PUD rate increase would bump up average residential bill $2.56 a month

EVERETT — The average residential electricity customer will pay $2.56 more per month if a proposed rate increase by the Snohomish County Public Utility District is approved as planned.

The overall rate increase of 2.9 percent is needed to offset increases in costs, officials said.

The PUD expects to face an $11 million annual deficit without the increase, general manager Steve Klein said.

Annual transmission costs paid to the Bonneville Power Administration for hydroelectric power in 2012 will be $7 million higher than 2010.

The utility also faces a $10 million bill for re-licensing its Jackson hydroelectric plant, and increasing costs for its conservation programs, such as for compact fluorescent light bulbs, and for assisting low-income customers with electric bills.

Additionally, the PUD is losing a projected $7 million in annual revenue from the closure of the Kimberly-Clark plant in Everett, one of its largest industrial customers.

“It’s not any one thing,” Klein said.

A public hearing on the proposed rate increase is planned for Feb. 7. The three-member board of directors could vote on the plan Feb. 21 and if approved it will take effect April 1.

Residential rates would rise 3.1 percent, and commercial and industrial rates would rise 2.5 percent, for an average of 2.9.

Residential customers with electric heat would pay an average of $3.86 more per month, while a customer who lives in an apartment with gas heat would pay an average of another $1.59.

The average commercial or small industrial customer would pay an extra $12.89 per month while the average large industrial customer would pay an additional $9,266.

The PUD approved a small increase of 0.9 percent last fall as a pass-through of a BPA increase, Klein said. The utility’s last significant rate increase was 3.5 percent in 2009.

The PUD’s residential rates would still be lower than its two neighboring utilities after the increase for a household using 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity in a month.*

The PUD charges residential customers $82.55 for that much electricity. After the increase, the monthly cost would rise to $85.11.

Seattle City Light, after a major increase two years ago, now charges $86.78 for 1,000 kilowatt-hours in a month, while Puget Sound Energy charges $97, according to figures from the utilities.

It’s not certain how long the rate increase will hold, Klein said. Utility planners try to look ahead five years, but each year will be different, Klein said.

“We’d rather have the discussion each year,” he said.

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.

* Correction, Jan. 26, 2012: The PUD’s cost per kilowatt hour and Seattle City Light’s prices were incorrect in a previous version of this story.

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