Puget Sound Energy announces plans to reduce carbon footprint in half by 2040

Puget Sound Energy announces plans to reduce carbon footprint in half by 2040

Environmental groups call initiative ‘smoke and mirrors’

Puget Sound Energy recently announced its plans to reduce its carbon emissions in half by 2040, which an environmental group is criticizing.

The Bellevue-based utility company, which serves energy to more than 1.5 million homes and businesses in the Puget Sound area, said they will accomplish this through a variety of different initiatives.

Their plan comes at a time when Washington state has agreed, under the Paris Climate Accords and through Gov. Jay Inslee’s goals, to reduce greenhouse gases by 80 to 95 percent across every sector of the state’s economy, including transportation, industrial processes and energy grids, by 2050.

With the retirement of half the Colstrip Power Plant units in Montana by 2022 and the shutdown of the Centralia Power Plant in 2025, PSE estimates it will be “nearly 90 percent clean,” or non-coal generated, and on the path to 100 percent “clean” by the early 2030s.

They have also made investments in new products and renewable resource development, new programs like “Green Direct” that allows large-scale energy customers to subscribe to their renewable energy projects, and have focused on cleaner transportation.

The company said it is committed to accelerating the growth and adoption of electric vehicles, as 43 percent of carbon emissions in Washington state come from transportation. PSE will also invest in cleaner fuels.

“We can create a better energy future, which is why we are committing to reducing our carbon footprint by 50 percent by 2040,” said PSE President and CEO Kimberly Harris in a news release. “PSE is prepared to pave the way while also empowering our customers with simple and concrete actions they can take in their daily lives to lower their footprint. By working together, we can preserve and protect our environment for generations to come.”

PSE officials said, since building its first hydroelectric plant at Snoqualmie Falls in 1898, the utility company has been a leader in renewable resource development. PSE is currently the third largest utility owner of wind power in the nation and has one of the country’s largest energy efficiency programs. These programs have helped customers conserve nearly 5 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, they said.

However, the Sierra Club, an environmental group with a Seattle chapter, doesn’t buy it.

“This is more smoke and mirrors than an actual commitment to get off dirty fossil fuels, reduce climate pollution and meet our state’s climate goals,” Doug Howell, a senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, said. “Puget Sound Energy is likely to exceed this commitment under the status quo, as previous commitments to retire some of its dirty coal plants go ahead in the coming years.”

Howell said the company’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions still gives them enough breathing space to build new fracked gas plants and still doesn’t commit them to ending their use of the “dirtiest coal plant in the American West.”

That plant Howell is referring to is the other units of the Colstrip Power Plant in Montana, as units 3 and 4 do not have a retirement date, despite repeated attempts from the Sierra Club to get PSE to commit to one.

“It’s still impossible to meet our state’s responsibilities under the Paris Climate Accords under this plan,” Howell said. “We need better than this greenwashing from our state’s largest utility.”

But PSE officials said the company can’t do it on its own.

Policy changes at the state level are required to ensure carbon-reduction goals can be met, they said.

These include improving the regulatory climate so utilities can make carbon-reduction investments, applying a price to carbon that balances environmental goals with costs and benefits to customers, taking action to dramatically increase the number of electric vehicles, and local and state government support by participating in low carbon programs and a transition of public fleets, such as buses, to alternative fuels.

“PSE is ready to collaborate with our customers, lawmakers, regulators and communities to ensure the lights and heat are on while we collectively take strides to reduce our carbon footprint,” Harris said in a news release.

Yet, the Sierra Club questions if that is true, since Puget Sound Energy was one of multiple agencies that successfully sued to stop the state’s 2016 Clean Air Rule on Tuesday. The rule had given the Department of Ecology authority to enforce emission reductions on gasoline and natural gas distributors as well as businesses.

“An overwhelming majority of Washington families want to see our state do something to fight the worst effects of climate disruption,” Robin Everett of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Seattle said. “So it’s disappointing to see our state’s largest utilities, including Puget Sound Energy and Avista Energy, sue to stop the most substantive effort the state has made to reduce climate pollution rather than being part of the solution. If we are going to meet our state’s climate obligations, we need our utilities to be leading the transition away from dirty fossil fuels to clean energy, not dragging their feet.”

But Grant Ringel, the PSE director of communications said PSE voiced opposition to Washington state’s overturned Clean Air Rule because it would have the unintended consequence of increasing PSE’s carbon emissions, which is opposite of their goal to reduce emissions in half by 2040.

“This would be due to restrictions placed on using clean natural gas-fired electric generation in Washington, resulting in increased reliance on coal plants located in other states,” he said.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@issaquahreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.issaquahreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

Stock photo
State AG Ferguson leads effort supporting local journalism

Federal legislation offers tax credits to subscribers, businesses and news organizations

C-17 at Joint Base Lewis McChord airstrip (courtesy of United States Military)
King County councilmember proposes program to aid transition of Afghan interpreters who served the U.S. overseas

Program would provide job training and learning opportunities for Afghan interpreters and advisors.

Vaccinations taking place. File photo
Inslee: No ‘massive disruptions’ as worker vax rates hit 90%

A surge in vaccinations has eased concern about service slowdowns ahead of a Monday deadline.

King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert (file photo)
Lambert removed from King County Council leadership roles

Lambert received backlash after her campaign used flyers that depicted her opponent as a puppet.

Union members picket in front of new Facebook campus in Redmond on Sept. 16 (photo by Cameron Sheppard)
Northwest Carpenters Union members vote to accept contract with AGC

The agreement comes after weeks of striking.

King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert (file photo)
After doubling down on “racist” flyer, Lambert publicly apologizes

Apology encouraged by King County Council colleagues.

Pixabay image
School psychologist among three charged with immoral communication with a minor

Redmond detectives conducted an online predator sting using fake profiles.

Lambert’s flyer depicting her opponent, Sarah Perry, as a “socialist puppet” (tweeted by KC Councilmember Girmay Zahilay)
Local leaders denounce Lambert’s political flyer, endorse her opponent

Some have said KC Councilmember Kathy Lambert’s flyer was racist and offensive.

Courtesy of King County Police Officers Guild
Office lacks power over King County law enforcement in misconduct investigations

Director Tamer Abouzeid presents OLEO annual report to law and justice committee on Tuesday.

Most Read