Snohomish County Public Utility District

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Snohomish County Public Utility District
Municipal utility
IndustryPublic Utility
HeadquartersEverett, Washington, USA
Key people
Sidney Logan
Toni Olson
Kathy Vaughn

General Manager:
John Haarlow
ProductsElectric utility, Drinking water
Revenue$673 million (2017)
Number of employees
1,004 (2017)

Snohomish County Public Utility District is a public utility providing power to nearly 350,000 customers in Snohomish County and on Camano Island, Washington. It provides water service to over 20,000 customers in the northeast section of the Snohomish County.

The utility is the second largest public utility in the Pacific Northwest and the 12th largest in the United States. It is the largest of 28 PUDs in the state of Washington. The PUD is the largest utility customer of the Bonneville Power Administration, a major wholesale marketer of energy in the Western United States.

Attempted Energy Projects[edit]

Tidal Energy: In 2007 the utility began to explore tidal energy[1]; in April 2009 the PUD selected OpenHydro[2], a company based in Ireland, to develop turbines and equipment for eventual installation. The project as initially designed was to place generation equipment in areas of high tidal flow and operate that equipment for 4 to 5 years. After the trial period the equipment would be removed. The project was initially budgeted at a total cost of $10 million, with half of that funding provided by the PUD out of utility reserve funds, and half from grants, primarily from the US federal government. The PUD paid for a portion of this project with reserves and received a $900,000 grant in 2009 and a $3.5 million grant in 2010 in addition to using reserves to pay an estimated $4 million of costs. In 2010 the budget estimate was increased to $20 million, half to be paid by the utility, half by the federal government. The Utility was unable to control costs on this project, and by Oct of 2014 the costs had ballooned to an estimated $38 million and were projected to continue to increase. The PUD proposed that the federal government provide an additional $10 million towards this increased cost citing a "gentlemans agreement"[3]. When the federal government refused to provide the additional funding the project was cancelled by the PUD after spending nearly $10 million in reserves and grants. The PUD abandoned all tidal energy exploration after this project was cancelled and does not own or operate any tidal energy sources.

Geothermal Energy: In 2010 and 2011 the utility attempted to find a source of geothermal energy"[4]. $400k was budgeted for this drilling in 2010, and $2.5 million in 2011. These budgeted amounts were smaller than the actual costs of drilling, which totaled $4.375 million at the time that project was cancelled in 2012.[5]. The PUD abandoned all geothermal energy exploration after this project was cancelled and does not own or operate any geothermal energy sources.

Sunset falls dam: In 2011 the PUD proposed to build a dam at Sunset Falls on the South fork of the Skykomish river, and purchased real estate around the proposed project and funded the construction of a bridge for the homeowners community there. The design of the dam changed over time, with various designs proposed. Each design was studied at length. There was substantial resistance from the local community to this project, and landslides and unstable ground in the area of the proposed project complicated the process. There was substantial community resistance to this dam. This project was cancelled in 2018 with the utility citing lower electricity demand. An estimated $20 million was spent on this project prior to cancellation. [6].

Current conservation programs[edit]

 The utility started offering incentives, loans and other resources for small-scale solar installations in spring 2009.[7]

Snohomish County PUD has developed and led regional conservation programs for more than 30 years. The cumulative savings equal more than 100 average-megawatts, enough to serve about 80,000 homes. The utility has weatherized more than 60,000 homes, recycled more than 33,000 older, energy-wasting refrigerators and freezers, and sold more than 12 million compact fluorescent lights and LEDs at discounted prices through a retail network. In recent years, the utility has consistently beaten its targets for conservation.[8]


The Snohomish County Public Utility District is a municipal corporation of the State of Washington, formed by a majority vote of the people on November 3, 1936. It started as a water utility on January 17, 1946. The PUD began operating as an electric utility on September 1, 1949.

In 2005, the PUD uncovered audio tapes revealing that Enron energy traders were intentionally manipulating the market during the Western U.S. energy crisis by encouraging suppliers to shut down plants to perform unnecessary maintenance.[9]

PUD electricity supply[edit]

81% - Bonneville Power Administration
7% - PUD-owned Hydroelectric Projects
6% - Wind Energy Purchases
6% - Biomass, Biogas, Solar and other Market Purchases

Bonneville Power Administration provides the bulk of the PUD's energy. BPA markets wholesale electricity from 31 federal hydroelectric projects in the Columbia River Basin, one non-federal nuclear plant and several other small non-federal plants. BPA, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, is a federal agency under the U.S. Department of Energy.

The PUD purchases wind energy from the White Creek Wind Project in south central Washington, and the Wheat Field Wind Project,[10] and the Hay Canyon Wind Project, both located in north central Oregon, along the Columbia River Gorge. The utility receives about 60 average-megawatts from these facilities.

The Henry M. Jackson Hydroelectric Project, which began operating in 1984, is located in the Sultan River Basin. The hydroelectric generating facility produces about 48 average-megawatts, or about 4 percent of the PUD's power needs. In addition to generating enough power for 35,800 homes using a clean renewable resource, the project also provides recreation, enhances fish and wildlife habitats, provides an element of flood control and assures an abundance of clean drinking water. The utility has developed several additional small, low-impact hydroelectric facilities for energy generation in its service area.[11][12][13]

The PUD also receives energy from a biomass project at the Hampton Lumber Mill in Darrington, Washington. Another biogas project, in Monroe, Washington, uses cow manure, restaurant grease and other wastes to produce methane for power generation. In addition, hundreds of customers have worked with the PUD to install rooftop solar units and support solar projects at local schools and public buildings.

The PUD has sold a portion of the environmental attributes from its renewable energy projects to fund the utility's R&D of other renewable energy sources.


  1. ^ Overview,”
  2. ^ Selected,”
  3. ^ “PUD claims 'gentlemans agreement over tidal project funding',” Everett Herald, Oct 2, 2014
  4. ^ “PUD to drill nearly a mile deep to find geothermal energy,” Everett Herald, Sept 3, 2011
  5. ^ “PUD energy project a bust after drilling hits bedrock,” Everett Herald, July 22, 2012
  6. ^ “Snohomish count PUD scraps Skykomish River Hydroelectric dam,” Everett Herald, April 11, 2018
  7. ^ “Solar Power Projects Heating Up In Northwest,” Q13 Fox News, May 26, 2010
  8. ^ “Snohomish County PUD sets energy record,” Archived 2010-03-25 at the Wayback Machine. King 5 News, Mar. 19, 2010
  9. ^ "Tapes Show Enron Caused Rolling Blackouts in California," New York Times, Feb. 4, 2005
  10. ^ “Horizon Wind Signs PPA with Snohomish PUD,” Renewable Energy World, Aug. 29, 2008
  11. ^ “New hydroelectric dam to be first in county since ’80s,” Everett Daily Herald, May 24, 2010
  12. ^ “Dam coming to Youngs Creek this summer,” Archived 2011-07-14 at the Wayback Machine. Monroe Monitor, Jun. 15, 2010
  13. ^ "PUD on the cutting edge of new electricity," Komo 4 News, Dec. 30, 2010


1) Bethany Reid, Ph.D. and Thomas M. Gaskin, Ph.D., Everett & Snohomish County – A Community of New Ideas, ISBN 0-9717192-2-5

External links[edit]