As green initiatives take the spotlight on the world’s stage, Puget Sound Energy continues to bring the local region into the future of efficient energy. Above and beyond providing energy to more than one million customers across 10 counties, PSE has also set up the Powerful Partnerships Program, currently in its sixth year. Past Outreach Manager Nicholas Hartrich of PSE and Development Director Jessica Hess of Kulshan Community Land Trust — this year’s recipient of the Powerful Partnerships Grant — sit down with WhatcomTalk to discuss their collaboration within the program and what the program means to our community as a whole.

“Powerful Partnerships with Puget Sound Energy is focused on driving awareness and supporting our communities through non-profit work,” says Hartrich. “The Powerful Partnerships Program is for nonprofit agencies throughout the Puget Sound area and the goal is to partner with the community and help organizations achieve sustainability goals internally and in their community.” As a major energy provider, PSE understands the foundation of its business is the communities and customers it serves every day.

The Powerful Partnership Program was created to support nonprofits throughout the Puget Sound area. Photo courtesy: Puget Sound Energy

“Community is central to PSE’s business. We’ve got customers, customers use energy, we support our customers in helping bring more energy efficiency to their homes and businesses, and we provide renewable energy options as well,” says Hartrich. “Those go hand in hand and PSE has a strong belief that to get to a clean energy future, we need to work together with our community — that’s really the essence of the Powerful Partnership.”

The grant is open for any Puget Sound-area nonprofit that’s interested in enhancing their sustainable practices. For the second time since the Partnership grant was created, Kulshan Community Land Trust was selected with the importance of their mission in mind.

“With housing affordability being the number one issue facing Whatcom County right now, KCLT works really hard to shorten the gap in housing affordability,” says Hartrich. “They work with community members to get them placed into homes and to preserve housing affordability for future generations. KCLT can utilize the funding in whatever method they wish. It’s mission critical to them and we just know they are one of the best agencies to do the work.”

Powerful Partner Woodland Park Zoo cleaned up their mountain goat exhibit with the help of PSE’s grant. Photo courtesy: Puget Sound Energy

Kulshan Community Land Trust aims to maintain affordability in their homes indefinitely, a goal the Partnership grant supports particularly well. “Kulshan Community Land Trust helps low to moderate income families buy homes in the community,” Hess says. “Our homes stay permanently affordable, so it not only benefits the first family that lives there, but every family into the future that gets to call that house home.”

Not only has PSE helped support KCLT’s main mission, but they’ve also made it possible to dramatically lower utility costs in many of the homes.

“We are grateful to receive the Powerful Partnership Grant this year as we were also a beneficiary in 2019,” Hess says. “We’ve been able to put solar panels on some of our homes because of their support — that was huge. Adding those solar panels means utility costs are close to zero, which is really awesome, especially when we’re trying to make sure they will be affordable for a long time and make sure our families’ monthly utility costs are also affordable in addition to their mortgage payment.”

In all, PSE has made it possible to provide solar panels to 12 of KCLT’s new Telegraph Townhomes, which are already incredibly energy efficient.

PSE has helped make it possible for solar panels to be installed on 12 Telegraph Townhomes as a part of the Kulshan Community Land Trust. Photo courtesy: Kulshan Community Land Trust

For PSE, it’s pretty simple. These homeowners are customers and, therefore, are an integral part of the community. “It’s just a natural fit,” says Hartrich, “to reduce electrical use in each home and essentially bring more affordable housing to the forefront. By reducing energy bills, it makes the cost of housing more affordable.”

The common goal for both KCLT and PSE is to remain a source of leadership in the community and set an example for other businesses.

“I think businesses of any size have an opportunity right now to show true leadership, and leadership in energy revolves around creating more renewable energy options — specifically programs like green power, solar choice, and community solar,” says Hartrich. “PSE has been working in renewables for 20 years and our Green Power Program just celebrated its 20th year. One of the first customers in that program was from Bellingham, so Bellingham and the Green Power Program have a long and established successful history. For utilities, PSE is definitely on the forefront for working renewable energy.”

The Powerful Partnership Program helps sustain local nonprofits, providing support for some of the most deserving agencies in our local area and this year, PSE granted Kulshan Community Land Trust the support they need to strengthen their crucial vocation in Whatcom County.

For inquiries about Powerful Partnerships or energy support in Whatcom and Island Counties, please contact Outreach Lead Hunter Hassig at hunter.hassig@pse.com.

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