I’ve been at Puget Sound Energy since 1999 and CEO since 2011. I’m not one for the spotlight. For me, a good day is about rolling up your sleeves, putting facts on the table and finding solutions.
That’s why I’m writing this op-ed. I’m concerned that energy choices are being politicized, with splashy gestures sometimes taking the place of tangible progress. This is especially true when natural gas is dismissed as a critical part of a better energy future. Emission reductions are accomplished by investments like PSE’s $2 billion in renewable energy and conservation — not by news conferences.
My customers are my neighbors. They depend on us to deliver safe, dependable and affordable energy. They expect us to do this with the least possible environmental impact. We felt this responsibility when we built our first wind farm in 2005, before Washington voters enacted a renewable energy standard. We knew this when we set a goal in 2017 to cut our carbon emissions by 50% by 2040. And we carried those principles into our work with state leaders during the legislative session to craft a new law that moves us off coal and targets 100% clean electricity by 2045.
My customers are also why I must make a clear statement about natural gas. With natural gas, we can add more renewable energy and keep monthly bills affordable. Without gas, we will likely fail to achieve our region’s climate goals, the grid will be less reliable, and families and employers will see higher energy costs.
I believe in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility we are building at the Port of Tacoma. It will help ensure we have reliable energy if the only natural gas transmission pipeline serving our region fails — which very nearly happened last October when a rupture in British Columbia threatened service to the entire Pacific Northwest.
Our LNG facility will also provide fuel for maritime ships and commercial transportation uses like long-haul trucking. Switching ships and trucks from oil to LNG cuts smoke, sulfur and nitrogen, as well as greenhouse gases. Transportation accounts for 40 percent of our state’s emissions. With LNG, we won’t have to keep polluting while other solutions are still on the drawing board.
LNG also reduces the chance of oil spills. That’s good for our salmon and orca.
My job as CEO is clear: provide my customers with reliable energy. Many technologies, such as battery storage, are promising, but in the meantime, natural gas is crucial if the electric grid is to remain stable while we add more wind and solar power.
In Seattle, where I live, natural gas supplies about two-thirds of the total energy consumed on a cold day. Imagine our snowy February without it.
Our state is recognized as a leader. Let’s keep working together, not on political talking points but on a balanced approach to energy that takes advantage of natural gas, LNG and every available improvement. That’s the work I signed up for 20 years ago.