“Think of energy almost like emotional electricity. It has a powerful way of uniting ordinary people, their connected spirit, to do extraordinary things.”
ANGELA AHRENDTS / SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT OF APPLE
Tacoma Power successfully navigated through 2017 by adapting to the unpredictable, positioning itself for the future, and improving the current state.
Though the winter was wet overall, the year began with a cold, dry January, leading Tacoma Power to draft storage reservoirs well below normal levels to meet load. The reservoirs, however, were well-positioned to handle the large storms and continual wet weather that hit the region in February and beyond. Snowpack continued to build throughout the season, while inflows stayed well above normal due to the record-setting rain and snow. As a result, Tacoma Power was able to keep most of its generating resources near maximum throughout the spring runoff and still refill storage reservoirs. By the end of the season, while snowpack was well above normal, it melted in a relatively smooth pattern allowing for the capture of most of the inflows. With full reservoirs, Tacoma Power was able to use the flexibility of its resources to respond to several regional heat waves over the course of the hot, dry summer.
Planning for Tomorrow
Tacoma Power is deeply committed to managing resources to meet current and future power needs, and 2017 saw many highlights.
Among those, the utility achieved net wholesale revenues of nearly $50 million - which was greater than the projected amount in its budget.
One of more important decisions Tacoma Power will make in the next several years is considering alternatives to contract extensions with Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) when the current contract expires in 2028. This year brought the development of a framework for considering these alternatives, and this effort moves Tacoma Power closer to being well prepared to make the right choices for the future.
Conservation efforts allow Tacoma Power to meet all future load-growth needs and the utility continues to exceed energy conservation targets.
With a continued focus on planning, Tacoma Power completed the 2017 Integrated Resource Plan. A result of careful research and an energetic stakeholder process, this year’s Integrated Resource Plan is a comprehensive update to the 2015 plan.
Increasing Customer Satisfaction
Programs that directly impacted customers included launching a project in cooperation with the City of Tacoma’s Public Works Department to upgrade 75% of the City’s streetlights to LED. The utility revamped its Evergreen Options program, and awarded a $50,000 grant to Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium to install solar panels on one of its buildings.
Tacoma Power customers participated in the utility’s programs, completing more than 1,750 energy conservation projects. The utility sent out more than 1,360 payments totaling more than $385,000 to customers participating in Tacoma Powers community solar and rooftop solar programs.
The utility’s newly named “Customer Energy Programs” team helped Tacoma Power’s low-income customers save about $90,000 on their first-year retail bills.
Operational efficiency efforts in 2017 included added functionality to automate the public-facing Tacoma Power Outage Map; an enhanced interactive voice response platform; replacement of the legacy database used for low-income discount rate applications and programs with a robust, cloud solution; and upgraded customer services’ payment channels, to accept the new MasterCard BIN number and Discover Cards.
Standard & Poor’s and Fitch confirmed Tacoma Power’s credit ratings of AA and AA-, and Moody’s also confirmed the utility’s Aa3 rating (of Tacoma Power’s bonds issued prior to 2017). These ratings will continue to allow Tacoma Power to access low interest rates for future borrowing needs. The utility also took new actions to maintain its financial strength, and in September 2017 successfully completed the issuance of $80 million in new bonds.
Tacoma Power purchases a significant amount of power and transmission from BPA at an annual cost of approximately $127 million and $18 million respectively. BPA is required to establish new power and transmission rates every two years. Tacoma Power actively participated in BPA’s rate cases this year. The utility’s BPA power and transmission costs increased by 4.1% and 0.2% on October 1 for the two-year rate period.
The utility continued to find innovative ways to monetize the flexibility of its power resource portfolio by participating in emerging markets for various ancillary energy products. It continued selling energy as a designated Asset Controlling Supplier, one of only three in the Pacific Northwest. With this designation, sales from the utility’s resource portfolio are deemed low carbon and can be sold at a premium. In 2017, those sales resulted in additional revenue of almost $2.2 million.
Tacoma Power was the first Washington utility to join Forth, an electric vehicle advocacy organization. This helped Tacoma Power successfully bid for grant funding for the installation of fast-charging infrastructure at the LeMay Car Museum, and the utility held its first-ever electric vehicle “Ride and Drive Event” at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.
Tacoma Power significantly surpassed conservation targets this year and achieved energy savings of over 13 aMW. With an increased focus on reducing costs for non-participants, the resource was acquired at a cost of about $27 per megawatt hour - well below the long-term costs of power resource alternatives.
2017 Interesting Numbers
Power supply at Tacoma Power is 90% hydroelectric power, and of that, 40% is provided by the utilities own hydroelectric power facilities.
Today’s Enhancements, Tomorrow’s Success
This past year, Tacoma Power developed new products and undertook initiatives to enhance the utility and support customers. One of these major initiatives was the development of a product that allows local public utility districts to procure their reserve requirements from Tacoma Power rather than Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). While Tacoma Power is currently the only third-party supplying these products to BPA customers, the sale of this new product, which began in October 2017, is expected to provide additional revenue of about $450,000 per year.
Safety is at the top of the priority list, and Tacoma Power continues to work towards a zero-incident workplace. Workplace accidents reduced by more than 65% this year.
Tacoma Power also established a new cybersecurity group tasked with working across TPU to improve cybersecurity controls, policies, procedures, and cybersecurity awareness.
System improvements included construction of the Potlatch Switching Station, near Union, Washington, along with significant progress toward replacing the lattice structures along North 21st Street and bypassing Cushman Substation. A customer-funded project to serve James Hardie’s facility expansion, located near Frederickson, began in late 2017, with completion/energization expected in Q1 of 2018.
Technology advancements included the 2017 kick-off of a Wide Area Network (WAN) project, aimed at increasing bandwidth and realizing cost savings through collaboration with neighboring utilities. Tacoma Power also successfully developed and implemented a new internal IT toolset called “HelpHub,” a web-based customer portal, which was designed with input from employees.
Tacoma Power successfully navigated new opportunities for growth and expansion in 2017, while maintaining a long-term strategic vision for the utility for years to come.
3628 South 35th Street / Tacoma WA 98409 / 253.502.8600