Funk is wrong in PSE criticism | Letter

I read Steve Funk’s letter to the Reporter with interest. Funk’s only stated expertise in criticizing Puget Sound Energy’s Energize Eastside is being a former planning commissioner. I find his attempt to dismiss utility system experts at PSE and the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission as disingenuous. As an engineer and former utility employee who was CEO of two different electric utilities, I believe the record needs to be corrected. (I am not, nor ever was affiliated with PSE.)

By stating other cities are “installing safer, less expensive alternatives, such as large batteries manufactured by Tesla …,” he shows his failure to understand a complex electrical system. Batteries have been around for years, but have never been used in lieu of the type of installation PSE proposes. While battery technology has improved, it still doesn’t allow for continuous utilization without significant drawdown. The bottom line is I do not believe a battery system is a viable alternative and I wouldn’t want to rely on it for my electrical needs.

Funk also states consumption is declining in Seattle and the Eastside due to more efficiency. While I don’t have the actual numbers for Seattle and the Eastside, I can emphatically state even with enhanced conservation programs, the utilities where I worked were seeing growth in demand and consumption. This was due to the fact consumers were adding significantly more devices that ran on electricity than had been seen in the past. This growth in devices was adding demand and consumption notwithstanding conservation and more efficient appliances.

Finally, a utility must plan for 30-plus years when they are making decisions. It takes significant long-range planning skills and engineering knowledge of the electrical system. Having a former planning commissioner believe they are competent enough to second guess this expertise when the WUTC has oversight of this sort of project is ridiculous. While I am sure PSE will earn a reasonable return on this installation if it comes to fruition, the allowed return is also under the purview of the WUTC. The bottom line is none of us want to be without electricity for any extended period of time and I support upgrading the electrical system to improve reliability assuming it is properly vetted by the WUTC and not by people pretending to be electrical system engineers.

David W. Stevens