PUD board candidates give views on solar, nuclear
EVERETT — Candidates had to think green for an open question-and-answer forum by the climate action group 350Everett.
The meet-the-candidates forum Sept. 24 had questions including how to increase alternative energy such as solar and wind and whether the PUD’s power sources should continue to include nuclear.
On the ballot, incumbent Sid Logan, who was appointed in March 2017, faces challenger Mary Rollins for a PUD seat that includes Everett and the northern half of the county. Rebecca Wolfe and David Chan edged out incumbent Kathy Vaughn in the primary for a PUD district seat that includes Lynnwood and Mukilteo. The PUD district that includes Snohomish and Monroe is represented by Toni Olson.
Each candidate but Logan made the forum; Logan said in an interview post-meeting that he missed it because he had a prior commitment.
The candidates are running to embody change. Wolfe accused that the PUD is “operating on groupthink” and wants to see the power utility become more transparent. Chan said the PUD needs to be held accountable on expenses.
One question was whether the candidates support nuclear power.
Wolfe and Rollins were concretely against nuclear power; Wolfe said it should be shut down.
Chan said the PUD can’t eliminate it from the power mix because the PUD is in a long-term contract to receive power “whether we use it or not.”
Logan, in an interview, called nuclear a form of carbon-free energy which for now needs to be used in lieu of fossil fuel sources such as natural gas. Nuclear is regarded as carbon-free by the U.S. Energy Information Administration agency within the U.S. Department of Energy because the reactors do not emit carbon dioxide in its steam.
About 80 percent of the PUD’s electricity is supplied by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) under a 20-year contract through 2028. About 3 percent of the PUD power mix is nuclear, sourced from the Columbia Generating
Station nuclear plant near Richland. The PUD’s main source is hydropower. About 9 percent of the PUD’s power mix is from renewable energy; 1 percent is from fossil fuels such as natural gas.
The PUD cannot separate out power sourced from nuclear energy provided by the BPA’s lines, PUD spokesman Neil Neroutsos said.
All the candidates expressed they want more alternative energy in the power mix.
“I’m hopeful of that (percentage) increasing,” Chan said, but he expressed concern that the PUD can’t spend heavily toward public projects without pinching ratepayers.
Wolfe proposed having solar installed at large buildings for the net benefits with power generation plus creating more jobs in solar panel manufacturing. Seeking 100 percent carbon free energy “is a tall order in the near future, but that should be our goal,” Wolfe said to a separate question.
Chan said the PUD’s pursuits in alternative energy need to be financially sensitive to not increasing rates. “Everything has to be balanced,” he said. He suggested soliciting federal dollars.
Rollins said individual solar is the answer, and the public should be given incentives to put up solar panels.
Logan also supports more solar, and touted the community solar grid program the PUD is building in Arlington.
Wolfe said building more hydropower dams is not the answer. She mentioned she is concerned by the BPA selling locally generated power to California.
Each candidates expressed an interest in wanting more electric cars, buses and ferries to reduce fossil fuel use.
The candidates do not plan to back away from personal politics if elected.
Rollins, the chair of the 38th LD Democrats, already had decided not to continue that position. Chan, who participates in the 21st LD Democrats, said politics is serving the public.
Logan characterized himself as generally apolitical.
On ballots, the seat for District 1 is for a two-year term; the seat for District 2 is for a six-year term. The seats are non-partisan.
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