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, powered by the upgraded transmission lines, will provide additional capacity to ensure the local electric system can accommodate our customers’ growing energy usage.
Yes! Energize Eastside will improve the reliability of the Eastside's transmission system to help keep the lights on under stressed conditions.
Federal regulations require PSE to have sufficient infrastructure to meet foreseeable demand requirements or plan for intentional rolling blackouts to customers. If PSE plans to use rotating blackouts to meet its federally-mandated requirements, we must discuss that plan publicly.
Energize Eastside builds a new substation and upgrades existing transmission lines to ensure the system can reliably serve growing communities and avoids the need to develop and announce a rolling blackout plan.
Click here to learn more about Eastside need and solution.
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.
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.
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.
We've looked at many ways to solve the Eastside's electrical problem. We studied whether the Eastside’s electrical needs could be addressed with other alternatives rather than building new infrastructure. Read the solutions report and the non-wires solutions analysis to learn more about alternatives that were analyzed.
Both Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process studied project alternatives. For more information about the alternatives studied, visit EnergizeEastsideEIS.org.
After nearly four years of study and extensive dialogue with Eastside communities, PSE has selected the existing corridor “Willow 1” route as the final route to permit for Energize Eastside.
PSE evaluated multiple route options and selected the existing corridor because it is the least impactful route to Eastside communities. Our decision to use the existing corridor was guided by two key factors:
- Our commitment to safety. The project will be built and operated to the highest safety and engineering standards. Using the existing corridor, along with optimized designs and operations, the project can safely co-exist with the Olympic Pipeline.
- Our commitment to limit impacts to the environment. This route affects the fewest number of trees and avoids the construction of new corridors. We know our customers value trees. Our goal is for there to bemore trees when the project is complete, not fewer.
Click here to learn more about the final route.
We expect to begin building Energize Eastside after the environmental review and permitting processes are complete.
PSE's plan is to build and energize the new Richards Creek substation in Bellevue and upgrade the transmission lines in south Bellevue, Newcastle, and Renton by summer 2018. We anticipate submitting permits for the northern portion in Redmond and Bellevue later this year.
We need to build Energize Eastside in two construction phases to keep the backbone of the existing transmission system online and serving customers. By having the southern portion in service by next summer, we can avoid the need for rolling blackout plans. Once we’ve energized the southern portion of the project, we will begin work on the northern portion.
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.
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.
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.
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. PSE and the Cities’ Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) considered batteries and they don’t solve the Eastside’s transmission capacity deficiency. The EIS team noted that using a battery sized to meet the requirements of Energize Eastside is not “technically feasible as the existing Eastside transmission system does not have sufficient capacity to fully charge the system.” 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.
The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process studied project alternatives in both Phase 1 and Phase 2. For more information about alternatives studied in the EIS, visit EnergizeEastsideEIS.org.
PSE and other industry experts have studied whether the Eastside’s electrical needs could be addressed by using batteries to store energy. Experts concluded that battery storage isn’t feasible for the Eastside because:
- PSE's existing Eastside transmission system doesn’t have sufficient capacity to recharge a battery installation between needed uses, so a new transmission line would still be needed.
- This technology has not been used for the type and scale of problem facing the Eastside.
- The number of batteries needed would take up to 15 football fields of space in the middle of the Eastside (approximately 20 acres, according to international energy storage experts at Strategen Consulting).
Battery storage was studied and analyzed in:
- Quanta and PSE's Supplemental Solutions Report in Section 4.3
- Strategen's Eastside System Energy Storage Alternatives Screen Study
- The Cities' Phase 1 and Phase 2 Environmental Impact Statements under Alternative 2
According to Strategen, “the existing Eastside transmission system does not have sufficient capacity to charge energy storage systems to a level sufficient to meet PSE’s operating standards."
While battery storage isn’t a feasible option to solve the Eastside’s needs, PSE is closely monitoring batteries and is conducting a pilot project in Glacier, Washington to test the viability of the technology. This pilot project is on a much smaller scale than the Eastside’s power needs.
While it is technically feasible, there are significant challenges to building Energize Eastside underground. 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. For more in-depth information about underground transmission lines, read our fact sheet.
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.
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.
The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process also studied EMF. For more information about EMF in the Phase 2 Draft EIS, visit EnergizeEastsideEIS.org.
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. Read more about EMF in the detailed findings from the Electric and Magnetic Field (EMF) investigation for the Energize Eastside project route options.
For more details about EMF studies, exposure limits and PSE’s approach to EMF, visit www.PSE.com/safety/ElectricSafety/Pages/Electromagnetic-Fields.aspx.
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. Customers will not see any changes in their monthly bill to pay for this project.
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.
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.
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.
The Community Advisory Group consisted of representatives from the following interests:
- Economic development groups and businesses
- Environmental organizations
- 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.
The project is currently in the permitting process. Each city has their own permitting process that includes opportunities for public involvement.
In addition, PSE continues to reach out to property owners to discuss property-specific details. Call our information line to schedule a meeting at 1-800-548-2614, ext. 1.
In December 2013, PSE announced the project and began a multi-year community outreach effort to share information and to review and gather feedback on potential route options. We also collaborated with local cities, residents, businesses and a 24-member Community Advisory Group. Through the public route discussion process, the Community Advisory Group selected the Oak and Willow routes as their final recommendation for PSE's consideration. Our final route is one of the two routes recommended by the Community Advisory Group.
Through the Cities' Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process, we continued to listen and identified four route options that primarily use the existing transmission line corridor: Oak 1, Willow 1, Oak 2 and Willow 2. Two additional route options were developed and studied in the EIS to reduce permitting risk to the project: the East Bellevue Community Council bypass routes. Visit our archived maps page to review these route options.
PSE looked into using the Seattle City Light corridor and yes, if rebuilt, the corridor could work to meet the Eastside’s energy needs. However, PSE has been told by Seattle City Light that this corridor is a key component of their transmission system and is not available for our use.
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.
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.
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.
PSE will upgrade the existing four wooden poles with one or two steel poles. New poles will be located in the same or similar locations as the existing poles. The existing poles typically range in height from 55 feet to 65 feet, and the new poles will either be a single pole typically at 80 feet to 100 feet in height or two poles typically at 70 feet to 85 feet. In some locations, poles may need to be taller than 100 feet, such as when crossing a highway.
View our Photo Simulations to see conceptual photos of the upgraded transmission lines.
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.
PSE and our contractors 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 surveys. We've also been developing property-specific landscaping and tree replacement plans with property owners. We are reaching out to affected property owners about these efforts.
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.
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.
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.
In March 2018, environmental review of the Energize Eastside project concluded with the publication of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The Final EIS concludes an extensive, nearly three-year-long environmental review process that affirms that the project can be safely built and operated and that replacing poles and wires along the existing corridor limits impacts to Eastside communities.
The City of Bellevue led the environmental review process in partnership with the cities of Kirkland, Newcastle, Redmond and Renton. This process included multiple opportunities for public comment. Through the EIS process, other reasonable alternative solutions were identified and reviewed, and the Final EIS provides an independent evaluation of the project, the limited potential impacts, and associated recommended mitigation measures.
To learn more about the environmental review process or to review the Final EIS, visit EnergizeEastsideEIS.org.
PSE has submitted permit applications for south Bellevue, Newcastle, and Renton. The next major applications to be submitted will be for the northern portion of the project in Bellevue and Redmond.
PSE’s plan is to build and energize the new Richards Creek substation in Bellevue and upgrade the transmission lines in south Bellevue, Newcastle, and Renton by summer 2018.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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. As recommended by DNV GL, PSE will optimize operations and improve safety by operating both lines at 230 kilovolts (kV) within the existing transmission line corridor.
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.