While a growing percentage of Puget Sound Energy's (PSE) future power supply will come from renewable resources -- an estimated 10% in 2013, up from 5% this year -- the company also expects a 43% increase in the direct use of natural gas by 2027, chief resource officer Kimberly Harris said.

During a discussion of the utility's integrated resource plan (IRP), Harris told the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) that the population of PSE's 6,000-square-mile service area is expected to grow by 28%, or about one million people, over the next two decades. PSE intends to meet growing demand through expanded energy-efficiency efforts, additional renewable energy and natural gas-fired resources, she said.

First released in June, the IRP predicts a 27% drop in PSE's carbon-intensity over the next 20 years from its 1990 level (see NGI, June 4). In keeping with Washington state law, the IRP recommends no new coal-based generation for PSE.

"This plan, with an emphasis on conservation, combined with renewable and natural gas resources, presents a practical approach designed to provide PSE customers with a stable source of energy supplies over the long run," Harris said. "It presents a responsible and cost-conscious way to serve the growing needs of our customers while meeting the state's goals for increasing renewable energy resources."

The projected cost to meet customer power demand over the next 20 years has more than tripled over the past four years, rising to $14.4 billion from a $4.4 billion estimate in 2003, Harris said. The rising price to build new generation facilities contributed to PSE's escalating cost estimates for the next 20 years.

According to the IRP, PSE will need an additional 2,600 average megawatts (aMW) -- about double its current average demand -- by 2025. PSE predicts that by 2027 31% of its power supply will be met by energy-efficiency efforts.

Last year Washington voters passed Initiative 937, which requires large utilities to obtain 3% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2012, 9% by 2016 and 15% by 2020.

PSE has made significant investments in its long-range renewable energy goals. In July the utility signed a 20-year contract with PPM Energy for 50 MW of wind power, making it the largest utility wind-generated power producer in the Pacific Northwest. At about the same time PSE invested $150 million in fish enhancement projects to allow its hydroelectric generation operations to continue while meeting strict environmental and wildlife protection limits.

PSE will issue a request for proposal for energy efficiency projects and renewable energy and natural gas fired resources when the WUTC accepts the IRP, probably later this month.

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