State again rejects PSE rate increase

After trying a second time to convince state officials to give their company a rate increase, Puget Sound Energy executives walked away from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission empty-handed Wednesday.

Saying the company was looking at credit downgrades and losses from the sale of electricity to other utilities, the PSE officials asked the WUTC’s three commissioners for permission to raise $84 million through increased electricity rates.

The company made the same request in September, but its action was dismissed by the WUTC in early October. Bringing the issue back on appeal this time, the company again tried to prove it has suffered enough financial harm to warrant a new cash infusion.

In its decision, the commissioners said they were not convinced.

“We repeat that our decision to dismiss its request for extraordinary rate relief is based solely on PSE’s failure to provide sufficient evidence showing that its actual financial condition warrants any kind of rate relief, let alone a power cost adjustment applied on an extraordinary basis,” the commission wrote.

The rate increrase the company requested would have translated into an approximate 18 percent jump in residential electricity rates for customers around the state and on Whidbey Island. In terms of dollars and cents, the hike — which the company hoped to impose on Nov. 1 — would have cost the average residential customer an extra $11.60 a month.

Grant Ringle, a PSE spokesman, said Thursday his company wants to avoid the situation that sent two of California’s largest electric utilities into bankruptcy last spring. Federal price caps on the sale of electricity on the wholesale market and low reserves at the company’s hydroelectric facilities could put PSE in financial trouble, he said.

“And that serves no one’s interest,” he said.

Ringle said PSE will go ahead and file for a permanent rate increase later this month. It will take the WUTC about 10 months to consider that request

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