What is Energize Eastside?
Puget Sound Energy's (PSE) Energize Eastside project will build a new substation and upgrade approximately 16 miles of transmission lines within the existing corridor 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.
Will Energize Eastside improve reliability?
Yes! Energize Eastside will improve the reliability of the Eastside's transmission system to help keep the lights on under stressed conditions.
Additionally, the last major upgrade to the backbone of the Eastside’s electric grid was in the 1960s. Since then, the Eastside’s population has grown eight-fold, and our economy depends on reliable power in ways that it did not 50 years ago.
Federal regulations require PSE to have sufficient infrastructure to meet foreseeable demand requirements or plan for intentional load shedding (also referred to as rolling blackouts or rotating outages) to customers. The Energize Eastside project will provide the necessary infrastructure to meet federally-mandated requirements. Energize Eastside builds a new substation and upgrades existing transmission lines to ensure the system can reliably serve our growing communities.
Learn more about Eastside need and solution.
Is demand for energy really growing?
Yes! On the Eastside, peak customer electric power demand—the amount of energy used at one moment—has been growing dramatically in recent years. We see the highest demand peaks, on cold winter evenings and hot summer days when more customers use air conditioning. And we have more customers than ever before driving those demand peaks. We need to act now to minimize the risk to the electric grid and Eastside customers. Until Energize Eastside is built, some scenarios may force us to use corrective action plans to protect the integrity of the grid and ultimately the reliability of service to customers. Those corrective action plan include the uses of load shedding.
Are there independent studies confirming the need for this project?
Yes! A total of six 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. More recently, in 2020, a study was commissioned by the City of Newcastle. That study also concluded that the project is needed to comply with reliability standards. Learn more about project need.
Why is Energize Eastside 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.
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.
Where will Energize Eastside be built?
After nearly four years of study and extensive dialogue with Eastside communities, PSE selected the existing utility corridor “Willow 1” route as the final route to permit for Energize Eastside in 2017.
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 be more trees when the project is complete, not fewer.
Learn more about the final route.
When will construction start?
We began construction of the Richards Creek substation in September 2020 and on the transmission lines in Renton in 2021.
Energize Eastside will be built in phases, depending on the permitting timeline in each city.
As we get closer to construction in each city, we'll inform the local community of additional details and timing. Visit the Construction page to learn more.
Can we conserve our way out of needing this project?
Conservation is a key component of Energize Eastside, and we anticipate that customers will partner with us to meet our conservation goals. However, 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 with.
Learn more about the Eastside’s electric need.
When was the Eastside’s electric system built?
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.
Did PSE consider alternatives like batteries and solar power?
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. Despite the progress made by the energy storage industry in recent years, an updated analysis concluded that battery storage is still not a practical solution to meet the Eastside transmission system capacity deficiency.
- 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. 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.
Will batteries work as an alternative for Energize Eastside?
Industry experts and PSE have studied whether the Eastside’s electrical needs could be addressed by using batteries to store energy. Despite the progress made by the energy storage industry in recent years, an updated analysis concluded that battery storage is still not a practical solution to meet the Eastside transmission system capacity deficiency.
An Eastside battery project would:
- Be significantly more expensive than PSE's plan to upgrade transmission lines along the existing corridor. Battery storage would cost approximately $825 million for a short-term solution and $1.4 billion for the complete solution, compared to an estimated $150 million to $300 million for Energize Eastside.
- Require a huge battery farm on a scale that has never been built. To meet Eastside demand, a battery project would be up to 43 times larger than the world’s largest operational project (Tesla’s Hornsdale project in South Australia).
- Exceed the supply of energy storage systems. The commercial and supply-chain viability of an energy storage system for the Eastside area is unclear as it would exceed total U.S. energy storage deployments in 2017 by approximately 6-13 times.
Battery storage was studied and analyzed in:
- Strategen's Eastside System Energy Storage Alternatives Assessment Report Update, September 2018
- Quanta and PSE's Supplemental Solutions Report in Section 4.3
- Strategen's Eastside System Energy Storage Alternatives Screen Study, 2015
- The Cities' Phase 1 and Phase 2 Environmental Impact Statements under Alternative 2
While battery storage isn’t a practical option for the Eastside’s needs, PSE is exploring the viability of the technology on a small scale.
Can PSE put the lines underground?
While it is technically feasible, in Washington state it is up to the community to decide whether to make that investment. 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. For Energize Eastside, in addition to the significant siting challenges, no local jurisdiction has agreed to invest in undergrounding.
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.
- The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process also studied EMF and concluded that no adverse impacts from magnetic fields are expected. Specifically, “the magnetic field levels associated with the project are anticipated to be lower than existing field levels along the existing transmission line corridor.”
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 pse.com/pages/electromagnetic-fields.
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 the current estimate is around $250 million. Customers will not 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.
How has the public been involved?
PSE has been committed to public involvement throughout the project. 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. Read more about the public route discussion process and the Community Advisory Group Final Report.
Since 2015, PSE and our contractors have completed a variety of surveys to inform the environmental review process, project design, and permit submittals. Visit our fieldwork page to learn more.
In 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. Later that year, PSE began meeting with property owners and tenants to discuss property-specific details.
In 2017, PSE selected the existing corridor as the final route for the project.
PSE and our contractor, Wilson Construction, continue to meet with property owners along the project corridor before, during and after construction.
How can the public stay involved?
The project is currently in construction in Renton and South Bellevue and in the permitting process in Newcastle, North Bellevue, and Redmond. 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
What other route options did PSE look at?
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.
Why can’t PSE use the Seattle City Light corridor that runs from Redmond to Renton?
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.
Design and Construction
What will transmission line construction look like?
Typically, construction activities include field surveys, site preparation, 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.
During construction, work on individual properties will take place in phases. The construction team may visit your property for up to a few days at a time over several weeks or months before construction is complete. We will work with property owners to minimize impacts during construction as much as practicable. See our Construction Life Cycle graphic for more details on the phases of construction.
We will continue to keep the community informed of the project’s progress. Visit the Construction page for more information.
What will the project look like when complete?
PSE will upgrade the existing four wooden poles with one or two steel poles. New poles will be located in 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. The line height for the lowest of the upgraded 230 kilovolt (kV) transmission lines will be similar to current heights. For most new poles, additional lines will be stacked vertically above this first line.
View our Photo Simulations to see conceptual photos of the upgraded transmission lines.
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.
All trees directly under the lines and in the wire zone 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.
Could you just build one half of the project?
No. To solve the Eastside’s transmission capacity deficiency, we have to build the project in its entirety.
For instance, if we only built the south half, then the Sammamish substation in Redmond would still be at risk of overloads. This doesn’t meet our federal reliability requirements and puts our Eastside customers at risk of outages.
Will property owners have access to driveways or roads during construction?
PSE will work to ensure the safety of property owners during construction. Should construction techniques require additional safety measures, PSE will notify and work with property owners in advance. If unusual circumstances arise, we will work with the City and property owners to accommodate as necessary.
Working with Property Owners and Tenants
How is PSE working with property owners?
PSE continues to meet with property owners and tenants along the existing corridor to discuss property-specific details and tree replacement plans. Before any works begin, we make attempts to notify all directly impacted property owners through letters, door-to-door outreach, emails and phone calls. Meetings are held between the property owner and Wilson Construction land liaisons to introduce the project and discuss construction plans.
Will PSE have to acquire new rights of way, and how will PSE compensate property owners?
PSE does not anticipate needing 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.
How do I know if there will be fieldwork on my property?
Should PSE need to study properties or conduct fieldwork, we will work directly with property owners and tenants 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.
What is the status of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process?
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.
Where is PSE in the permitting process?
The project continues to advance through each individual jurisdiction’s permitting process. We’ve received Conditional Land Use Permit (CUP) approvals for south Bellevue, Renton and Newcastle.
For specific questions related to the permitting process, refer to the respective City for details.
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 upgrading the existing electric transmission lines from 115kV to 230kV and building 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.
What steps will PSE and Olympic Pipe Line Company take during and after construction to keep me and my family safe?
PSE and Olympic Pipe Line Company continue to coordinate on construction activities. Engineers, damage prevention specialists, field personnel and contractors from PSE and Olympic Pipe Line Company have worked together to develop a safe construction plan that also complies with all Olympic Pipe Line Company and jurisdictional permitting requirements. The construction plan includes:
- Having an assigned Olympic Pipe Line Company representative on-site to prepare initial work sites and monitor key construction activities near the pipeline.
- Installing temporary fencing or other markers around the pipeline area to create visual awareness of the pipeline location.
- Placing temporary protective cover (i.e., timber mats) over the pipeline to safely allow heavy equipment based on Olympic Pipe Line Company's engineering reviews.
- Using specialized equipment to perform non-mechanical soil removal for all excavations within close proximity to the pipeline.
Having worked with Olympic Pipe Line Company for decades, PSE knows firsthand that Olympic Pipe Line Company employs stringent standard operating practices, including:
- Using a cathodic protection system to suppress corrosion
- Meeting with Olympic Pipe Line Company’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 Pipe Line Company'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 Pipe Line Company regularly inspects its pipeline and monitors its operation 24 hours a day.
Who regulates PSE and Olympic Pipe Line Company 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 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 and contractors continue to rigorously analyze 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 Pipe Line Company have a strong, mutual interest in the continued protection and safe operation of facilities within the shared corridor. We will be coordinating with Olympic Pipe Line Company on the design, construction and operation of the upgraded transmission lines.
Visit our Safety page to learn more.