Forum: Better planning by PUD could have avoided rate increase

The utility’s 5.8 percent increase appears to use PSE’s 17 percent increase as cover for its rate hike.

By Ignacio Castro Jr. / Herald Forum

The Snohomish Country Public Utility District is going to increase the electric rates for residential and small businesses by 5.8 percent, effective April 1 (“Energy bills to rise 5.8% next month in Snohomish County,” The Herald, March 17).

A rate increase for large businesses is not mentioned. A no-rate-increase for large business, if true, is not equitable to the majority of PUD customers.

In 2021, the PUD projected a 1.5 percent rate increase effective in 2024. Now, the PUD blames a bigger increase this year on inflation (actually continuing downward since 2020), supply chain issues (easy target to blame), and extreme winter events (at least two mild winters in the last three years including 2024).

The PUD also cites higher equipment costs, higher energy costs and higher compensation for workers. Strategic planning could have anticipated equipment needs earlier, potentially leading to pricing breaks. The same applies to “unexpected” energy costs. Improved projections of energy use and long-range plans could have identified some of the problems earlier also. Better negotiated energy pricing for the time frames of the energy needs could have reduced costs.

Higher costs for workers are the result of over-staffing higher paying positions and perhaps ineffective use of staff. The PUD’s claim that under-staffing has forced the overtime costs shows the result of this. According to the PUD, overtime costs increased from $9 million in 2017 to $24.5 million in 2022. The PUD does not offer the overtime costs for 2023 or 2024 to-date. Given the PUD’s increasing trends, the overtime paid in 2023 and potentially for 2024, are probably higher. Better management could have and should have kept these costs down. It is not too late for 2024.

One of the PUD’s justifications for the rate increase is for “crucial investments in infrastructure and technology.” Many government grants have been given to the PUD for these kinds of projects. No explanation is offered about the use of the millions of dollars provided by these government grants. The most recent publicized government grant was for $30 million dollars. There have been others over many years.

Interestingly, the PUD rate increase comes after Puget Sound Energy, itself, announced rate increases. The PSE rate increases, if approved, will be 17 percent for electric customers (residential and/or commercial?) and a 20 percent increase for natural gas customers. PSE has over 150,000 customers in Snohomish County.

The PUD does not need to leverage its actions to increase rates using PSE’s actions as leverage.

The PUD solar array project in South Everett is probably being planned with government grants. One of the selling points for this project is to use some of the project revenue to donate to another new program to provide grants for households who need help with energy bills. This may be a worthwhile cause, but it should not be used as justification for use of government funds meant for other uses.

A better plan might be to scrap the project, reduce rates for households in need, and do away with the need to give away PUD revenue. Unused solar array projected costs savings including maintenance and service costs could also be used to help households in need. Strategic planning could have identified this.

Ignacio Castro Jr. lives in Edmonds.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Opinion

Editorial cartoons for Saturday, June 22

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

FILE - Lion Air's Boeing 737 Max 8 sits on the tarmac at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali, Indonesia, April 13, 2019. Indonesia said Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021, it is lifting its ban on Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft, three years after one crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all 189 people on board. (AP Photo Nicole Evatt, File)
Editorial: Boeing quality proving difficult to recapture

The company seeks to assure its rededication to quality, but recent news is getting in the way.

Comment: Mobile home residents need help to stave off eviction

Site rental fees are increasing beyond what tenants, often seniors, can afford. Immediate aid is necessary.

Comment: Public-centered process needed for political borders

Partisan influence affected the state’s legislative redistricting process, forcing late and disruptive changes.

Comment: City’s, county’s self-insurance disadvantages workers

Self-insurance allows claims to be too easily denied. Recent legislation restores some fairness.

Forum: Summit on policing will start ongoing conversation on reforms

The June 29 event in Everett offers panel discussions and interviews with law enforcement and others.

Editorial cartoons for Friday, June 21

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Schwab: Ruling removes all doubt for expanded Supreme Court

The bump stock ruling, effectively legalizing machine guns, makes it necessary to dilute the majority.

Herald journalists should be paid a living wage

As a subscriber who depends on The Herald to inform me about… Continue reading

Call members of Congress and urge support of vaccine funding

With the covid vaccine, a new malaria vaccine, and a tuberculosis vaccine… Continue reading

Biden isn’t who should drop out of race

I had wanted to respond to Bret Stephens’s New York Times opinion… Continue reading

Paul: Some folks doth protest to no effective end

Some of us are not interested in performative protests that generate more heat than outcomes.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.