Bainbridge High School junior received a $1,000 scholarship prize from PSE for her Grand Old Fourth illustration
  • Bloedel Reserve – sponsored Light the Night event
  • City of Bainbridge Island -  received a $15,000 grant from PSE to upgrade 207 LED street lights (1/3/2017).
  • Bainbridge Island Review – digital and print ads run every week for more than 2 years. The Review came out against the idea of the feasibility study – screen grab of opinion piece sandwiched between two PSE ads.
  • Grand Old Fourth – sponsors, participants
  • Grow Development – PSE presented a rebate check of over $40,000 to support energy-efficient construction on Bainbridge Island.
  • Halloween – sponsored trick or treat downtown
  • Harbour Pub – paid for the lease on a Biodigester
  • Island Church - $50,000
  • Islandwood – sponsored 65 students
  • West Sound Wildlife Shelter – sponsored fundraising event ($10,000)
  • Chilly Hilly Bike Event – booth
  • Winter Studio Tour – sponsors

PSE_checks2

It has rained money from PSE for the past few years.  Great for the island, but, maybe not so great for democracy?

 

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What if Earth = Garden of Eden?

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch 1485

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch 1485.

No matter what your religion of choice, most people have heard the story of Adam and Eve being banished from the Garden of Eden. What if all of earth is really a Garden of Eden? I was thinking about how the earth provides food, nourishment and shelter to every living thing on the planet. And, as plants and animals die they release their nutrients back into the earth to be reused. Only humans embalm their dead with chemicals, or cremate them – both of which are toxic to the earth. (Seattle started an Urban Death Project that buries people in the soil to decompose without chemicals, which is more instep with the natural world.)

And, if you’re thinking, the earth didn’t provide any shelter for humans, it did provide trees, mud, straw, stones and other naturally occurring materials, materials, which would eventually decompose and return to the earth. But, now we create cities with almost no permeable surfaces, almost no organic matter. Roads abut sidewalks which abut buildings. When rain falls instead of benefiting plants and trees, or being absorbed and filtered by earth as it moves to aquifers, streams or larger bodies of water, it runs off cement or pavement carrying oil, gas, and other toxins into waterways poisoning or killing nearshore marine life. Some cities are starting to include rain gardens to give runoff a place to enter the earth, it’s a good first step.

birdThis whole train of thought was kicked off by this image of a bird building it’s nest in a man-made structure (left) — a tree equivalent. Nature is adaptive, to a point. Plants and animals take in the world as they always have – expecting tree-like structures to be safe to make nests in, and expecting their surroundings to provide food not plastic and trash that looks like food.

Chris Jordan Midway Movie

Chris Jordan Midway Movie

That made me think of Chris Jordan’s Midway project, which should be out this year. Watch the trailer. It clearly shows what humanity is unwittingly, and probably unintentionally doing to the natural world. Midway is a North Pacific island that is a nesting place for more than ten species of birds, most notably albatross.

Leo DiCaprio tries to make sense of what we’re doing to the earth in his movie Before the Flood. He didn’t spend much time on it, but I was fascinated with the painting, The Garden of Earthly Delights (at the top of the post), which hung over his bed as a child. It was painted more than 500 years ago and depicts humans ruining the natural world.

Would we treat the earth differently if we saw it as the paradise it is instead of something to be monetized?

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Your Choice Has Power

YourChoiceHasPowerSupply and demand. The heart of our capitalist system. On one hand it’s great: our purchasing power can help to change the marketplace for the better. On the other hand: government regulations can interrupt our leverage as consumers.

The image on the left is a slightly modified Eileen Fisher ad. The original ad asks customers to buy clothes that are responsibly made and change the way business is done one purchase at a time.

Wouldn’t it be great if we had a choice of electricity providers? But, we don’t.

Electric utilities are often natural monopolies due to the expense to build and maintain the infrastructure currently used to produce and deliver electricity. Investor owned utilities (IOU), such as Puget Sound Energy (PSE), are beholden to their shareholders. IOUs are unchallenged monopolies, not held in check by normal market forces and that is why utility commissions regulate them. In Washington, the Washington Utility and Transportation Commission (UTC),  a 3-person commission, regulates approximately 8,000 utilities and carriers.

By comparison, a public utility doesn’t need to be regulated by the UTC as their ratepayers are involved and provide oversight and direction thanks to legally mandated transparency.  Public input is one big difference between public and private utilities. State laws regulate local municipal utilities through requirements for open public records, advance public notice, and public meetings.

PSE is the electricity vendor for Bainbridge Island. The city has a nonexclusive contract with them. We can’t change vendors to get off of fossil-fuel-generated electricity or become a public power utility without working with the local government. The Friends of Island Power (IP) campaign is working to educate the public about the benefits of public power and to see if the measure can get on a ballot in the future.

Currently, the island is getting a lot of attention from PSE. Their Vice President, Customer Operations and Communications has said in meetings: we hear you Bainbridge – you want greener, more reliable power.

Yes, that’s right, many islanders want greener, more reliable power. But, make no mistake about it, the only reason we have PSE’s ear is because Island Power has been running a campaign for more than two years threatening their business on Bainbridge, which is estimated at about $20,000,000 annually. PSE does not normally have town halls to answer ratepayer questions, especially not town halls led by the Vice President of Customer Operations and Communications at Puget Sound Energy.

A Benefit of Public Power
PSE’s campaign to remain our electricity provider has focused some people on the initial cost of buying the infrastructure and starting up an electric utility business on Bainbridge.  While diverting people’s attention away from the fact that the money going to PSE each year would be part of our economy on the island instead. One benefit of public power is that an increase in electric vehicles would benefit our economy if we ran our own electric utility. (Watch a video of JJ McCoy, Senior Policy Associate, NW Energy Coalition, Seattle WA talk about the Benefits to Public Power from Local Transportation Electrification.)

A Benefit of Local Control
Did your electric bill go up this winter?

High bills? PSE suggests turning your thermostat down.

High bills? PSE suggests turning your thermostat down.

While PSE suggests you make home improvements or just turn your thermostat back to keep utility bills low (see graphic), Clark’s utility’s board of commissioners approved a plan that distributes about $10 million of 2016 surplus funds back to customers.

Clark Public Utility is giving customers a one-time credit on their March bill to help ease the financial strain caused by this especially cold winter.

“Long stretches of freezing temperatures took a toll in Clark County and we saw electric usage increase dramatically,” Clark Public Utilities Board of Commissioners president Jane Van Dyke said in a news release. “Staff came to the board and suggested using a portion of 2016 surplus revenue to help customers with these high bills.”

Not every public electric utility has a surplus, but every public utility has legally mandated transparency. That means that ratepayers are part of the process – every process and have a say in how their utility is run.

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PSE Island

feasiblity study, COBI, Bainbridge, public power, power, Review, Bainbridge Review, PSE, puget sound energy

PSE ads wrap around The Bainbridge Island Review. Influencing editorial? Review does not support the public power feasibility study by the Bainbridge City Council.

Welcome to Bainbridge Puget Sound Energy (PSE) Island. Its like Safeco Field or any other company-paid entity. You might not have noticed, because Madge, “you’re soaking in it.” It’s all around us like the Matrix. Oh, speaking of all around us. Look at how the PSE ads wrap around The Bainbridge Island Review like a tasty sandwich (above). And, no surprise that the editorial opinion piece about the public power feasibility study is siding with PSE: “Study Won’t Win Hearts or Minds.” So shocking! Not really. We’ve been bought.

Harbour Pub, biodigester, PSE

PSE Logo on Harbour Pub menu.

Speaking of tasty sandwiches, PSE’s logo is now on the Harbour Pub’s menu explaining how they have helped to install a biodigester at the Pub. The biodigester outputs about 90 percent fertilizer and 10 percent gas for electricity or boiling water. (PSE is paying the lease on it.)

PSE  has a full page ad in the latest issue of Park & Recreation District catalog featuring the biodigester.

PSE, free swim, swim, aquatic center, outage, sponsored swim

PSE sponsored “free” swim canceled due to a power outage – ouch!

Speaking of Parks and Rec, PSE even sponsored a FREE swim last November, when anyone could come to the pool and swim without paying the entrance fee. They had to reschedule due to a power outage. Oops.

Some days it just feels like Thurston County all over again! PSE will spend whatever it takes to buy public opinion: Under the Radar: How a Multinational Corporation Quietly Bought a County-Wide Election

Actions Speak Louder than Advertising

PSE runs ads in all the local papers: The Bainbridge Review (digial and print), the Bainbridge Islander, 98110, and the Kitsap Business Journal (back cover). They started running ads right after Friends of Island Power announced their campaign in May 2015.

Before you start thinking they’re a benevolent corporation that likes to spend its free time spreading money around our community ($14,000 to the Downtown Assoc.) in the form of BBQ giveaways, door prizes and refreshments, look where they’re really putting their money:

Their parent company as of 2007, Macquarie Bank, has fossil fuel projects that range from fracking in the UK to opencast coal mining in Australia. Its hard to imagine PSE is really a friend of the environment. However, they have gotten friendly with our community.

Smiling Faces Sometimes…

PSE employees are on the board of the Chamber of Commerce, they had an employee on the board of Sustainable Bainbridge for years. And, of course they have employees at the following meetings at City Hall: City Council, Utility Advisory Committee, Comprehensive Planning, and Planning Commission. Enmeshed, friendly, but do they have our best interests at heart? Or, do we live on a company island?

 

 

 

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Don’t Blame Me if You Get Addicted…

Dress from Sash Mercantile on Bainbridge. Curated used clothing.

Dress from Sash Mercantile on Bainbridge – so fun it made me get up on stage. Curated used clothing.

Something big is happening here..and even though you’re part of the change…its so subtle you may not have noticed…allow me:

In 2007 Annie Leonard outlined, with a sense of humor, how we are systematically consuming and polluting the earth’s resources in her Story of Stuff. It made us think. It made us feel badly for buying that cheap alarm clock without thinking. We recycled, and felt a little bad about shopping, but nothing much changed. 

In 2012 Macklemore’s song Thrift Shop, topped the charts and we were all gamely going through heaps of sometimes ripe-smelling clothes. That said, no matter how dedicated of an environmentalist you are, shopping at a thrift store comes with a stigma that even Macklemore’s hipness couldn’t overcome. Who needs that? Not me.

Maria Kondo inspired drawer.

Maria Kondo inspired drawer.

Then in 2014 we learned how to get our house in order and really get rid of stuff. Maybe you tried folding your clothes Marie Kondo style (there’s a video). Or, maybe you read her entire book and are now left with only things that spark joy. With all of that joy sparking holes can appear in a girl’s wardrobe, so some shopping is generally required. *Sigh*

In the same year specialty used clothing stores started to emerge, such as Sash Mercantile on Bainbridge Island. Unlike the heap-of-clothing thrift stores of yore, the owners of this store are clothing curators. They work hard to find unique, fun clothes and the clothes are displayed with the same care as new clothes in any other boutique.

ThredUp Clean Out Bag - genius!

ThredUp Clean Out Bag – genius!

Ok, so it started in 2009, but let’s face it, it didn’t really get going until last year. Real change came about with ThredUp.com. Why a real change? Its so subtle, its genius. Basically, it changes our relationship with clothes, ownership, recycling, and money. Oh, and its fun. It does this by offering used clothing online. I know Goodwill has been doing this for years, but I think its ThredUp’s  merchandise presentation and touch points that make the difference. ThredUp gets the following things right and has disrupted the clothing industry by:

  • Only taking/selling clothes from the last five years.
  • Having curators who pick only the best clothes to sell.
  • Making clothing donation easy and giving customers a credit to buy more used clothes.
  • Having a very searchable site with good photos and descriptive information for fewer returns.
  • Making returns easy, and using reusable packaging.
  • Giving an option for credit easy when sending clothes to sell or sending clothes back.
  • Having a great interface not only on their website, email blasts, Facebook posts, but also carrying the look and feel through their packaging and clean-out bag.
  • Making purchasing super easy online.
  • Cleaning clothes before they ship – no used-clothing smell.
  • Oh, having a clean-out bag that they send for you to fill up and send back – sweet!

Bottomline – they are normalizing the used-clothing business. That is truly disruptive.

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Reduce Your Pet’s Carbon Paw Prints

A while back, I posted an article discussing a few ways that pet owners can reduce the carbon paw prints of their dogs – an article that was inspired by my friend Teri that was wondering what to do with dog poop after it’s picked up and put in a bag.

Building up on that article, here’s a very interesting info-graphic I found on Ultimate Home Lifethat discusses 14 practices every dog owner can easily incorporate – if they want to limit their dog’s carbon paw prints to the greatest extent.

A few of the tips I mentioned originally were using biodegradable bags to pick up after your dog’s poop, bringing home a rescued dog from a shelter and a few pointers you should know about concerning the food your dog eats – all of which are discussed in detail (and with some interesting statistics, might I add) in the info-graphic below.

I love tip #10 – we now reuse and donate our clothes, why not do that for our four-legged friends as well?

ultimatehomelife.com

So, there we have it!

Any thoughts?

What are your experiences with any of these tips about reducing the carbon paw prints of your dog?

And, if you’ve got any tips of your own that weren’t mentioned in this illustration, make yourself heard and share them in the comments section below!

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Climate Change is Calling…Anyone Picking up?

telephone

Climate change is calling…anyone picking up?

The City of Bainbridge Island Council’s discussions about public power and climate change represent a microcosm of what is being played out around the world. We’re like a Petri dish. A community experiment. Although we’re not your average participants as Bainbridge Island is known for having more than its fair share of scholars and environmental stewards.

However, corporate bullying from our current electric utility in the form of well-placed money (Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Business Association, as well as push-polling, ads, events, possible funding of candidates, etc.) has created an atmosphere of fear in the hopes of paralyzing the city government from taking action on one of the most defining issues of our time – climate change.

How can a city help to mitigate climate change? Many scientists along with the EPA list fossil-fuel generated energy as one of the nation’s leading causes of CO2 emissions, the primary cause of climate change and global warming. So, if the city could buy electricity that doesn’t emit as much carbon or pollution as fossil fuel generated electricity that could lower the entire island’s carbon footprint. What’s a city to do? Start its own electric utility? Sounds complex. Thankfully, we wouldn’t be reinventing the wheel, there are 62 other public power entities in WA alone, most get their power from the Bonneville Power Administration, where the Island Power initiative is suggesting Bainbridge Island get its power.

Whether we get on board or not, we’re in the middle of an industry shift. The energy industry is changing for the better but its fighting that change every step of the way. In my lifetime I’ve seen a number of radical industry shifts, you probably have too. Here are a few that have impacted my working life:

  • Pre-press and typesetting industry segued into desktop publishing. Aldus then Adobe software were disruptive technologies and changed how we work.
  • Film and photography labs disappeared with the advent of digital photography.
  • Digital cameras have felt the pressure of a camera in every cell phone.
  • Landline telephone use is declining as cellphone coverage and reliability increase.
  • Use of printed maps have declined as GPS is readily available on cell phones.

Climate change will be completely disruptive to the energy industry if we decide to live more lightly on the planet.

Where is your money going? You might be surprised at how much coal-generated electricity Bainbridge Island buys each year. The average kilowatt hour (kWh) per year per house is about 15,000 and slightly more than half of that comes from fossil fuels, about one third from coal-generated electricity. In 2015 15,000 kWH cost about $1400/yr. So about $466, almost $500/yr to coal-generated electricity. If we multiply that times the number of households (9,709) we get about $4.5 million spent on coal-generated electricity a year – just for residences – that number does not include businesses.

In a capitalist society, what is our real leverage? Money and how we spend it, or don’t spend it. Most people want to live more lightly on the planet but changing light bulbs and recycling are not enough. We need to make system-wide changes to mitigate climate change — systems that people use daily. With cleaner energy, for example, people can continue to charge their devices, keep the refrigerator running and flick on the lights with substantially less of a negative impact on the earth and our environment.

System-wide changes need to be made through our political system. Our electricity vendor for Bainbridge is Puget Sound Energy (PSE). The city has a nonexclusive contract with them. We can’t change vendors (they are a monopoly) or buy our own power without going through the local government to change the contract. Politics is messy. It’s not as straightforward as bringing an idea to the local government for a discussion and a vote. In Nov 2015 the City Council voted to educate themselves and the community about public power before putting anything on the ballot. The city manager put together a task force to write a Request for Proposal then to interview the consulting firms who replied. They selected the consulting firm. The city manager brought the recommendation to the council in May. It was sent back to the task force for more consideration. Tuesday night (July 12th) there will be a vote on that study, whether to move forward with it or not.

Will the city council be bold and brave enough to take the first step toward cleaner energy? What if our grid was filled with carbon-neutral electricity? What if our cars were fueled by hydro power? What if airplanes were fueled by plants? (Alaska Airlines is starting to use biofuels!!) Are we the environmental stewards we think we are or will fear rule the day? We’ll find out Tuesday.

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