PSE plans minor electric, natural gas rate increases
September 9, 2010
NEW — 2 p.m. Sept. 9, 2010
Puget Sound Energy intends to make small increases to electric and natural gas rates Oct. 1 in order to adjust for costs of the utility’s low-income assistance program.
The utility made a request late last month to the state Utilities and Transportation Commission to approve the increases.
The request filed Aug. 31 aims to increase electric rates by an overall average of 0.004 percent — or 4/1000th of 1 percent — and natural gas rates by 0.03 percent — or 3/100th of 1 percent. The commission is expected to review the proposal Sept. 30.
The adjustment reflects the differences between the costs and the revenues collected during the past year to fund the Home Energy Lifeline Program, or HELP, and a small increase in total funding.
If the state approves the increases, a typical monthly electricity bill — based on 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity — is projected to increase by 4 cents per month, bringing the total monthly average electric bill to $99.68.
For a typical household natural gas bill — based on 68 therms of natural gas — the increase is projected to be 3 cents per month, bringing the total monthly average bill to $81.35.
Established in 2002, HELP is administered by 12 community action agencies and serves residents in the Bellevue-based utility’s 11-county Washington service area, provides bill-payment assistance to more than 25,000 customers and families each year.
Depending on income and household size, a qualified low-income customer can receive bill credits totaling up to $1,000 from HELP. The average grant amounted to about $400 per household during the 2009-10 winter heating season.
In addition to HELP, the federal government offers home-heating assistance through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP.
From October 2009 through July 2010, more than 59,000 qualified low-income PSE customers throughout the service area received grants totaling almost $25 million — $13.5 million in LIHEAP and $11.3 million in HELP.