How is Seattle City Light preparing for future electrification?

As Seattle City Light customers begin to adopt electric vehicles and electric building technologies, City Light is upgrading our electrical grid to support growing electricity consumption and make our services more resilient, reliable, and affordable. Improving the power grid protects communities by minimizing disruptions and outages caused by severe weather, climate change and natural disasters. This effort requires a comprehensive team working diligently together over decades to provide innovative solutions and respond to the complex challenges as we continue to strengthen the communities we serve.

Why does Seattle City Light need to make improvements to the current electrical system?

Customer demand is changing the requirements of the power grid. This is a key reason why the network needs to adapt. City Light residential and commercial customers are adding new electric loads such as electric cars, electric buses and electric ferries. Customers are turning away from natural gas for heating and cooking. Customers add new renewable resources such as B. Rooftop solar systems. Tomorrow’s network is different from yesterday’s network. We use the term network modernization to describe the small and large changes required for the transition.

What is network modernization?

Grid modernization is an attempt by utility companies to implement new technologies and processes to create the grid of the future. The Department of Energy states that “the grid of the future will provide resilient, reliable, flexible, secure, sustainable and affordable electricity”.

How will the grid support future electrification?

City Light has developed a grid modernization plan and roadmap to enable greater electrification of customers and improve grid resiliency and security. This plan shows a way forward for City Light and our customers. It outlines specific projects and tasks for the next two years and lays the groundwork for five- and ten-year goals, with projects covering planning, operations, enabling technologies and physical infrastructure upgrades.

As more electric vehicles and electrified transportation go online, can the grid continue to support customer demand?

Yes. This requires careful and continuous planning. City Light recently conducted an electrification assessment, examining a variety of electrification scenarios to determine how they would affect the utility’s electrical grid. The study outlines how much energy is required for the electrification of traffic, buildings, trade and industry and what capacities are available in the existing distribution network.

What is City Light doing to prepare?

The electrification of space heating, space cooling and water heating will lead to significant load increases over the next 20 years. In preparation for electrification, the utility is:

  • Execute the grid modernization plan and roadmap, which includes improvements to make the grid more automated, flexible, reliable and resilient, and execute customer-focused demand-response pilot programs.
  • Assess network readiness to address the challenges of emerging technologies such as electric vehicles and solar energy.
  • continue to invest in energy efficiency as a valuable resource for utilities and customers.
  • Partnering with customers, authorities and institutions to secure external funding for a portfolio of electrification solutions.

Which partnerships does City Light check?

The network must not only meet the needs of existing City Light customers, but also be ready for electrification to support short-term and long-term growth. City Light is making strategic investments, including partnerships and pilot programs, with public transportation companies such as King County Metro, Washington State Ferries and the Port of Seattle to support electrification efforts.

What resources does City Light use for power supply?

City Light continues to invest in new technologies and approaches to energy saving, energy storage and other solutions to meet customers’ energy needs. City Light’s 20-year Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) outlines the utility’s long-term strategy to provide customers with reliable electricity at a reasonable cost while protecting the environment and ensuring supply equity. The IRP includes new renewable energies (e.g. solar and wind), energy efficiency programs and load-shifting strategies to meet future increases in electricity demand. Hydropower is City Light’s primary energy source and provides 86% of the utility’s electricity. Hydroelectric projects provide affordable, low-carbon electricity and the flexibility to meet the load when it’s needed (not just when the sun is out or the wind is blowing). Hydroelectric projects can mitigate the effects of climate change, manage flood risks, and fund fish and wildlife recovery and recovery programs.

Why is grid modernization important?

Changing customer expectations, regulatory and policy initiatives, an increasing number of extreme weather events, the need to accommodate and integrate distributed energy resources (DER), and advanced technologies are driving changes in how utilities plan and operate the grid. As a result, many utilities are developing comprehensive plans that outline strategies for grid modernization over a multi-year timeframe. Developing a network modernization strategy is complicated. The investments are significant and must be staggered over a number of years to both meet the fundamental need to provide secure, affordable and reliable electricity and to add new capabilities.

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