At the Council's October meeting in Seattle, Debra Smith, general manager and CEO of Seattle City Light, presented an overview of the utility's strategic priorities in a changing and challenging energy environment. Seattle City and Light is the 10th largest public utility in the country with 440 customers serving 900,000 people.
One of the biggest challenges is how to monetize energy in a highly efficient electricity future. As appliances and devices improve their efficiency and web-based systems optimize energy use, utilities face the problem of declining sales while still needing to pay for the costs of grid infrastructure. As Smith explained, Seattle City Light is working to offer its customers the services they want and market hydropower as a resource that helps meet the ups and downs of the system. And, with more renewable generation on the grid, hydropower's capacity becomes a crucial attribute.
Transforming the Way Utilities Do Business
Smith said the utility is working to help customers meet their energy needs in whatever way they choose while ensuring affordability. She noted four pilot rate plans under development that are focused on helping low-income, residential time-of-day, commercial charging, and industrial demand response customers. Roll out for the new opt-in programs is expected in 2021.
"When I think of the future, I think of [the utility] as providing a local battery for a homeowner or a neighborhood and bundling that with maintenance, on-bill financing, and [the utility] will provide back-up power when that goes out," said Smith.
"So it's a completely different product. That's what I focus on right now. How do I develop new revenue streams as people continue to use less."