With a new state global climate change law and increasing industry pressure, Bellevue, WA-based Puget Sound Energy (PSE) Thursday sent a considerably more conservation- and clean energy-focused integrated resource plan (IRP) to the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC). It emphasizes energy-saving programs, renewable resources and natural gas-produced electricity supplies over the next 20 years.

The plan is predicting a 27% drop in PSE's carbon-intensity levels below its 1990 level. "The utility's blueprint for meeting that reduction relies on advances in both energy resources and conservation," the report indicated. "The resource portfolio presented here is the least carbon-intense portfolio we have ever identified as being least-cost."

In keeping with the new trends and Washington state law, the IRP recommends no new coal-based generation for PSE, despite the fact that the plan identifies the challenge of facing "significant resource acquisition needs" in the coming years. "Concern about greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change is becoming a permanent part of the landscape of utility planning."

PSE's estimates call for the need to line up 2,600 average-MW (aMW) by 2025, with 1,600 aMW being needed during the next 10 years as the population grows by about 1.1 million people during the next 20 years. The population overall in the nine western Washington counties PSE serves is expected to grow by 28%.

On the natural gas side, resource needs are also growing, but at a steadier, more manageable pace than for utility electricity, PSE said in its IRP. A combination of increasing demand and expiring contracts is part of the gas portion of the IRP, noting that several agreements with Northwest Pipeline expire in coming years. PSE has the unilateral right to terminate or continue the contracts, and only one resource in its long-term natural gas portfolio terminates entirely.

The utility's plan estimates that nearly one-third (31%) of the added power supplies it will need in the next two decades will come from energy efficiency and expanded wind power generation capability. The plan also notes that the "most cost-effective and environmentally responsible" way for it to acquire the remaining two-thirds (69%) of the added supplies is through "additional natural gas-fired power supplies."

PSE's plan projects what it called "significantly rising" power supply costs as has been evidenced throughout the industry in recent years. "The projected 20-year cost of meeting PSE customers' power needs has more than tripled during the past four years -- rising from a $4.4 billion estimate in 2003 to $14.4 billion in the new IRP plan."

PSE, the primary subsidiary of Puget Energy, indicated its latest IRP to be filed with state regulators emphasizes the fact that there will be a growing need to "meet future energy demands through a more environmentally responsible resource strategy," which it labels as the core of its latest strategy. Updated every two years, the IRP forecasts long-term electricity and natural gas requirements, providing a guide to obtaining new resources to meet projected customer needs.

"PSE's challenge for the next 20 years is to cost-effectively meet growing energy needs while contributing to climate-change solutions," said PSE CEO Kimberly Harris. "Our IRP accomplishes this through a balance of enhancing our energy-efficiency efforts (saving 70 million therms of gas and 3.8 million MWh of electricity during the next 20 years), adding more clean and renewable energy resources, and relying on clean-burning natural gas."

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