Sunday marks the beginning of an important week for all of the employees at Clark Public Utilities and all other community-owned, nonprofit utilities in America.
Public Power Week, which runs Oct. 1 – 7 is the week when utility employees and their customers reflect on the nearly immeasurable value and tremendous benefits public power delivers to its customers.
In celebration of the week, customers are invited to visit either the Clark Public Utilities Electric Center at 1200 Fort Vancouver Way or the Operations Center in Orchards at 8600 NE 117th Ave. on Tuesday, Oct. 2 between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. for free coffee.
Across America, about 2,000 public utilities serve nearly 50 million people in cities across 49 states. No matter where they operate, public utilities across the nation are committed to the people, businesses and institutions they serve.
The same is not true for investor-owned utilities. They are for-profit corporations owned by public or private investors, obligated to look out for the best interests of their shareholders. Public utilities put people over profits. They’re owned by the individuals in their service areas and are governed by a local board of publicly elected officials.
While investor-owned utilities deliver excess revenue to their shareholders, public utility companies invest in services that keep reliability high, energy prices low and offer the best customer service possible.
When public power customers pay their utility bills, that money returns to the community through job creation and investments in local critical infrastructure built by local contractors and serviced by local utility employees.
The economies of the Pacific Northwest have been powered by public utilities for generations. They’ve been there to serve the sawmills, factories and smelters of yesterday and the data centers, computer chip manufacturers and innovation labs of today.
In the Evergreen state, Public Utility Districts got their start in 1929 when the Washington State Grange gathered enough signatures to send Initiative No. 1, which would allow rural communities the right to form public utilities, to the state Legislature. When the body failed to act, voters approved the Grange Power Bill in 1930.
Around the same time, President Roosevelt’s New Deal advanced investment in public power through the construction of the Bonneville and Grand Coulee dams on the Columbia River. In 1937, Congress created the Bonneville Power Administration to distribute the dams’ low-cost, dependable electricity with preference given to public power customers.
With the Grange again leading the charge, Clark County voters approved the formation of Clark Public Utilities District No. 1 in 1938. But it wasn’t until the summer of 1942 when the electric utility began serving its first customer, the Air Reduction Company, with power purchased from the BPA federal hydropower system.
Clark Public Utilities, as it’s known today, is one of 28 PUDs in Washington and one of about 2,000 public utilities across the country. It employs just over 400 members of the community and serves about 230,000 electrical and 40,000 water customers.
Their commitment and dedication to each customer remains the same today as it did on that first day of 1938. They live in our local communities and do work ranging from skilled trades, to finance, information technology, and customer service, and many functions operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week to keep the lights on.
Energy Adviser is produced by Clark Public Utilities and relies on the expertise of utility energy counselors and staff, who provide conservation and energy use information. To contact us call 360-992-3355, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.clarkpublicutilities.com.