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Docket numbers: UE-121373, UE-121697, UG-121705, UE-130137, UG-130138 Editor’s note: This news release reflects the position of energy staff of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) and NOT the views of the three-member commission. It discusses a staff recommendation that the commissioners have not yet reviewed. Any positions taken or comments offered by the commission staff regarding this proceeding should be attributed clearly to staff members and NOT to the UTC.
OLYMPIA, Wash. – Electric and natural gas customers of Puget Sound Energy (PSE) are invited to comment to state regulators on the utility’s proposed multi-year rate plan and electric “decoupling” proposal at a public hearing on May 16 in Olympia.
The hearing will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 16, at the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC), 1300 S. Evergreen Park Dr. S.W., Olympia.
Commission staff members reached a multi-party settlement agreement on a four-year plan for PSE’s request to increase electric and natural gas rates.
The proposal includes a mechanism for “decoupling” the company’s revenues from how much electricity the customer uses. Decoupling proponents argue that this removes the utility’s disincentive to conserve energy because its revenues are no longer based on the customers’ usage.
The three-member commission, which is not bound by the staff recommendation, will make a final decision on the utility’s rate request this spring. The agreement could become effective as early as July 1.
PSE and the commission staff calculated that if the settlement agreement is approved by the commission, a residential electric customer using an average of 1,000 kilowatt-hours-a-month would pay 3.4 percent, or $3.29, more each month for service. A residential natural gas customer using an average of 68 therms per month would see a 1.7 percent, or $1.33, increase in their monthly gas bill. In each of the subsequent years of the settlement agreement, PSE electric and natural gas customers would see about a 1 percent average annual increase in rates at least through 2015.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, PSE annual electric revenues would increase $53.1 million or 2.6 percent and annual natural gas revenues would rise by $9.6 million or 1.0 percent.
If approved by the commission, this proposed settlement resolves several pending PSE issues, including a coal-transition contract with TransAlta, a rate case and a decoupling plan. The TransAlta purchase power agreement sets the stage for closing the state’s remaining coal-fired electric generating plant by 2025. Decoupling is a program that reimburses the utility when it fails to recover its fixed cost of providing electricity due to customer participation in conservation programs. PSE will expand conservation programs for customers to receive rebates for high-efficiency appliances, insulation and water heaters. Additional money from the decoupling program will allow PSE to increase low-income bill assistance funding by 20 percent.
A provision in the settlement agreement states PSE cannot file for further rate increases before April 1, 2015.
The commission has received 80 public comments to date on the PSE rate increase proposal – 78 opposed and two undecided.
In addition to the UTC staff and the company, three other parties, including the NW Energy Coalition, Northwest Industrial Gas Users and The Energy Project, signed the settlement agreement.
Bellevue-based Puget Sound Energy serves more than 1 million electric customers and nearly 750,000 natural gas customers in parts of Snohomish, King, Pierce, Lewis, Thurston and Kittitas counties in Washington.
The UTC is the state agency that regulates private, investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities in Washington. It is the commission’s responsibility to ensure regulated companies provide safe and reliable service to customers at reasonable rates, while allowing them the opportunity to earn a fair profit.
The UTC is committed to providing reasonable accommodation to meeting participants with disabilities. If you need reasonable accommodation, please contact the commission at (360) 664-1132 or email@example.com