Even in what continues to be a weak economic recovery, Bellevue, WA-based Puget Sound Energy (PSE) said Monday it is moving ahead with an all-source request for proposals (RFP) for new long-term power supplies to come online over the 2012 to 2015 period. Natural gas-fired generation is very much in the mix of bids PSE is seeking, the utility told state regulators in seeking approval for the RFP.

PSE asked the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) for expedited approval of the request so the RFP can be launched by Oct. 1, and initial proposals can be in by Nov. 1. Given the weak wholesale gas prices, PSE views the timing as ideal to lock in some low-cost power supplies over the long term.

“We see it as somewhat of a buyer’s market right now,” said a PSE spokesperson, who emphasized the desire to have long-term deals that can help make up for a number of current power purchase contracts that are set to expire over the next 10 years.

“Even though the weak economy and ongoing energy efficiency programs has moderated the combination utility’s need for more energy right now,” PSE Senior Vice President Eric Markell said. “Our need for capacity remains; we still need to secure for our portfolio long-term resources from the new or existing facilities to meet our winter peaks in customer demand.”

Markell said a revised assessment of PSE’s portfolio needs and peak power requirements is expected to demonstrate a need for approximately 500 MW of added capacity by the end of next year, and a good amount of gas-fired generation could be in that mix.

PSE will hold a workshop for prospective RFP participants on Aug. 16 at its headquarters.

In its revised integrated resource plan (IRP) filed with the WUTC the end of May PSE previewed the need for Monday’s filing. “Among other things, the 2011 IRP finds that PSE has needs for new electric and gas resources over the next 20 years,” PSE’s legal counsel said in the cover letter to the RFP filing that stressed a need for “all generation sources.”

PSE clarified for state regulators that “all sources” could include taking proposals from other utilities or their affiliates. Puget said this could increase what it called “the overall creativity and competitiveness of the process.” Some of PSE’s current power supplies come from major public-sector utilities in the Northwest, the utility spokesperson told NGI.

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