Sample Grant Proposal: Low-Income Wind Energy Project 4
Even if all low-income households could be converted to gas heat, the problem would not be
solved: PSE just raised gas prices 18% in March 2003. More and more, the gas and electric
markets have become intertwined in Washington. Most of the new electric generation plants in
Washington are gas-fired. As a result, natural gas prices have themselves become more volatile,
and conversion to gas heat no longer provides the low-cost, stable utility bills that it once did.
Increasingly, the cost of natural gas is linked to the cost of electricity. Figure 2 shows how
natural gas prices at the Sumas Hub in Washington State have begun to track area electric prices.
Even as residential energy costs are rising, Washington’s employment outlook is darkening. A
US Bureau of Labor Statistics report for April 2003 shows Washington with the second highest
unemployment rate (7.3%) of any state. The national rate for the same period was 6.0%.
Washington is being particularly hard hit by the loss of high-paying jobs at Boeing. Because of
cut-backs in the airline industry since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Boeing has
been forced to lay-off 33,890 workers over the past 19 months and plans further cuts (Seattle P-I,
6.20.03). Boeing is also facing stiffer competition. On June 20, 2003 the AP reported,
“European plane manufacturer Airbus won a $5.1 billion order for up to 32 wide-body planes
from Gulf carrier Qatar Airways yesterday, snatching another deal from Boeing….Until last
week, the airline was considering its first purchase of Boeing planes.” Because Boeing is such a
large employer in the Puget Sound area, the loss of these high-paying jobs has a negative ripple
effect throughout the area.
And so low-income electric-heating households are caught between rising electric rates and
negative job growth.
At the same time as companies like Boeing are downsizing, one industry in Washington State
is poised for growth: wind energy. A recently completed wind map shows that Washington
compares favorably with other states in available wind resources (see Figure 3 below; a more