TransAlta Grants More Than $1M to Lewis County PUD


The Lewis County Public Utility District is set to receive a seven-figure grant from TransAlta for the second time in three years.

The Centralia Coal Transition Grants Weatherization Board has awarded $1,080,000 to the PUD to continue the work towards energy efficiency objectives kickstarted by the $1.7 million grant awarded to and from the same parties in 2017. 

Those efforts included providing ductless heat pumps to low-income residents of Lewis County, weatherization improvement programs and installing upgraded lighting and HVAC systems used by schools within the PUD footprint.

Lewis County PUD Power Supply Manager Matt Samuelson said he expects the majority of the funds to be used for ductless heat pumps and that based on the number of applications received for the first influx of grant funds, the money will be spent well before the end of the 2019-2020 timeframe attached to the award.

“We’re looking to make a positive impact on the community,” Samuelson said. “It allows us to provide the incremental funds necessary in order to provide the same energy savings benefits to low-income customers that they would not otherwise be able to achieve. The benefits of what we do through this program last year after year. People will save money on their power bills for many years to come.”

Lewis County PUD will receive the grant funds on Jan. 8, according to Samuelson. Unlike the previous grant, which came in two installments, this one will be in the form of one lump sum.

The PUD will then open up applications for the three programs. Most submissions come from contractors submitting paperwork on behalf of their clients. Schools tend to contact the PUD directly in conjunction with a contractor.

Grant funds obtained in 2017 were used to install 13 ductless heat pumps at Napavine Elementary School, giving each classroom its own HVAC system while saving the school district about $3,000 annually.

“Early on, it became very apparent that energy efficiency upgrades are needed in homes, schools and businesses across our community,” said Mickey Dreher, a representative of TransAlta who sits on the Weatherization Board, in a press release. “As a board, we continue to see that the transition funding dollars can be leveraged through various programs and based on what the PUD was able to achieve with their first grant, the board fully supported their most recent application.”

The Weatherization Board was formed as part of the agreement reached in 2011 between TransAlta and the state of Washington to shut down the coal-fired portions of its Centralia power plant by 2025. A total of $55 million is set to be doled out by three Centralia Coal Transition Funding Boards in conjunction with that agreement.