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PUD plans to raise rates by 1.3 percent

SNOHOMISH COUNTY — The county’s power utility plans to nudge its rate with a 1.3 percent increase.
If approved, the rate increase isn’t scheduled to go into effect until April. It would need to go through a public hearing first. PUD spokesman Aaron Swaney said that hearing could be in March.
The increase would add an additional $1.50 or so to an average monthly bill.
The utility currently charges a little under 10.4 cents per kilowatt hour, and the 1.3 percent increase would make the rate close to 10.5 cents per kilowatt hour. A sample household uses 1,500 kilowatt hours a month depending on energy usage, and about 2,000 kilowatt hours during winter.
The rate increase is to cover an anticipated shortfall in the five-year outlook that includes a future, undefined large project which the PUD board has not voted on.
As a rule of thumb, every 1 percent increase adds $6 million to the PUD’s coffers, Chief Financial Officer Glenn McPherson told the PUD board Dec. 18.
Customers told the utility previously that they prefer small increases versus sudden, large ones, McPherson said.
“While we have strong operating reserves today, we see the need to modestly raise rates for a large project,” he said.
Rates are not set based on the immediate year’s budget but based on the utility’s five-year outlook on revenues, he said.
In related news, the PUD’s board approved the 2019 budget in a 3-0 vote at its Dec. 18 meeting. There were no public comments on the budget.
The budget, shy of $700 million, includes funding $93 million in capital projects. It also commits $21.7 million for programs to help customers reduce bills, $6.3 million in low income discounts to assist qualifying customers and pays
$83 million toward fish and wildlife efforts on the Columbia River by one of the PUD’s suppliers, the Bonneville Power Administration, the utility wrote in a media release.
In other news, the utility is phasing out its Planet Power fundraising program to pay for installing solar panels at schools and nonprofits. It is replacing the program with a forthcoming Community Solar program, where people can “purchase” shares of solar energy generated by a new 500-kilowatt solar panel array in Arlington, called a microgrid system, without needing to install a home solar panel system.
The microgrid array could become operational in June by the utility’s schedule estimates. Each unit purchase provides a credit to the customer for their portion of the system’s production, according to the PUD website.



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