State grants PSE rate increase request

State regulators approved a portion of Puget Sound Energy’s (PSE) request to raise electric and natural-gas rates.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) will allow PSE to raise electric rates by $56.6 million and natural-gas rates by $26.3 million a year. The new rates will go into effect March 4.

“With [the] foundation [of what we approve today], and considering our recent actions approving a power cost adjustment mechanism and power-cost only rate cases, the company should have every opportunity, with strong management and improvements in efficiency, to further improve its credit rating and strengthen its overall financial health.” said the commission in its written decision.

PSE’s newly approved rates will result in a 4 percent increase in residential electricity rates. For the average residential customer this translates to a monthly cost of about $3. The typical residential natural gas ratepayer will pay about $3.40 more a month for about a 4.7 percent increase.

Last April 5, PSE requested an $81.6 million annual increase in electric revenues and $34.3 million in new natural gas revenues. Under PSE’s request, the electric bill for the average customer would have increased $5.55 while the average residential gas bill would have risen by $4.90.

The commission made adjustments from the company’s proposal in electricity and natural-gas rates for power costs, transmission expenses, future natural-gas prices, property taxes, rate-case expenditures, professional advice and employee salaries.

The WUTC set 10.3 percent as a reasonable return on equity for the utility, rather than the 11.75 percent the company requested the commission to adopt.

Commission approval of an agreement by all the parties in the case will allow PSE to raise basic service charges for electric and natural-gas customers each month. Residential electricity customers will pay an additional 25 cents service charge, up from $5.50 to $5.75 a month. Increases for small business customers will be $1 monthly, from $5.50 to $6.50. Residential natural-gas customers will see their basic service fee rise 75 cents monthly, from $5.50 to $6.25.

The commission received 421 public comments, all opposing PSE’s rate-increase requests.

The WUTC is the state agency charged with setting the rates and regulating services for privately owned electric and natural-gas utilities in the state.
Bellevue-based Puget Sound Energy, the state’s largest electric and natural-gas utility, provides natural-gas service to 668,000 customers in King, Snohomish, Lewis, Kittitas, Pierce and Thurston counties. The company provides electric service to about 1 million customers living in 11 counties.