Snohomish County PUD plans a 1.3% electricity rate hike

The utility said it averted a larger rate increase through cost control measures.

EVERETT — The Snohomish County Public Utility District has approved a new budget that includes a proposed 1.3 percent increase in electric rates.

The rate hike must get a public hearing and be voted on by the utility’s three-member commission before it can be implemented, PUD spokesman Neil Neroutsos said.

The commission is expected to take up the issue early next year, Neroutsos said.

If the PUD rate increase is approved, it’s likely to go into effect in April.

The average residential electric rate is currently about 10.4 cents per kilowatt-hour. The rate increase would bump that up to about 10.5 cents.

A household that uses 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month would pay roughly $12 more per year should the new rate go into effect.

The PUD said it averted a larger increase through cost control measures, including limits on new hires, the use of fewer external consultants and reduced employee travel.

For 2019, the PUD is planning for a $665 million operating budget for the electric system. That’s up slightly from the 2018 budget of $663 million.

The utility has been adding about 3,000-plus new ratepayers per year. While power consumption has generally gone down since 2008 due to conservation efforts, power consumption is expected to be slightly higher this year. The PUD estimates that it will add about 3,600 new connections in 2019.

The budget will fund $93 million in capital projects to maintain the electric system’s reliability.

Those projects include construction of new substations and upgrades to existing facilities. Funds are also slated for vehicle replacement and design work for a new regional office in Arlington. The office would be next to the new Arlington Microgrid and Clean Energy Technology Center near the Arlington Municipal Airport. The solar-powered microgrid is expected to go online in 2020.

The 2019 budget also includes energy efficiency funding of $21.7 million for programs to help ratepayers reduce bills and low-income discounts of $6.3 million to assist qualifying customers.

“The budget reflects our ongoing commitment to our customers, investments to meet future needs and responsible cost and fiscal management,” said John Haarlow, the utility’s CEO and general manager.

The PUD serves 352,000 electric customers and 20,000 water customers across a service area of 2,200 square miles that includes Snohomish County as well as Camano Island in Island County.

Janice Podsada; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods

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