Planned Puget Sound Energy rate hike gets hearing

Staff writerMay 15, 2013 

Puget Sound Energy customers can comment on a proposed four-year electric and natural gas rate plan agreed to between commission staff and the utility, a plan that could raise some electric customer’s bills by 3.4 percent or $3.29 more each month for service.

Although the staff, PSE and other groups have agreed to the plan, it still needs to be approved by the three-member state Utilities and Transportation Commission.

The public UTC hearing is set for 6 p.m. Thursday at 1300 S. Evergreen Park Drive SW, Olympia.

Of the 80 public comments the commission has received so far, 78 are opposed and two are undecided about the proposed rate increase.

The UTC commission will make a final decision this spring, and the agreement could take effect as early as July 1. If the proposed multi-year rate plan is approved, here is some of what would happen, according to a UTC news release:

  • Residential electric customers using an average of 1,000 kilowatt hours per month would pay 3.4 percent or $3.29 more each month for service.
  • Residential natural gas customers using an average of 68 therms per month would see a 1.7 percent or $1.33 increase in their monthly gas bill.
  • In each subsequent year, electric and natural gas customers would see about a 1 percent average annual increase in rates at least through 2015.
  • PSE annual electric revenues would increase $53.1 million or 2.6 percent and annual natural gas revenues would rise by $9.6 million or 1 percent. But, PSE could not file further rate increases before April 1, 2015.
  • The proposal also includes a mechanism for “decoupling” PSE revenue from how much electricity the customer uses. Some argue “that this removes the utility’s disincentive to conserve energy because its revenues are no longer based on the customers’ usage,” the news release states.

Other groups that have agreed to the plan include the NW Energy Coalition, Northwest Industrial Gas Users and The Energy Project.

Bellevue-based PSE serves more than 1 million electric customers and about 750,000 natural gas customers in Western Washington.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403

rboone@theolympian.com

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