2021 Tacoma Power Highlights
Tacoma Power continued fulfilling its Mission to provide affordable and reliable electric services throughout the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic and sought ways to support our community’s financial well-being.
For over 125 years, Tacoma Power has used local hydro resources to generate energy and transmit and distribute electricity across our community. In 2021, we served approximately 181,630 customers compared to 184,600 in 2020. Even facing extreme weather events and the ongoing global pandemic, our utility provided 99.94% percent availability to our customers in 2021.
Acting From Our Values
In our refreshed 2021-2025 Strategic Plan, we identify the following Values that guide our behaviors and decisions to help us achieve our Guiding Principle of Community Value First:
- Be safe, always.
- Learn and be curious.
- Do the right thing, even when it’s hard.
- Take care of things for future generations.
- Rely on and respect each other.
Be safe, always
Over the past few years, we have intentionally focused on strengthening our safety culture. As a result, in late 2020, we hired a Power Safety Manager, Val Sherman, responsible for developing, coordinating, and implementing safety and health policies and procedures to promote and ensure effective safety operations for all employees across Tacoma Power. Recognizing the importance of safety, Power did an organizational restructure, adding the Power Safety Manager as a member of the Power Senior Leadership Team. In addition, to demonstrate their ongoing commitment to ensuring the safety of our customers and employees, the Power Senior Leadership Team shared a united message in a Commitment to Safety video. Other safety efforts included a continued focus on maintaining the physical well-being of customers and employees in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, finding and fixing hazards, having safety meetings, and conducting site and crew visits.
Our region experienced extreme weather events during the summer, including one day reaching 106 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, thick smoke from local and regional wildfires filled the air with dangerous particles. As a result, we implemented new safety protocols for extreme heat and smokey conditions to protect our front-line workers.
Continuing in the second year of pandemic response Emergency Management and Safety partnered to adjust protocols to ensure the continual safety of our continuity personnel. During the summer of 2021, we saw a drop in case rates and community transmission, which allowed us to lift the face-covering mandate and resume our phased reconstitution efforts. Customer-facing personnel returned to the workplace in August, allowing the utility to reopen our lobby. Unfortunately, as quickly as we saw a decrease in COVID-19 cases, we saw a resurgence and paused reconstitution through the end of 2021.
Do the right thing, even when it’s hard
In March, a multi-vehicle accident took out power lines and poles and knocked out power for 129 customers. Our line and trouble crews worked collaboratively with local police, state patrol, and first responders to secure the scene and close Hwy 99. The crews worked through the night to replace two power poles, lots of buried cable, a span of overhead primary conductor, and other problems from the incidents to get power back on for all customers.
In September, a powerful storm caused multiple power outages throughout our system. A large cottonwood tree beyond the limits of the managed transmission line corridor fell onto wires and severely damaged a transmission tower. Employees from multiple disciplines and workgroups engineered a repair while working within the COVID-19 safety parameters. The lines were re-energized the same day.
Take care of things for future generations
We joined the Western Energy Imbalance Market (EIM) in 2020. Joining the EIM increased the utility’s ability to buy and sell energy, which resulted in higher grid reliability. Renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, can be integrated more efficiently onto the grid via the EIM. Our utility met every critical milestone this year and is on track to go live in March 2022.
Generation and Craft Shops employees collaborated to revitalize the historical entrance to our Cushman substation. In addition, they updated the reception area at the Cowlitz hydro campus with inviting and creative décor. Staff created tables using coupling bolts from a turbine shaft and installed a monitor to highlight the events and information at the campus.
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.
Rely on and respect each other
Outside agencies recognized the amazing work done by our employees. Women in Trades honored Vivian deZwager (Grounds Maintenance Lead) as the 2021 Tradeswoman of the Year and Jennifer Foster (Lead Electrician) with the Union Activist Award. In addition, our Internal Communications team received a MarCom Gold Award for their work supporting the strategy rollout.
Every three years, Western Energy Coordinating Council (WECC) audits our processes, documentation, and data to confirm that we comply with federal and regional standards regarding the reliability and security of our Bulk Electric System. Employees from across our utility participated in various ways, supporting our Reliability & Compliance workgroup by preparing to participate in a mock audit in anticipation of the WECC 2022 audit.
Reconstitution has been a moving target, and while the cause is prioritizing employee and customer safety, the uncertainty has weighed on everyone. Yet, amid constant change, our people offered their colleagues support, collaboration, and encouragement.
This year brought many challenges, but the constant positives were you, our customers, and employees. Thank you for supporting each other through the hard times and celebrating the good times. You are why we do what we do.