Politics & Government

PSE's natural-gas, electric rates to rise

OLYMPIA - State regulators allowed a rate increase Friday for natural-gas and electric customers of Puget Sound Energy.

The three-member Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission approved a 2.8 percent rate increase for electric customers and 0.8 percent increase for gas customers.

The new rates likely will take effect next week.

The utility had asked for a 7.4 percent boost in electric rates and a 2.2 percent boost in gas prices.

Under the commissioners’ decision, a typical utility customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity month will see a monthly increase of about $2.80. For a typical natural-gas customer, the increase in his or her monthly bill will be about 87 cents.

In addition, the utility commission approved increases in what the company can charge customers to pay for the utility’s conservation programs – $1.78 a month for electric customers and 45 cents a month for gas customers.

The combined increases will raise an average monthly bill for residential electricity to $97 and an average monthly cost for natural gas to $80 for residences.

The utility also allowed Puget Sound Energy to raise its basic service charge to $7.25 a month from the current $7 for electric customers.

Most of the difference in what the company asked for and received is found in the rate of return on equity that the state regulators allowed – 10.1 percent, compared with 10.8 percent requested by the company.

The commission also excluded some utility-requested salary increases and special retirement accounts for top executives.

On the power-supply front, the commissioners approved the utility investment in a Longview natural-gas-fired power plant, expansion of the Wild Horse wind farm near Ellensburg and sale of the White River hydropower project.

The UTC received 630 public comments on the rate-increase request – 606 opposed, 19 undecided and five in favor.