Puget Sound Energy hikes electricity, natural gas rates

May 15, 2012

By Staff

Issaquah residents started paying more for electricity and natural gas May 14.

In a recent decision, state utility regulators allowed Puget Sound Energy to increase rates 3.2 percent for electricity and 1.3 percent for natural gas customers.

The average residential electric customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours-per-month should pay about $3.30 more, for a bill total of $102.56. The typical natural gas customer using 68 therms per month should pay $1.08 more, for a bill total of $86.09.

The state Utilities and Transportation Commission allowed PSE to raise electricity rates by $63.3 million per year and natural gas rates by $13.4 million per year — less than the $161 million and $32 million, respectively, the utility requested in June 2011.

The basic monthly service charge of $7.25 — paid by all residential customers regardless of their electricity usage — increased by about 23 cents to $7.48. The basic service charge for residential natural gas customers increased 50 cents per month, from $10 to $10.50.

Starting Jan. 1, 2013, electricity customers should receive a credit each for a share of proceeds and benefits from the sale of surplus renewable energy credits. The average residential electric customer should receive a bill credit of about $8.28 a year.

The renewable energy credits, or green tags, represent the right to claim the environmental attributes of a renewable generation project, such as a wind farm or the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill.

PSE intends to include additional revenues annually from renewable energy credit sales. The utility is required by state law to generate a certain percentage of electrical output using renewable energy. If the company creates excess generation from renewable resources, resulting renewable energy credits can be sold.

The commission approved a 17-cent-a-month rise in residential electricity customer contributions to PSE’s low-income bill assistance program, from 59 to 76 cents per month.

Commissioners approved the rate hikes May 7, and the updated rates took effect a week later.

The three-member commission last approved a PSE rate increase in April 2010.

Ratepayers opposed the most recent hike. The commission received 778 public comments regarding the proposed rate-increase proposal — 733 in opposition, three in favor and 42 undecided.

“The commission’s responsibility in general rate case proceedings is to determine an appropriate balance between the needs of the public to have safe and reliable electric and natural gas services at reasonable rates, and the financial ability of the utility to provide such services on an ongoing basis,” commissioners said in a decision to increase rates.

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

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