Investing in clean energy infrastructure to build community resilience

Commerce has finalized grants totaling $7 million with two Washington state utilities to further their innovative work on electricity “micro-grid” projects. Spokane-based private utility Avista, and the Snohomish public utility SnoPUD, each were awarded $3.5 million from the Washington Clean Energy Fund.

Their projects, and several others still making their way through the contracting process, represent the next important phase in modernizing our nation’s electric system to meet demand for more efficient, resilient and flexible power management and delivery.

Avista will pilot a “shared energy economy” model that allows various energy assets to be used for the mutual benefit of the utility and the consumer. As Heather Rosentrater explained: “In a ‘sharing economic resources are shared, allowing customers to access goods without ownership. For example, if you rent a Zipcar, you pay to use the car when you need it instead of owning a personal car.”

SnoPUD is designing a Microgrid and Clean Energy Technology Center in Arlington, WA. The facility will provide considerable value for research in including energy storage, a microgrid system, small-scale renewable energy and an electric vehicle-to-grid system, according to CEO and General Manager Craig Collar. In addition, he said they will also test its viability to serve as a critical backup system for the PUD in the event of a major disaster.

The Washington Clean Energy Fund is helping our region’s public and private utilities, and research institutions Pacific NW National Lab, the University of Washington and Washington State University, play leading roles in transforming America’s energy sector for a low-carbon future.

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