Seattle City Light

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Seattle City Light
Seattle City Light Logo.png
Agency overview
Formed1905: The first municipally owned hydro facility, Cedar Falls, begins generating power for Seattle
TypeElectric utility
JurisdictionCity of Seattle and some outlying communities
HeadquartersMunicipal Tower, 700 Fifth Avenue, Seattle, Washington, United States
Agency executive
  • Debra Smith, General Manager and CEO
Seattle City Light south service center, 1998.

Seattle City Light is the public utility providing electrical power to Seattle, Washington, in the United States, and parts of its metropolitan area, including all of Shoreline and Lake Forest Park and parts of unincorporated King County, Burien, Normandy Park, SeaTac, Renton, and Tukwila.[1] Seattle City Light is the 10th largest public utility in the United States and the first municipal utility in the US to own and operate a hydroelectric facility. In 2005, it became the first electric utility in the United States to fully offset all its carbon emissions and has remained carbon neutral every year since.

Seattle City Light is a department of the City of Seattle and is governed by the Housing, Health, Energy & Workers’ Rights committee of the Seattle City Council.


The approximately 906,595 residents (461,496 metered customers) served by Seattle City Light use about 9,074,062 megawatt-hours annually.[2] Seattle City Light was the first electric utility in the nation to become greenhouse gas neutral (2005)[3] and has the longest-running energy conservation program in the country. The utility owns a large portion of its generation, which is predominately hydro, so is able to offer some of the country's lowest rates to its customers (of utilities in urban areas).[4] Seattle City Light's customer breakdown shows 381,419 residential customers who consumed 2,914,563 megawatt-hours of electricity in 2015 and 41,391 non-residential customers that consumed 6,242,931 megawatt-hours.[5]


Cover of Seattle City Light Yearbook, 1926

Public responsibility for electrical energy in Seattle dates to 1890 with creation of the Department of Lighting and Water Works. In 1902, Seattle voters passed a bond issue to develop hydroelectric power on the Cedar River under the administration of the Water Department. Electricity from this development began to serve Seattle in 1905. A City Charter amendment in 1910 created the Lighting Department. Under the leadership of Superintendent James D. Ross, the department developed the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project, which began supplying power in 1924. Both public and private power were supplied to Seattle until 1951 when the City purchased the private electrical power supply operations, making the Lighting Department the sole supplier. The Boundary Project in northern Washington began operation in 1967 and currently supplies over half of City Light's power generation. Approximately ten percent of City Light's income comes from the sale of surplus energy to customers in the Northwest and Southwest. The current name of the agency was adopted in 1978 when the Department was reorganized.[6]

In 2014, City Light completed the installation of 41,000 LED street lights along residential streets. Installation of LED streetlights on arterial streets started in 2015 and is expected to be complete by the end of 2018.[7]

The utility's former CEO, Jorge Carrasco, entered a dispute with over search result "scrubbing" in 2014.[8]

Seattle's electricity supply[edit]

The 2016 official fuel mix statistics by the state of Washington for Seattle City Light show approximately 88% hydroelectric, 5% nuclear, 4% wind, 1% coal, 1% natural gas, 1% biogas.[9] City Light's portfolio of energy sources includes electricity purchased through long-term contracts with the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). The remaining power comes from a mixture of sources.

Owned facilities[edit]

The utility owns and operates a total of seven hydro facilities:

Seattle City Light residential customers currently pay about 8 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity. Seattle has the lowest residential and commercial electrical rates among comparably-sized cities in the United States.[10]

Art program[edit]

Seattle City Light began commissioning decorative designs for its manhole covers in the 1970s after suggestions from Jacquetta Blanchett Freeman, a member of the Seattle Arts Commission. A set of 19 manhole covers with relief maps of Downtown Seattle were designed by city employee Anne Knight and installed beginning in April 1977 to aid with wayfinding.[11][12] Knight's covers use raised symbols to represent local landmarks, including the now-demolished Kingdome, that are labeled with a key on the outer ring other manhole.[13] Other commissioned designs include portraits of city figures, a Tlingit-styled whale, and Nothwestern flowers.[14][15] As of 2012, there are 115 manhole covers in Seattle with decorative designs.[16]

In 2012, the Seattle City Light Conservation Program hired Adam Frank to produce a large scale installation that featured the City of Seattle's hydroelectric power sources. This work of light was a projected living map of Seattle's hydroelectric generation and electricity use.[17]


  1. ^ Seattle City Light Rates Area Map, Seattle City Light. Accessed online 2009-10-07.
  2. ^ [1], Seattle City Light (2018, based on internal evidence). Accessed online 2016-08-03.
  3. ^ Stiffler, Lisa; Reporter, Seattle Post-Intelligencer (2005-11-10). "No global warming at City Light". Retrieved 2019-01-22.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Shannon Lynch and Scott Cline, Guide to the Seattle City Light Department History File 1894-1972, Northwest Digital Archives (NWDA), 2004. Accessed online 2009-10-07.
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Seattle utility wants $17,500 refund after failure to scrub negative search results | Ars Technica". Ars Technica.
  9. ^ Fuel Mix: How Seattle City Light Electricity is Generated (information is for calendar year 2016), Seattle City Light.
  10. ^ No rate changes at Seattle City Light for 2009, Seattle City Light news release, 2008-09-26. Accessed online 2009-10-07.
  11. ^ "Art work covering a manhole". The Seattle Times. April 24, 1977. p. C4.
  12. ^ Chebuhar, Teresa (April 14, 1978). "Getting a round town can be tough". The Seattle Times. p. A1.
  13. ^ Williams, David B. (2017). Seattle Walks. University of Washington Press. pp. 53–54. ISBN 9780295741284. OCLC 975043400.
  14. ^ Lyke, M. L. (April 2, 2002). "What lies beneath". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. p. E1.
  15. ^ "Hatchcover Art in Seattle". Seattle City Light. Retrieved February 3, 2020.
  16. ^ Wissel, Paula (March 23, 2012). "Why did Seattle turn manhole covers into works of art?". KNKX. Retrieved February 3, 2020.
  17. ^ "Adam Frank Chosen Seattle City Light Artist-in-residence". Seattle City Light. October 28, 2011. Retrieved February 3, 2020.

External links[edit]