Today is the 43rd annual Earth Day – the annual reminder worldwide of the responsibilities we all share in protecting and promoting the health of our planet. At the state Utilities and Transportation Commission, we celebrate Earth Day by recommitting to ensuring our work is consistent with these responsibilities.
The commission plays an important role in Washington’s economy, regulating companies whose annual revenues exceed $7 billion. While we are probably known primarily for our work related to public safety, economic regulation or consumer protection, we know that our decisions can also have a significant impact on the environment. Consider, for example:
Saving trees one phone book at a time. The commission recently ended a decades-old requirement that local telephone companies deliver printed White Pages directories each year to all their customers. The change is expected to remove more than 300 tons of unwanted paper directories from waste and recycling bins annually, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 4,000 tons and saving local governments hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in waste-processing costs.
Connecting small-scale renewable generation to the power grid. The Commission is in the process of finalizing rules that support the connection of small-scale renewable generation to the power grid. This distributed generation allows collection of energy from numerous, smaller sources such as rooftop solar, which have lower environmental impacts. We believe these rules will remove a number of impediments to the deployment of distributed renewable generation in the state.
Making conservation a priority. The creation of the commission’s Conservation and Energy Planning section last year was recognition that conservation and renewable energy have become more important facets of our work. Section staff work to ensure that utilities are achieving all cost effective conservation as required by state Initiative 937. They support investor-owned utilities in setting conservation targets and participate in energy resource planning and conservation advisory groups. As well, commission staff evaluate the conservation performance of companies and encourages the utilities to continue to set new targets. And indeed, the state’s investor-owned electric utilities have surpassed their conservation targets in the past two years, together achieving more than 890,000 megawatt hours of conservation savings.
Reducing the commission’s own energy use. The commission has committed to reducing its energy costs and its building space by 20 percent. By increasing the energy efficiency of our building, we can save money and reduce our carbon footprint. The commission has already taken steps toward making these reductions, such as beginning work with the building manager to upgrade electrical and heating equipment.
There are many other examples, and there will be more to come.
We are proud of our agency’s work and its environmental values. Some people say it’s not easy being green, but when it becomes part of our professional consciousness, it’s easier than you think.
David W. Danner, Chairman
Philip B. Jones, Commissioner
Jeffrey Goltz, Commissioner