2021 Director’s Letter
Reflecting on the past year, you wouldn’t know we were in the second year of a worldwide pandemic. We rose above the challenges and excelled at delivering services vital to your quality of life.
We continued to go above and beyond for the community, supporting customers with high utility bill balances, especially vulnerable populations. Our staff’s volunteer work, set records in social responsibility through our Community Connection drives for books, food, school supplies, and fundraisers for seniors. In addition, we raised more than $200,000 during our annual United Way Campaign.
Here are a few more of the many highlights from 2021:
The safety of our continuity staff and those who returned to in-person worksites remained a high priority. We continued providing additional vehicles as requested to allow employees to maintain physical distancing while traveling and shared up-to-date information on the pandemic with employees through monthly town hall meetings and weekly Emergency Management updates. We ensured signage was updated and continued our COVID-19 site coordinator program to ensure employees had the necessary tools to keep them safe, including sanitizing supplies and face coverings.
Under the guidance of Emergency Management, we formed a cross-divisional Reconstitution Team to finalize and communicate our reconstitution plan. The team met bi-weekly to address such issues as space constraints, technology issues, and concerns about a resurgence of the virus. In addition, employees received detailed instructions on preparing to return to the office through emails, Town Hall meetings, and updates in our weekly email– newsletter. The team also created a dedicated SharePoint site giving employees one place to access everything they needed, including an extensive list of FAQs.
Equity and Inclusion
To ensure leaders and employees had a shared foundational knowledge of diversity, equity, and inclusion, our employees participated in an in-house Equity 101 course. This learning directly supports the City of Tacoma Resolution 40622 and the Public Utility Board Strategic Directive 1 (SD1) Equity and Inclusion.
We helped create the City of Tacoma’s 2030 Climate Action Plan (CAP). Our utility superintendents created a new Climate Action Plan as a part of the Executive Steering Committee, and our three utility divisions participated in the Staff Advisory Committee. The CAP supports zero-emission technology innovation in the marine, trucking, and rail sectors and promotes electric vehicle and e-bike use in low-income and low-opportunity neighborhoods.
For the 18th year, Tacoma Power was recognized as a 2021 Tree Line USA® Utility in honor of its commitment to proper tree pruning, planting, and care in our service area. Tree Line USA, a partnership between the Arbor Day Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters, recognizes public and private utilities for pursuing practices that protect and enhance America’s urban trees. Tree Line USA promotes the dual goals of delivering safe and reliable electricity while maintaining healthy community forests.
We reopened our lobby in August and began offering online appointment scheduling to limit the number of people waiting in line and keep customers and employees safe. Appointments were available in 10-minute intervals and could be scheduled up to a week in advance. In addition, the new system provided text message alerts letting people know when an agent was ready to assist them.
Another way staff leveraged technology to keep customers informed was by developing a new Water Supply Indicator (WSI) tool to provide real-time data about Tacoma Water’s changing water supply conditions. Our water resource engineers developed it to monitor our primary water source, the Green River Watershed. The WSI monitors precipitation, snowpack, temperature, Howard Hanson Dam storage, daily water use, and Green River natural flows. Although water conditions can vary significantly from county to county and month to month, we can now inform our community about changing water supply trends and forecasts.
The COVID-19 virus impacted numerous utility projects, and our advanced metering project was no exception. After receiving notice from our vendor about meter supply shortages, we developed strategies to keep the installations moving forward. In 2021, we installed over 81,000 meters, 27% of our service area. People who received a new meter were converted to monthly billing and could access their power and water use data online through a link in MyAccount.
Reliability and Resiliency
Tacoma Power was recognized as a Smart Energy Provider (SEP) by the American Public Power Association (APPA) for the second time in a row for demonstrating a commitment to and proficiency in energy efficiency, distributed generation, and environmental initiatives that support the goal of providing safe, reliable, low-cost, and sustainable electric service. The SEP designation lasts two years (December 1, 2021, to November 30, 2023). Tacoma Power is one of 90 public power utilities nationwide that holds the SEP designation.
We partnered with Emergency Management from the City of Tacoma to create an animated video titled “What’s On Your Bucket List.” It features vital components for emergency kits and encourages people to plan for emergencies outside work.
Tacoma Rail was instrumental in securing new business for the Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA). In May 2021, the Mediterranean Shipping Company’s (MSC) Santana added a new stop to the Northwest Seaport Alliance’s Tacoma Harbor. The increased container business helped smooth the flow of traffic in and out of Tacoma, which was somewhat erratic during the COVID-19 crisis. Tacoma Rail was instrumental in providing the exemplary train service that allowed the NWSA to attract international shipping business to the Port of Tacoma.
Tacoma Power announced new incentives for people in our service area who own or are considering owning electric vehicles when upgrading their at-home chargers to Level 2. Unlike the Level 1 charger, which plugs into a standard wall outlet, Level 2 chargers use a 240-volt outlet, providing quicker charging times. The faster charging saves EV owners time and brings added convenience.
Tacoma Power is committed to making EV ownership more accessible by offering our community more ways to charge their EVs. The utility plans to double the public charging infrastructure in the City of Tacoma in the next two years. In addition, Tacoma Power is working toward a clean energy future, from streetside EV charging on light poles in Tacoma’s Neighborhood Business Districts to working with owners to install charging at multifamily properties and throughout other parts of the community.
Looking forward to 2022, we hope to meet with co-workers and community members in person post-pandemic. In addition, we will continue seeking opportunities to improve our operations to ensure we provide our customers with quality utility services.