Making Our Power Grid Ready

Lineworker on Pole Photo

Change is underway. We’re in an energy transition away from using fossil fuels and electricity use is growing in the communities we serve. Change is also underway at Seattle City Light to be ready for increased demand for our renewable electricity. We’re continually improving and updating the infrastructure of our power grid, planning more flexible and efficient energy storage and use of electricity, and piloting new technologies to support affordable services and a reliable, resilient system.

We’re making changes now and planning ahead for our customers’ needs many decades into the future, preparing for growing impacts of climate change and extreme weather and ensuring power and support to match the rising demand for affordable clean electricity.

Modernizing the Grid

Three Phase Underground Cable on Display at Apprenticeship Lab

The power grid is the infrastructure and equipment that transmits electricity from Seattle City Light’s net-zero emissions power sources to customers. The grid includes equipment like turbines, high voltage transmission lines, and transformers. Increasingly, the grid also includes customer-owned infrastructure such as distributed energy resources (examples include solar panels and batteries), smart thermostats, and home or business electric vehicle chargers.

Infrastructure has a natural lifespan as equipment ages and better technologies become available. From replacing sidewalk electric poles as they age to planning to power the waterfront for the move to an electric ferry system, Seattle City Light is continually evaluating and modernizing all aspects of the grid.

Learn more about how we are modernizing the power grid.

Getting Ready for Potential Disruptions

City Light Crew Installing an Automated Switch

City Light constantly measures and monitors the reliability of our services and plans updates and improvements. Our modernized grid will be more resistant to disasters, severe weather due to climate change, and other disruptions. As demand grows, we’re planning for an updated smart grid that senses disruptions faster and is more flexible to reduce the impact of outages.

City Light is rolling out real-time grid technologies like smart line sensors and remote switching which can help crews and technicians identify issues, reroute power so fewer people are affected, and improve response efficiency and safety. We’re also bolstering existing grid infrastructure, through activities such as installing flexible substation connections that can be more resilient during an earthquake.

Optimizing Grid Operations

Seattle City Light monitors demand or “load,” to ensure the amount of electricity being currently used and the supply being passed through the grid are equal or balanced. A modernized grid manages fluctuations in load: for example, a peak from people coming home for the day and powering up their homes and plugging in their electric vehicles.

Our distribution grid already has significant capacity available much of the year. Integrated resource planning helps us manage an ever more flexible, ready grid during growing demand. Key components of our strategy include:

  • New distribution infrastructure that can carry more power.
  • Distributed energy resources and storage systems that grow location-specific capacity.
  • Incentive programs, such as time-of-day rates.
  • Smart interactive technologies (examples: managed electric vehicle charging software, smart thermostats) that respond automatically to changes in demand.

We’re collaboratively ensuring we have the energy resources our region needs through transmission planning partnerships like the Western Resource Adequacy Program. Learn more about this initiative in The Seattle Times.

EPRI, p. 1-8, Seattle City Light Electrification Assessment: Available system capacity in City Light’s service territory (in blue) over a year-long period and the system load (2019 data) (in orange),
Available system capacity in City Light’s service area (in blue) over a year-long period and the system load (2019 data) (in orange).

Opportunity, Equity, and Affordability

Woman on the Phone

Part of modernizing the grid is strengthening service to our all customers and creating pathways for everyone to access new technologies.

Innovative technology, collaborative research, and pilot programs are creating benefits for customers like:

  • More affordable charging options for electric vehicles.
  • Smart home technologies that allow rate savings by time-of-day and increase efficient energy use.
  • Better support for energy resources like solar and large storage batteries.

Seattle City Light, alongside many community, business, and technical partners, is exploring the benefits and impacts of these modernized grid technologies on our communities, including impacts on vulnerable populations.

Programs are underway to provide:

Through collaboration with community partners, we’re also making early infrastructure investments and pilots directly in communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution, including the Duwamish Valley Technology Zone to support more reliable and resilient service in South Park and Georgetown communities.

City Light

Dawn Lindell, General Manager and CEO
Address: 700 5th Ave, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 34023, Seattle, WA, 98124-4023
Phone: (206) 684-3000

Seattle City Light was created by the citizens of Seattle in 1902 to provide affordable, reliable, and environmentally responsible electric power to the City of Seattle and neighboring suburbs.