We are proud to receive the editorial endorsement of Olympia Power & Light, a newspaper which has built its reputation on insightful and in-depth local political coverage. While we may never get the support of Tacoma-based daily advertising circulars with lucrative PSE advertising contracts, we know that honest journalists are in our corner. Thank you, OP&L!
Thurston County Proposition 1: Public Power
The first is responsiveness and accountability. Private companies are capable of providing excellent products and excellent customer service when they have a financial incentive to do so. If they must convince customers to buy their product, and then convince them to buy it again and again, they must keep those customers happy.
But that changes when the private company has a monopoly. When the customer literally has no choice other than to buy from a certain company, then – from a purely practical business perspective – any effort to please the customer is a waste of money.
Puget Sound Energy is a monopoly, the only electric power provider in Thurston County. (Sure, a few people live off the grid, but that’s not a reasonable option for most.) PSE’s goal as a company is to maximize income and minimize costs, including the cost of pleasing you. Sure, when the power goes out, they have to get it back on, but they don’t have to do it quickly. They don’t have to schedule an appointment at a time convenient for you, or act promptly to fix your billing problem, or open up their internal discussions to public review.
It’s not that PSE directors don’t care about you. It’s that they have a financial incentive not to care. They are accountable to shareholders, not to you.
(To a lesser degree, they are accountable to state regulators. You do remember when those regulators punished PSE for failing to get the power back for days, right? …Ha ha ha, sorry, that was a joke.)
You just get to pay your bill month after month. So whaddaya gonna do about it? Buy electricity from someone else?
A public electric utility is run by elected commissioners. If the customers (voters) get unhappy, they can vote out the board of directors (commissioners). Democracy never fully pleases everyone, but in this case democratic accountability creates a powerful incentive to be responsive to customer needs.
The second reason to support public power can best be summed up by this statistic: 22 out of 22. That is, there are 22 public utilities that currently provide electricity to local customers in Washington State, and all 22 of them charge lower rates than PSE.
The explanation is simple. Public utilities can buy power at lower cost, can borrow money at lower cost, and have no profit margin. It’s a public utility district trifecta.
PSE has tried to argue that government is so inefficient that it will still end up with higher rates. However, that hasn’t happened so far, 22 out of 22 times.
We’ll say it again, slowly: Public utilities… charge… lower… electric… rates… than… PSE.
Public power is more accountable and less expensive. Vote yes on Thurston County Proposition 1 for public power.