Governor Jay Inslee has proclaimed the week of October 6 – 12, 2019 as Public Power Week. Public power utilities in Washington provide homes, businesses, industries, farms, social service organizations and government agencies with efficient and cost-effective electricity while employing sound business practices, local accountability and transparency for the public benefit.
It has been nearly 90 years since people in rural communities, led by the Washington State Grange, rose up and said enough is enough. After years of living without access to affordable electricity service, they took matters into their own hands and circulated an Initiative to the Legislature which would allow formation of a new kind of a utility; a community-owned, not-for-profit utility that would be governed by locally-elected leaders and focus on service, not profits. The new utilities would be called Public Utility Districts.
They faced a battle; an unsympathetic legislature and well-funded private utilities unwilling to serve but also unwilling to let public utilities emerge. In the legislature, the Senate voted down the initiative while the House failed to act. The initiative went to the people. In November of 1930, Initiative #1 allowing formation of public utility districts passed into law. The people had spoken.
Today, the vision of the Washington State Grange has become a reality. There are now 28 public utility districts in Washington State serving more than 2.3 million people; people who have a say in their services. PUDs have emerged as clean energy leaders providing some of the cleanest electricity at some of the lowest rates in the nation and exceeding state goals for energy conservation. PUD communities are taking action to move Washington into our clean energy future with expanded authority to produce and distribute renewable natural gas and renewable hydrogen. These are fuels that can be used for transportation, reducing emissions.
This week we celebrate public power week in Washington. Public utility districts are part of the foundation of public power and continue the tradition of service and local control. We carry on a proud legacy built on the past with a focus on the future and, with public power, our future is bright.