Snohomish County Public Utility District No. 1

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Customer Service (M-F 8a-5:30p): 425-783-1000

Energy Resources FAQs

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What sources of electricity do you receive? Is hydroelectric our only source of energy?

Most of the electricity used by customers in Snohomish County and on Camano Island is generated with hydroelectric facilities, but not all.

About 80 percent of the electricity used by our customers is purchased from the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), a federal agency that markets electricity throughout the Pacific Northwest. Nearly all of BPA’s power is generated by large federally owned dams located on the Columbia and Snake rivers. Some of the remaining power comes from short-term power contracts. The remainder comes from environment-friendly sources: our Henry M. Jackson Hydroelectric Project, which is located on the Sultan River in eastern Snohomish County and our smaller low-impact hydro projects called Youngs Creek and Woods Creek. (Click here to read more about them.) We also purchase power from regional wind farms.

Visit the Power Supply area of our website for more details.

What is the Bonneville Power Administration?

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is an agency of the federal government (part of the U.S. Department of Energy) that was created by Congress in 1937 to market the electricity generated by Bonneville and Grand Coulee dams. Since then the agency has grown to be responsible for selling the power from thirty federal dams and one nuclear power plant. BPA also is responsible for implementing a regional conservation plan as well as regional fish and wildlife programs.

In order to market power, BPA has built the nation’s largest network of long-distance, high-voltage transmission lines, which serves as the main power grid for Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and western Montana. Consequently, just about every person, home, and business in the Pacific Northwest relies on BPA in some form.

BPA sells wholesale electricity to 170 customers, which includes public and private utilities and some large industries, mostly aluminum factories. Snohomish County PUD purchases more electricity from BPA than any other of its utility customers.

What does it mean to purchase electricity on the power market?

When President George Bush signed the Energy Policy Act in 1992, it changed the way wholesale electricity is bought and sold in the United States. One of the provisions in that law gave the federal government authority to require open access to the transmission system. In other words, a company wishing to generate electricity cannot be restricted from gaining access to a utility’s high-voltage transmission system in order to sell its power. It means any company can generate power and sell it on the open market. In fact, wholesale electricity is now bought and sold on the commodity market — right along-side sow bellies and corn futures.