No fooling: April 1 is Jefferon’s split from Puget Sound Energy

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — The divorce, amicable though it may be, is almost final, and preparations are under way for the final split.

In seven weeks — as of April 1 — East Jefferson County residents and businesses connected to 19,000 meters will be getting their power from Jefferson County Public Utility District 1 through the Bonneville Power Administration instead of through Puget Sound Energy, or PSE.

“We are trying to have a positive relationship with PSE,” PUD Board President Barney Burke said Friday.

“We are going our separate ways.”

As part of the changeover, PUD is installing a $3.5 million 13-mile power line from Discovery Pay to Coyle and a new circuit that will run from the Port Ludlow substation to Shine on state Highway 19.

“They call them separation projects that allow us to separate from PSE’s current infrastructure,” PUD Manager Jim Parker said Friday.

Customers will be disconnected from two PSE submarine cables at the Hood Canal.

Once the change occurs, “everything will still work the same,” Burke said.

The board is expected to take action on rates at its Feb. 19 or March 5 meeting.

“Our goal from Day 1 has been to match the PSE rate or charge a little less than that,” Burke said.

“That is still our goal. That’s what we intend to do.

“We’re just getting to the point where we have more information.”

Rates will be largely dependent on the interest charged on a $115 million Rural Utility Service loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Burke said.

The interest rate was about 2.4 percent a week ago and was about 2.6 percent Friday, he said.

Burke added that a 1 percent change in the interest rate means about more than a $1 million difference in the bottom line — either in savings or extra costs.

At the PUD board’s Feb. 19 meeting, commissioners expect to name nine people — three from each PUD district — to an advisory board that will mull over and give feedback on PUD operations.

“We want them to help us with things like rates,” Burke said.

The process has been four years in the making, beginning in 2008, when voters granted the public agency the authority to provide electrical service to East Jefferson County residents — severing a relationship with PSE that spanned about 100 years.

This week, Howard Barnes, an electrical engineer who’s worked at rural electrical utilities for most of his career, will meet with PUD officials to work on financial aspects of the changeover.

Last modified: February 10. 2013 5:47PM
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