Puget Sound Energy President Kimberly Harris on Monday told a gathering of elected officials, transportation planners and auto-industry representatives in Bellevue that her utility is prepared to support the integration of plug-in electric vehicles into Western Washington’s transportation system.

During a one-day regional workshop at PSE’s Bellevue headquarters, Harris said PSE intends to actively help manufacturers, municipalities and electric-vehicle purchasers enhance their deployment of plug-in automobiles as the vehicles start entering the Puget Sound marketplace this fall. The “Get Plug-In Ready – Now!” workshop was coordinated by Puget Sound New Energy Solutions, a partnership of Central Puget Sound municipalities, utilities, housing and transit authorities, and others that addresses energy, economic and environmental challenges.

In her remarks, Harris told attendees, “Half of our region’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation. We will need to focus on examining our distribution infrastructure and collaborate with local governments, vehicle manufacturers, and charging developers to help support and educate our customers about the benefits of new vehicle technologies.

“At PSE, we are committed to doing our part to ensure that consumers and businesses can connect their new vehicles and power them with our regional electric grid. Vehicles run on PSE’s electricity will have roughly half the greenhouse gas emissions and one-third of the fuel cost of those run on conventional gasoline.”

The workshop to help public and private entities prepare for this fall’s market arrival of electric vehicles included a parade of electric vehicles driven to the event by attendees. More than a dozen local elected officials as well as representatives from the King County Executive’s Office, state Department of Transportation, state Department of Commerce and the C7 New Energy Partnership (the Cities of Bellevue, Kirkland, Issaquah, Mercer Island, Redmond, Renton, and Sammamish), major car manufacturers and other organizations involved in the deployment of electric vehicles participated.

Also on the day’s agenda with Harris were King County Executive Dow Constantine, EPA Regional Administrator Dennis McLerran and Congressman Jay Inslee, D-Wash.

Constantine announced the county’s plans to work with local city governments and Charge Northwest to install 125 charging stations in King County. “This is the first step in creating a public and private network of charging stations that will put King County at the forefront of the electric vehicle revolution,” Constantine told attendees. “This will give drivers more confidence that the infrastructure will be in place before they purchase an electric vehicle, and it will help local auto dealers convince customers that an electric vehicle is a practical investment.”

Congressman Inslee recapped the policies to support electric vehicles that are already included in a national energy bill and cited electric vehicle-related projects that have benefited from federal stimulus funding, noting that they have created new jobs. According to Inslee, electric vehicles are key to rebuilding the U.S. economy. “It’s not just a transportation or environmental imperative; it’s an economic imperative that the U.S. be a leader in these new technologies,” he said.

Harris said PSE supports the use of electric vehicles and other alternative-fueled vehicles by its customers. The utility expects to see several thousand electric vehicles purchased and over 1,000 public charging stations installed in its electric service area over the coming two years. As new electric vehicles come on the market in late 2010 and beyond, Harris said, PSE will work with residents and businesses, government agencies, and automakers to ensure that Western Washington can smoothly integrate the next generation of technologies into its transportation system.