PSE looks to hike power rates again

Puget Sound Energy is asking the state Utilities and Transportation Commission for a 4.7-percent electrical rate increase that would take effect April 1. The increase, if passed, would be the second granted the company in less than two years.

Marilyn Meehan, spokeswoman for the commission, said PSE is seeking the increase to purchase a part of a gas-fired power plant in Pierce County, near Frederickson.

“They are seeking to recoup some of the amount of money to purchase half of the plant,” said Meehan.

The money needed, which would be passed along in the form of a rate increase, is about $80 million according to the PSE plans.

Meehan said the process of passing a rate increase includes a five-month regulatory review, a prehearing conference and testimony from regulatory committees and members of the public.

“If approved, it would go into effect April 1 of next year,” said Meehan.

Compared to the rest of the country, Meehan said she has found local utility rates to be lower in Washington. The region’s reliance on hydropower keeps utility rates down, she explained.

“Other places don’t have that resource,” said Meehan.

Grant Ringle, a spokesman for PSE, said the increase would be permanent, changing only when the commission changes the imposed rates. The last rate increase from PSE was 4.6 percent in July 2002.

With the increase, the average monthly residential bill of $52.85 a month would rise by $3.42 to $62.28, according to spokesman Roger Thompson. This is a 5.8-percent increase.

The 4.7-percent average is 1.1 percent lower than the increase going to residential customers, Thompson said. Large volume users, like large industrial companies, use up to 100 times that amount of energy. They would see a smaller rate increase.

“Not everyone would see the same percentage rate on their bills,” Thompson said.

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