PUD adds baseline fee to bills starting April
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Your power bill will increase by about $3 per month starting this April, but so will your neighbor’s, as the Snohomish County PUD is adding a fixed base charge to its monthly rates.
The price for metered usage, measured by per kilowatt hour, is staying the same.
People living in apartments and townhouses will be charged eight cents per day for the base charge. People in houses will be charged 10 cents a day because houses use more amps.
The rate structure change was approved by the PUD’s elected board of commissioners Jan. 18.
What’s the purpose of a base charge, though?
Stability and predictability for the utility are two factors. Making things fairer for customers is the other, said Brian Booth, the utility’s senior manager for rates, economics and energy risk management.
The utility has heard customer concerns about high bills during winter because of power usage, Booth said.
The PUD’s plan, as it stands today, is to marginally decrease the meter cost for power use while increasing the base charge each year during the next four years.
The money would go toward major expansion and upgrade projects to the distribution system that will increase safety and reliability for PUD customers, utility spokesman Aaron Swaney said. The system also plans to build a new switching station and new power lines.
The base charge earnings would also help cover the business cost of connecting newly built houses into the power grid.
The Snohomish County PUD was one of the few utilities without a base charge for residential, Booth said. Commercial customers have paid a base charge for at least 25 years, Booth’s data showed.
New houses are far more energy efficient on electricity today, but most also get hooked up to natural gas and sometimes get equipped with all-gas appliances or heat.
For the PUD, the situation is like receiving paper cuts from both ends. The PUD spent approximately $2.5 million in labor, wire and more to add electricity to nearly 5,650 new houses last year.
Natural gas is served by Puget Sound Energy in much of the county; the Cascade Natural Gas Corp. covers north county.
Customers with solar power systems will be billed this base charge like everyone else. The energy credits homeowners with solar earn by putting electricity back into the power grid are banked against metered power use but cannot be used to pay utility service fees, Booth said.
The PUD last increased rates in 2017. It planned to increase rates in 2020, but held off when the coronavirus pandemic arrived.
In 2019, the PUD’s commission approved creating a base charge and planned to put it into effect last year, but postponed introducing it until 2022.
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