State Policy Enables Seattle City Light to Grow Renewables

State policies are growing clean tech economies, such as Washington state’s Clean Energy Fund and a financing program through Seattle City Light.

The U.S. Energy Information Agency forecast is that global carbon dioxide emissions are expected to grow to 16 percent by 2040 from 2015 levels. But, cities and states are committed to stay on track with climate change goals, however. A recent report of the U.S. Climate Alliance, which represents 14 U.S. States and Puerto Rico, said its members are on track to hit a 24 to 29 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2025. That figure is on par with expectations of the U.S. set in the Paris Climate Agreement.

According to Inside Climate News, between 2005 to 2015 the alliance states had cut greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent while economic output grew 14 percent, which emissions reduction enthusiasts cite as a victory in the war where leaders argue climate change targets will negatively effect the U.S. economy.

We have exploded the myth that you can’t defeat climate change and grow your economy at the same time,” said Washington Govornor Jay Inslee, citing the states’ development of clean energy technologies.

According to the Alliance, on a per capita basis, its states expanded twice as fast as the rest of the country. The report cites best practices of each state.

Washington policy, for example, focuses on financial tools as well as power sector and transportation strategies that achieve a clean energy economy and reduce emissions. The Washington State Clean Energy Fund, established by Inslee in 2013, has invested $80 million and leveraged an additional $200 million in federal and private funds for:

  • Energy Revolving Loan Fund Grants
  • Smart Grid Grants to Utilities
  • Research, Development and Demonstration Matching Funds
  • Credit Enhancement for Renewable Energy Manufacturing Funds, backed by the
    Washington Economic Development Finance Authority

One revolving loan grant helped foster meter-based financing for Seattle City Light.

Financing Through Seattle City Light Grows Renewables, Reduces Power Emissions

Also known as on-bill financing, its an alternative to traditional ways of paying for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects by reducing or eliminating the up-front investment and allowing for repayment from the reduction in energy cost savings.

Nonprofit lenders developed and implemented on-bill repayment mechanisms, and Seattle City Light customers repay energy efficiency projects as part of their electric bill. Customers can use the program for non-electric equipment.

Since inception the program has completed 574 loans for a total $6.7 million using the on-bill repayment mechanism.

Creating Electricity From Water & Sewer Pipes

Technology enables Portland, Oregon, to create electricity from the water flowing within its city’s pipes. Find out how the system works.

What Happened?
The city of Portland’s Water Bureau is teaming up with Lucid Energy to implement its first in-pipe hydroelectric system as a source of renewable energy. The underground, gravity-fed water pipeline will use an in-conduit turbine to spin from passing water to produce electricity at a lower price while reducing the environmental impact of the city. The hydroelectric system is one component of Portland’s Climate Action Plan that calls for increased use of clean, low-cost energy sources and the installation of 10 megawatts of on-site renewable energy.

So What?
The hydroelectric system developed by Lucid Energy is designed to take on the electrical needs of densely populated regions with significant water usage. The system works within pipelines and is based on the flow of water naturally occurring throughout the municipality, making it a predictable, clean source of renewable energy not affected by weather conditions or other external factors. The electricity produced by the first installation of the hydroelectric system is expected to power 150 homes throughout Portland. As the system expands, more homes will be serviced by renewable energy.

Why hydroelectric power?
According to the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Clearinghouse, hydroelectric power installations provide municipalities and city infrastructure with emissions-free power solutions that uses flowing water to produce energy. A turbine is moved by running water, which in turn powers an alternator or generator to generate electricity.

Hydroelectric power sources are not only environmentally-friendly but cost effective. The latest hydro turbines are able to convert 90 percent of available energy into electricity, compared to just 50 percent created through the use of fossil fuels. In the United States, hydropower costs 0.7 cents per kilowatt-hour, one third the cost of fossil fuels or nuclear power and one-sixth the cost of natural gas.

What to consider
Before installing a hydroelectric system, municipalities must ensure there is a flowing water sourceavailable to keep the technology operating efficiently.

Lucid Energy outlined a checklist of conditions needed prior to a hydroelectric system installationincluding proper:

  • Pipe diameter of at least 24 inches
  • Pipe material- such as steel, ductile iron or concrete
  • Operating pressure – typically above 20 PSI
  • Minimum downstream pressure to determine how many turbines are needed to operate the system
  • Volumetric flow – varies based on pipe diameter
  • Pipeline above or below ground
  • Vault
  • Electrical load
  • Electric grid
  • Planned pipeline construction
  • Performance contract in place

As to where the hydroelectric system installation should be placed, Lucid suggests municipal water or waste water systems, industrial water systems or irrigation systems where water flow is strong and consistent. Leaders can also have hydroelectric power sources installed where pipeline construction or maintenance is in progress for cost savings, as well as retrofit sites with vault access.