Discover Our Pacific Northwest Power System

EIOC Building at Pacific Northwest National Labs
Photo Credit: Andrea Starr | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

The state of Washington is the home to many power-system companies and institutions that are helping to innovate the electric grid.  

Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, typically known as SEL, is located in Pullman, Washington. Founded by Washington State University graduate Dr. Edmund O. Schweitzer III in 1982, the invention of the SEL-21 was the start of the companies rise to success. Since then, SEL has become employee owned, with more than 5,000 employees worldwide.  

SEL’s goal is to create and distribute products that can successfully automate power grids worldwide and preventing blackouts among those power systems and grids.  

SEL is also active in the Pullman community, hosting Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) nights at local elementary schools, letting students experiment and play with various types of science-related activities.  

Additionally, as a part of their training program, SEL has their “SEL University” which is a training program that the company puts on to train engineers, power system technicians, and managers to be better equipped to work for the company.  

Avista is another Pacific Northwest based power institution, Avista provides electricity to over 400,000 customers and natural gas to over 350,000. Avista is headquartered in Spokane, Washington, and their services are widely available in the Western Washington and Eastern Idaho regions, but parts of North-Eastern and Southern Oregon are also serviced.  

According to their website, 60% of the energy that Avista generates is renewable.  Avista has laid out a set of goals in terms of clean electricity. Their goal is to have a 30% reduction of greenhouse gas by 2030 and to be carbon neutral by 2045.  

Located about two miles east of Meydenbauer Bay leading to Lake Washington, Puget Sound Energy (PSE) is headquartered in Bellevue, Washington, serving 1.2 million customers with electricity and over 900,000 with natural gas. PSE has a goal of reaching a carbon-free emission by 2045. 

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is located in Richland, Washington, about four miles away from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, and focuses on research about renewable resources and energy storage.  

According to their website, PNNL has registered 2,977 patents since 1965, 247 inventions and published 1755 articles.  

PNNL was founded in 1965, on the Hanford Nuclear Site, and now has over 5,000 employees.  

New legislation in Washington, passed in 2021, requires the largest industries in Washington to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 95% by 2050.  

Some of the largest companies in Washington state are already ahead of the mandate. Organizations such as Microsoft, have made plans to be carbon negative as soon as 2030. To be carbon negative means companies are working to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, as well as not producing any.  

Finally, Washington State University Campuses located across the state offer a pipeline for power professionals to join these companies, utilities, and laboratories to innovate on power generation. WSU partners with these organizations to create unique partnerships. One of these partnerships is the Advanced Grid Institute with Pacific Northwest National Labs. At the 2022 AGI Day WSU Tri-Cities Chancelor Sandra Haynes stated, “It is clear this region is ready to lead into a clean energy future.” 

Co-Director of the Advanced Grid Institute and Edmund O. Schweitzer III Chair in Power Apparatus and Systems Noel Schulz Echoed the sentiment telling Washington State University Magazine “Eastern Washington is really a ‘power’ power. “As you look at PNNL, WSU, Avista, Schweitzer Engineering Labs, and Itron, we really have a lot of innovation coming out and working on solutions on the next grid.”