By Pat Jenkins
Puget Sound Energy has filed a request with state regulators to lower electric bills by passing through a higher amount of the federal energy exchange credit for residential and small-farm customers.
If the request, which was filed last Wednesday, is approved by the state’s Utilities and Transportation Commission, residential customers using an average of 1,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity a month can expect a nearly 6 percent reduction in their monthly bills for one year, from June 2014 through May 2015, according to Puget Sound Energy (PSE). That’s a drop of $5.89, which would take the average monthly statement from about $99 down to roughly $93.
The increased credit — made under an agreement between the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and PSE — passes through a nearly $63 million payment for PSE customers from the federal Columbia River benefits supplied by BPA.
A PSE spokesman said the payment addresses the full amount owed to PSE customers of the residential and farm exchange benefits established under the 2008 Residential Exchange Interim Relief and Standstill Agreements.
BPA has provided the residential exchange credit since 1981 to customers of investor-owned utilities under the Northwest Power Act of 1980, which requires the sharing of federal power benefits with all residential and small farm customers in the region.
Puget Sound Energy provides electricity for 1.1 million customers and also serves more than 770,000 natural gas users in 10 counties, including Pierce County, where there are customers in the Graham, Spanaway, Eatonville and Kapowsin areas.
The proposal for a cost-break for PSE customers comes about one year after increases were granted. Last June, state regulators gave PSE permission to raise electric and gas rates for each of the next three to four years, but there were limits on the size of the increases.
The utilities commission allowed PSE to increase residential electric customers’ rates by 3.34 percent in 2013, while natural gas rates changed by 1.55 percent. The new rates would produce $52.3 million of additional revenue for PSE’s electricity operations and $9.1 million for its natural gas system, officials said.
During the next three to four years, the company may increase rates a maximum of 3 percent of PSE’s annual revenue, with any excess amounts above the 3 percent recovered in the following year, the commission said in approving the rate adjustments last year. The increases are expected to be substantially below the level the company has received over the past several years, according to the commission.
Among the purposes of the multi-year rate plan is to provide the company with incentives to cut costs. Ultimately, those efficiencies will benefit consumers, commission officials said.