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Commission staff rejects most of Puget Sound Energy’s rate-increase request
Nov. 17, 2009
Olympia, Wash. – Staff members of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) today rejected most of a proposed rate increase for Puget Sound Energy’s (PSE) electric and natural gas customers.
The three-member UTC, which is not bound by the staff recommendation, will make a final decision on PSE’s rate-increase request early next spring. New rates are expected to take effect approximately April 1.
In May, PSE asked the commission to increase its annual revenues by more than $148 million for electric service and nearly $27.2 million for natural gas service. However, in written testimony filed with the UTC, commission staff members said the company should be allowed a slight increase in electric revenues of .3 percent, or $5.8 million a year. UTC staff is advising PSE’s natural-gas rates should go up .6 percent, a $7.1 million annual increase in the company’s revenues.
Commission staff is also suggesting the basic service charge for electric customers should increase 2 cents to $7.02 a month. In addition, staff members are proposing a $10.19 monthly customer service charge for natural gas customers, up from the current $10.
Under the UTC’s staff recommendation, the average residential electric customer using 1000 kilowatt hours-a-month would see an increase of 30 cents, for a proposed $92.61 total monthly bill. If approved, the average natural-gas customer using 70 therms a month would pay about 64 cents more, for a revised $82.63 total monthly bill.
Commission staff also is recommending PSE be allowed the opportunity to earn a 10 percent rate of return on equity, not the 10.8 percent the company is requesting.
In addition to the UTC staff and the company, about a half-dozen other parties in the case filed testimony today. Each party represents a different PSE ratepayer group: residential customers, conservation promoters, large electricity and natural gas users’ groups, businesses and low-income customers.
PSE customers will be able to comment to state regulators on the proposed utility rate increase at three meetings. The first meeting is scheduled at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 7 in the Norm Dicks Government Center, Suite 600, City of Bremerton, 345 6th Street. The second meeting will be held at 6 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 10 in the Lake Washington Technical College Auditorium, City of Kirkland, 11605 132nd Ave N.E. The third meeting will be held at noon, Tuesday, Jan. 19 in the second-floor hearing room at the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, City of Olympia, 1300 S. Evergreen Park Dr. SW.
The commission has received 131 public comments to date on PSE’s rate increase proposal – with none in favor, 125 opposing and six undecided. Customers who are unable to attend the public meeting but wish to comment on the proposed rate hike can mail their correspondence to: P.O. Box 47250 Olympia, Wash. 98504, e-mail email@example.com or call toll-free 1-888-333-9882.
Bellevue-based PSE serves more than 1 million electric customers and about 750,000 natural gas customers, primarily in the Puget Sound region of 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.
Editor’s note: A copy of the UTC staff members’ testimony is available at: http://www.utc.wa.gov.
Staff contact: Amanda Maxwell