FAQs

General

  • What is Energize Eastside?

    Puget Sound Energy's (PSE) Energize Eastside project will build a new substation and upgrade approximately 18 miles of existing transmission lines from Redmond to Renton. Combined with continued aggressive electric conservation, Energize Eastside will keep the lights on in our Eastside communities for years to come.

    The new substation will provide additional capacity to ensure the local electric system can accommodate our customers’ growing energy usage, while the upgraded transmission lines will ensure we can deliver that additional capacity to the Eastside communities that need it the most. The transmission lines will extend from an existing substation in Redmond to one in Renton. 

  • Why do we need Energize Eastside?

    The Eastside is growing faster than any other region in Washington. You can see it everywhere – from Renton to Redmond, cranes are up and traffic congestion is increasing. World-class businesses are moving in and job growth is on the upswing.

    While this growth is good news for our region, it is straining our existing electric system. Growth studies project that demand for reliable power will exceed capacity as early as winter 2017/2018. 

    Federal regulations require PSE to have sufficient infrastructure to meet foreseeable demand or plan for intentional rolling blackouts to customers. If PSE plans to use rotating blackouts to meet our federally mandated requirements, we must discuss that plan publicly. Our studies show that if no action is taken to upgrade the backbone of the Eastside's transmission system, PSE may have to utilize additional Corrective Action Plans that resort to intentional rolling blackouts.

    Without substantial electrical infrastructure upgrades and aggressive conservation efforts, more than 130,000 customers could be affected by rolling blackouts as early as the summer of 2018, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars to the local economy.

    Energize Eastside will provide the necessary infrastructure to meet federally-mandated requirements without having to plan for rotating blackouts and without having a public discussion of the plan for blackouts. No responsible utility – or community, particularly those that value sophisticated technology industries – wants to use intentional rolling blackouts as a federal compliance strategy. 

  • Is demand for energy really growing?

    Yes! On the Eastside, customer electric power demand—the amount of energy used at one moment—has been growing dramatically in recent years. We see demand peaks daily, especially on winter evenings when customers get home, turn on their appliances and plug in their electronics, and during the summer when more customers use air conditioning. And we have more customers than ever before driving those demand peaks. Energize Eastside will ensure the electric grid can handle this growth into the future.

  • Are there independent studies confirming the need for this project?

    Yes! A total of five studies—including two conducted by independent experts hired by the City of Bellevue and the Cities' EIS project team— have confirmed that we need to upgrade the Eastside’s electric grid now to avoid having to plan for rolling blackouts in the very near future.

  • What is the best solution to meet the Eastside’s electricity needs?

    PSE’s planners and engineers analyzed a variety of approaches to address the Eastside’s growing energy needs, including reducing demand through conservation, increasing the capacity of our existing transmission lines, generating energy locally, and building new infrastructure. After a comprehensive review, PSE and independent experts determined that a combination of continued conservation and infrastructure upgrades – a new substation and higher capacity transmission lines – is the best way to reliably meet the Eastside’s growing energy needs.

  • How were the routes initially developed?

    PSE’s engineers and third-party experts identified potential substation sites and transmission line routes that, if selected, would meet the Eastside’s energy needs. Many of the transmission line routes have existing 115 kV transmission lines along them. We considered several factors to develop the potential route options, including geography and land use.

    PSE contracted with an industry leader in computer-based route evaluation to collect and analyze geographic information system (GIS) data for factors like topography and environmentally sensitive areas. We categorized the GIS features into opportunities and constraints, and then used a computer model to identify the best balance of these factors. The model produced 16 route segments, which our engineers verified to ensure they were constructible. These segments comprise 18 route options that were evaluated by the Community Advisory Group.

    Review the Routing and Options Considered page for more details. 

  • Has PSE selected a final route?

    No. We're in the middle of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process that will thoroughly consider the potential impacts and mitigation associated with the project. Through this process, we're learning more about each route option

    Our preference is to use the existing transmission line corridor. The Oak 1, Willow 1, Oak 2 and Willow 2 route options reflect this value and vary in the Factoria area of Bellevue. These route options solve the Eastside's electrical problem, address community concerns and are being analyzed in the EIS process.

    As the EIS process progresses, we will continue to evaluate which route to submit for permitting. For more information about the EIS, visit EnergizeEastside.org.

  • When will construction start?

    Construction is planned to begin in 2017 with project completion expected in 2018. See the schedule for details.

  • Who is building this project?

    Puget Sound Energy will build, own and operate the new transmission line as part of our larger electrical transmission and delivery system that serves the region.

    PSE has been meeting the Puget Sound region’s energy needs for more than 135 years and is one of America's leading utility-developers of wind power. We promote the development of other renewable resources as well, including solar power.

    Throughout the assessment and design of this project, PSE has engaged consultants and contractors who are respected in their fields for the quality of their work, third-party perspective and their attention to detail. As we collaborate with the public during the route identification, permitting and construction phases, we will continue to engage some of the country’s best consultants and contractors.

  • Can we conserve our way out of needing this project?

    Over the last 30 years, PSE has taken significant steps to get the most out of the electric system. Through upgraded lighting, appliances and equipment, increased weatherization, and implementation of new energy-efficient technologies, our customers helped save enough electricity to heat and power almost 31,000 homes in 2015 alone. Despite these aggressive conservation efforts, studies show demand is dramatically outpacing supply.

    Conservation alone is not enough to keep up with our region's growth. PSE works hard to encourage our customers to conserve electricity. However, our conservation programs are voluntary – it’s the customer’s choice to make a change. Our Eastside economy and population are growing far faster than our conservation efforts can keep up.

    Learn more about the Eastside’s electric need.

  • When was Eastside’s electric system built, and why was it not built as a 230 kV line?

    The Eastside’s electric transmission system was built in the 1930s and upgraded in the 1960s to 115 kV – the last upgrade to the electric transmission system was sufficient to meet the power needs of Eastside communities for the last 50+ years. However, the Eastside is now growing faster than any other region in Washington and this growth is straining the existing transmission system.

  • Did PSE consider alternative solutions?

    PSE studied a variety of alternatives such as reducing demand through continued conservation, increasing the capacity of PSE’s existing electric transmission lines, generating energy locally, and building new infrastructure.

    • Using batteries instead of building a new substation was considered, but the technology has not been used for the type and scale of problem facing the Eastside. The battery alternative would require up to 300 shipping container-sized batteries located on the Eastside just to meet the initial demand. Additionally, new transmission lines would still be required to distribute electricity from the battery site to our customers. PSE is closely monitoring battery storage technology, and is moving forward with a pilot project in Glacier, Wash. to test the viability of the technology on a small scale.
    • PSE also looked at “time-of-use rates” and other incentive programs to reduce the demand. Time-of-use rates, which entail charging customers more to use energy during higher-energy use times, have also been tested by PSE on the Eastside; however, these programs were largely unpopular with customers.
    • Solar power and other distributed generation efforts were also investigated as a possible solution. However, solar panels don’t generate electricity during the peak hours of electricity use, which occurs on winter mornings and evenings, and can be very expensive. Additionally, some homes cannot support the weight of solar panels or do not have the correct orientation.
    • Other generation efforts explored would require building a 300 MW power plant and new transmission lines on the Eastside. During the solutions analysis process, PSE did look at building a natural gas-fired power plant in the Eastside area, but unfortunately, it either would not be permittable due to atmospheric emission and noise incompatibility, or it did not solve the identified capacity problem. As with the battery storage option, new transmission lines would still need to be built to connect the power plant to the rest of the system.
  • Can PSE put the lines underground?

    PSE can build underground transmission lines; however, overhead transmission lines are PSE’s first option for their combination of reliability and affordability – both of which are important to our customers. While undergrounding is an available option, the biggest challenge to underground transmission lines is cost.

    The construction costs for an overhead transmission line are about $3 million to $4 million per mile, versus $20 million to $28 million per mile to construct the line underground. When a new line is constructed overhead, project costs are distributed evenly between PSE’s 1.1 million customers and paid for over time. If a transmission line were to be constructed underground, PSE can’t justify asking customers across its entire service territory to pay the significant cost increases.

    That’s why, per state-approved tariff rules, the requesting party, often the local jurisdiction, must ultimately decide whether to make this investment. The requesting party would then be responsible for paying the difference between overhead and underground costs.

    In addition to cost, there are other factors to consider such as environmental and neighborhood impacts.

    • Underground transmission lines require an easement 30 feet to 50 feet wide, which, unlike with overhead lines, must be completely free of trees.
    • Underground transmission lines require large (20 feet x 30 feet) access vaults every quarter mile which can be very disruptive to adjacent neighborhoods and the environment. 
    • Repairs take much longer and can be more difficult with underground lines. While overhead lines can be repaired within hours or days, underground transmission line repairs can take days or even weeks.
  • What about electric and magnetic fields (EMF)?

    Electric and magnetic fields, or EMF, are found wherever there is electricity – in household wiring, electrical appliances, computers or power lines. Over the past 45 years, there have been many scientific studies conducted to determine if EMF has any effect on human health. To date, the scientific community has concluded that current evidence does not support the existence of any health consequences from exposure to EMF.

    At PSE, safety is always our top priority and we are committed to keeping our customers informed. We understand that local residents may still wish to learn more. PSE has hired Drew Thatcher – an independent, board-certified health physicist – to address more specific EMF questions. If you or your neighbors would like to ask questions of Drew, the Energize Eastside team would be happy to connect you with him for more information.

    For more details about EMF studies, exposure limits and PSE’s approach to EMF, visit www.PSE.com/safety/ElectricSafety/Pages/Electromagnetic-Fields.aspx.

  • Who will pay for the project and how much will it cost?

    Regular upgrades or additions to the electric infrastructure are shared by all of PSE’s 1.1 million customers and paid for over time. We don’t yet know the total cost of the project, but estimates range from $150 million to $300 million. Once we determine the final design and alignment, we will have a better idea of the total cost. We don’t expect customers will see any changes in their monthly bill to pay for this project. 

  • Will I see an increase in my bill or "line item" charge on my bill to pay for Energize Eastside?

    No. Customers will not see an increase in their monthly bill or “line item” charge on their bills as a direct result of Energize Eastside. PSE funds electric infrastructure upgrades and additions through its annual capital budget, which is already covered in current customer rates. PSE plans its capital investments several years in advance and spreads them out so the annual capital budget covers numerous projects each year.

    PSE will include the cost of Energize Eastside in future annual capital budgets, which means the project will be paid for like most transmission and distribution projects. Once the project is built and added to the annual capital budget, we expect that $1 to $2 of the average monthly bill for residential customers will go towards paying for the project. 

  • What about reports I've seen saying that Energize Eastside is not needed?

    You may have heard varying views about the need for the Energize Eastside project, specifically the Lauckhart-Schiffman Load Flow Study. This study has made a number of claims and assumptions that are simply inaccurate.

    The Lauckhart-Schiffman Load Flow Study is flawed on several levels, including:

    • The study erroneously interprets power flows to Canada
    • The study fails to stress the electric system as required by federal standards
    • The study underestimates the growth rate for the Eastside
    • There is no local generation in Bellevue
    • The study confuses planning standards with day-to-day operations
    • The Lauckhart-Schiffman study ignores prior studies
    • The study reaches irrational conclusions

    The multiple inaccuracies in this study lead to an erroneous conclusion about the need for the project, which are described in detail here.

Public Involvement

  • How has the public been involved?

    In order to provide a forum that would generate robust input from diverse community stakeholders, Puget Sound Energy (PSE) convened a Community Advisory Group comprised of 24 representatives from various interests across the Eastside. The Community Advisory Group’s goals were to help identify and assess community values in the context of evaluating which route the new transmission lines should follow, and to develop a route recommendation for PSE’s consideration. 

    The advisory group spent a year learning about the Eastside’s electrical system, participating in meetings and workshops, and evaluating the 18 route options identified by PSE. The advisory group completed their work on Dec. 10, 2014 and selected routes Oak and Willow as their final recommendation for PSE’s consideration. 

    The Community Advisory Group process was supplemented by broad and ongoing community outreach, including six public open houses, two question and answer sessions, six community workshops, hundreds of briefings and thousands of emails and comments about the project. At outreach events, the community learned about outcomes of the advisory group process to date and submitted feedback that the advisory group considered in their discussions and route evaluations.

  • Who was represented on the Community Advisory Group?

    The Community Advisory Group consisted of representatives from the following interests:

    • Economic development groups and businesses
    • Environmental organizations
    • Jurisdictions 
    • Property developers
    • Puget Sound Energy
    • Major commercial or industrial users
    • Residential organizations
    • School districts 
    • Social service organizations
    • Tribes (invited)

    For a full list of members, see the Community Advisory Group final report.

  • How can the public stay involved?

    If you have comments or questions that you would like included as part of the environmental review process, those should be submitted to the City of Bellevue. 

    If you have general comments or questions about the project not related to the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), you can always reach out to us directly through the project voicemail, website comment form, or project email address. 

    For more information on the EIS and opportunities for public comment, visit EnergizeEastsideEIS.org.

Routing

  • Could PSE put the new electric transmission lines along Interstate 405?

    When we inquired with Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) about the possibility of installing new electric transmission lines along the I-405 corridor, they indicated that standard policy doesn’t allow utilities along an interstate. Additionally, there are prohibitive challenges with building the line along either side of I-405; if our lines were in conflict with any future WSDOT project, PSE would need to relocate out of the WSDOT property without sufficient lead time to find a new location for the line. The potential risk of losing the corridor rules this out as a viable option for PSE.

Design and Construction

  • What will the project look like?

    While we have not yet determined the final project design and alignment, we anticipate using steel monopoles made of galvanized or weathering steel. PSE is looking at several pole design options, most of which range from 85 feet to 100 feet above ground. In some instances, poles could be as short as 65 feet, while some poles may need to be taller than 100 feet in certain locations, such as crossing a highway. We will do our best to work with the community and minimize pole heights where it is safe to do so. View our Photo Simulations to see conceptual photos of the upgraded transmission lines.

  • How will the project be constructed?

    We expect to begin building Energize Eastside after the environmental review and permitting processes are complete, currently planned for late 2017. As we know more about construction details, we will notify and keep affected property owners informed of the schedule and activities.

    Typically, construction activities include field surveys, working with property owners on pole locations, trimming and removing vegetation to ensure safe operation of the line, installing new transmission poles, stringing the transmission line wires, and cleaning up, restoring and re-planting vegetation. As we know more, we will keep the community informed of the project’s progress. Visit the Construction page for more information.

  • How tall can trees be under 230 kV lines?

    According to federal standards, PSE is required to maintain safe clearances between vegetation and our lines. With the upgraded transmission lines, we will have to comply with PSE’s 230 kV vegetation management standards.

    As our engineers design Energize Eastside, they assume all trees directly under the lines and in the wire zone (see image) with a mature height of more than 15 feet must be removed. Outside of that zone, but within the right of way, we may need to selectively trim and/or remove trees to protect the transmission line.

    However, PSE's Vegetation Management team ultimately decides which trees can stay or be removed. They will work with each property owner to develop a vegetation strategy for the property, which could include preserving specific trees and determining replacement options for trees that require removal.

    For more information, visit PSE’s tree trimming and maintenance information center.

Working with Property Owners and Tenants

  • How is PSE working with property owners?

    Here is how we are working with property owners:

    • In 2014, we engaged the community in a public routing discussion for Energize Eastside through the Community Advisory Group process, open houses, neighborhood meetings, briefings and comments. Learn more about the public route discussion process.
    • In 2015, PSE and our contractors completed a variety of surveys to inform the environmental review process, project design and future permit submittals. Visit our fieldwork page to learn more.
    • In spring 2016, the Energize Eastside project team visited neighborhoods along the existing corridor and Factoria area to talk with residents and business owners about the project. This door-to-door outreach was conducted to help inform customers about the project status and address questions and concerns from property and business owners.
    • In fall 2016, PSE began meeting with property owners and tenants along the existing corridor to discuss property-specific design and tree replacement plans. We shared our current design for that specific property, including pole locations and how we plan to access those locations during construction. These conversations helped us refine our project design and better understand customer interests and concerns. 

    In 2017, Energize Eastside project members are conducting additional fieldwork surveys to refine our design and inform future permit submittals. You may see crews visiting properties along the existing corridor and conducting utility and archaeology resources surveys. In addition, we're at a point where we can begin developing property-specific landscaping and tree replacement plans with property owners. We'll be reaching out to affected property owners about these efforts.

  • Will PSE have to acquire new rights of way, and how will PSE compensate property owners?

    PSE may need to acquire property or access to and use of private property via easements. When use of private property is required, PSE negotiates fair market value purchase of easements with the affected property owner.

  • I live or own property along one of the route segments being considered. What can I expect?

    We are committed to notifying property owners, residents and businesses along the route about the project’s next steps. 

    Most of the segments included in the routes currently under consideration are along existing corridors and easements. If the final route includes these corridors, then existing poles would be removed and replaced with new poles. PSE will work with property owners, businesses and residents on pole locations, access and other issues.

    As the project progresses we will keep you informed of future opportunities for involvement. 

  • How do I know if there will be fieldwork on my property?

    Fieldwork will only be conducted on properties with existing PSE utility easements or other access rights. Should PSE need to study properties without existing easements, we will work directly with property owners and tenants to gain permission to access those properties. PSE will notify all property owners and tenants before crews access their properties.

  • What is an easement?

    An easement is a right to use land owned by someone else for a limited purpose. PSE needs easements from property owners for facilities that provide electric and/or natural gas service to their property and others.  An easement is typically documented in a property’s title report.

    If there is a PSE easement on your property, the easement will likely allow PSE to access your property, operate our facilities, manage vegetation and make future system improvements in order to keep power flowing to our customers.

     

Permitting

  • What environmental conditions and permits are being considered?

    The Energize Eastside project is undergoing environmental review. The environmental review process is being led by the City of Bellevue in cooperation with Kirkland, Newcastle, Redmond and Renton, and includes preparation of a Washington State Environmental Policy Act Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EIS provides an unbiased discussion of significant environmental impacts, reasonable alternatives, and mitigation measures that would avoid or minimize adverse impacts. This process will include opportunities for public comment. Through the EIS process, other alternative solutions may be identified and reviewed. For more information on the EIS and opportunities for public comment, visit EnergizeEastsideEIS.org.

    The selected Energize Eastside route will cross multiple city boundaries. We will work with nearby jurisdictions to submit the required permit applications and help ensure compliance with all applicable regulations. We will also submit applications for the necessary permits to other local, state and federal agencies as needed, some of which will have additional opportunities for the public to provide input.

    As with all of our projects, PSE is committed to minimizing environmental effects that can result from our construction, operation and maintenance of electric transmission lines. When effects cannot be avoided, PSE provides appropriate restoration or mitigation.

    Visit the Environmental Review page for more details.

Power Lines

  • What is a transmission line?

    Electric transmission lines are key elements in the electric system. These lines safely transport high voltage electricity from power generation sources like dams and wind farms, which are typically located away from populated areas, to substations in our local communities. This transmission normally takes place at voltages between 55 kV and 500 kV.

    For the Energize Eastside project, we are planning to build 230 kV electric transmission lines and a new substation. These lines aren’t the sort of electric distribution lines that you see serving the homes in your neighborhood. Transmission lines have a larger capacity than distribution lines and transmit enough electricity to serve entire cities.

  • What are substations and transformers?

    Substations are critical links in the electric system, containing utility circuit protection, voltage regulation, and transformers that step down higher voltage to lower voltage. Before reaching homes and businesses, power is routed through our transmission system to a substation where transformers change the power to a lower voltage that can be utilized by customers.

  • Will the new transmission line make a lot of noise?

    In general, 230 kV transmission lines do not produce noise like that of higher voltages. This is because over the years, transmission line design improvements have contributed to minimizing audible noise levels.

    Audible noise from 230 kV transmission lines is generally less than 40 dBA but can be as high as about 50 dBA. To put these sound levels into perspective, 40 dBA is the sound of a whisper while a 50 dBA noise would be the background noise in an office. In the rare instance where noise above this standard level can be heard from a 230 kV line, a simple adjustment to a piece of equipment on the line can usually solve the problem.

    An evaluation of audible noise will be conducted as a part of the overall design of the transmission line.

  • Will the new transmission line cause radio and television interference?

    In general, modern overhead 230 kV transmission lines do not interfere with normal radio or TV reception. If interference is identified with a 230 kV transmission line, then the source of interference can be located and repaired.

Safety

  • What steps is PSE taking to help ensure Energize Eastside will operate safely with Olympic Pipeline in the existing corridor?

    Safety is our top priority. Our engineers are rigorously analyzing the design for Energize Eastside to ensure safe construction and operation of the line with the shared corridor.  

    Newer technology and strict safety requirements allow PSE to build to the highest safety standards, which our design will meet or exceed. We’ve worked with DNV GL, a leading national expert in pipeline safety, to assist in developing design and operational parameters to help ensure the continued safe operation of the co-located utilities. 

    PSE and Olympic Pipe Line Company’s infrastructure have safely co-existed in the existing corridor for decades. Both PSE and Olympic have a strong, mutual interest in the continued protection and safe operation of facilities within the shared corridor. We will be coordinating with Olympic on the design, construction and operation of the upgraded transmission lines. 

    Visit our Safety page to learn more.

  • Who regulates PSE and Olympic to ensure they are implementing safety procedures correctly?

    Interstate pipelines, whether they transport natural gas or liquid petroleum products, are held to both state and federal safety regulations administered by the:

    • Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
    • US Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
    • Washington State Department of Transportation
    • Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission
  • What steps will PSE and Olympic take during and after construction to keep me and my family safe?

    Our engineers will work closely with Olympic on a safe construction plan that may include:

    • Having an Olympic representative on-site to monitor construction activities near the pipeline
    • Installing temporary fencing or other markers around the pipeline area
    • Placing temporary protective cover (i.e., steel plates) over the pipeline to mitigate excessive load from heavy equipment
    • Using specialized equipment or hand-digging within close proximity to the pipeline

    Having worked with Olympic for decades, PSE knows firsthand that Olympic employs stringent standard operating practices, including:

    • Using a cathodic protection system to suppress corrosion
    • Meeting with Olympic’s Damage Prevention Team on site at the start of the project and weekly thereafter if a project is within 100 feet of the pipeline to reinforce established safety protocols
    • Requiring a Damage Prevention Team to be on site during any excavation within 10 feet of the pipeline

    Once construction ends, PSE and Olympic's safety coordination continues through day-to-day operations and ongoing communication. This includes ongoing communication to keep each other informed of activity in the corridor. Additionally, Olympic regularly inspects its pipeline and monitors its operation 24 hours a day.