PUD budget includes money for new power lines, substations

Electricity users in Snohomish County and Camano Island will invest millions of dollars in new power lines, poles and substations in 2008.

They also will pour big bucks into tidal power and other forms of renewable energy, including on programs that will help them use less electricity at home.

All the while, their rates are not expected to go up.

That’s according to the $664 million budget that General Manager Steve Klein on Monday proposed for Snohomish County PUD. If adopted by the public utility district’s governing board in December, the 2008 budget will set a new all-time high for the utility. This year, the PUD expects to collect and spend $620 million.

“I’m feeling pretty good” about keeping rates down, Klein said.

The utility projects that it will deliver electricity to 7,800 new homes and businesses in 2008, the continuation of a five-year growth spurt that has put pressure on the power lines that deliver electricity around the county.

As part of a long-term bid to bulk up its ability to deliver electricity, the utility in 2008 plans to spend more than $10 million in reserves to repair aging power lines and to bring electricity into new areas, said Glenn McPherson, the PUD’s assistant general manager of finance.

The money became available after the utility earlier this year settled a long-running dispute with Enron Corp. over a contract signed during the 2001 West Coast energy crisis. The utility agreed to pay Enron $18 million, far less than the $180 million the bankrupt energy trader claimed the PUD owed it for canceling a 2001 energy contract.

The utility also in 2008 plans to invest heavily in renewable energy to provide electricity for its growing customer base and to meet the requirements of a state law that 15 percent of its electricity must be renewable by 2020. The focus will be on trying to harness the tidal currents in Puget Sound, but the utility also will look at geothermal and solar energy and conservation, McPherson said.

Reporter Lukas Velush: 425-339-3449 or lvelush@heraldnet.com.

@2. Breakout Header:Public hearings

Snohomish County PUD’s governing commission has scheduled public hearings on the proposed 2008 budget on Oct. 30 and Nov. 20 and plans to vote on the budget on Dec. 4. The meetings are held at 1:30 p.m. at PUD headquarters, 2320 California St., Everett.

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