Tacoma City Council meets power crisis by passing surcharge increases

“The Tacoma City Council amended Chapter 12.06 of the Tacoma Municipal Code at its Tuesday, Dec. 19 meeting–which gives the council authority to impose increased rates and charges for electric power service–temporarily–in the wake of the recent power crisis.The surcharge will be in effect until midnight on March 31, 2001, provided the Public Utility Board initiates a reduction or elimination of this surcharge.Here are the surcharge rate increases which may be changed if conservation efforts help the power shortage situation, or if the weather conditions improve.Schedule of Charges:- Residential Class 43%- Incidental Class 40%- General Class (with distribution discount) 74%- Contract Industrial Class 58%- Street Lights and Signs Class 66%- Private Lighting Class 8%The Project Need Program will be expanded to address the needs of lower-income citizens and Tacoma Power and the city will attempt to provide additional funding for the program.There is an obligation on the city’s part to have the increase, because of state law (RCW 80.28.010) requirements.The requirements are that the rates Tacoma Power charges for power must be sufficient and Tacoma Power’s bond covenants require that Tacoma Power must …establish, maintain and collect rates and charges which shall be adequate to provide…net revenues in an amount equal to at least 1.25 times the annual debt service for each year.The resolution also calls upon businesses, government agencies and residents in Tacoma to conserve power, especially during peak periods between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. It also asks that customers turn on their holiday lights only between 8 p.m. and midnight.Motorists passing the Tacoma Dome after dark these days will notice the city-owned complex has turned off its decorative outdoor lighting. Conservation will help during this period when the price Tacoma Power pays for electricity on the open market has skyrocketed and too little water behind Tacoma’s power-generating dams means the utility can’t generate enough power of its own at lower rates.That’s why at city hall, officials have ordered a number of actions designed to either save or generate electricity:Central Wastewater Treatment Plant:Due to low rainfall, the Central Wastewater Treatment Plant is at low flows, which allows Public Works Environmental Services to operate the plant with half the processing units shut down. Also due to low flows, Environmental Services can scale back certain treatment processes during peak usage times and still meet water quality standards. By operating with minimum lighting and heating requirements, Environmental Services saves even more electricity.Decorative bridge lighting:The Public Works Department has shut off decorative bridge lighting on the East 34th Street Bridge, Murray Morgan Bridge at 11th Street and the State Route 509 cable-stay bridge.Low level decorative pedestrian lighting:Pedestrian lighting downtown (Pacific Avenue, Broadway and Commerce Connection), in neighborhood business districts and along Ruston Way were shut down beginning Monday, Dec. 18. This process will take about three weeks to implement. Arterial street lighting:After completing the shutdown of pedestrian lighting, Public Works will begin reducing arterial street lighting by shutting down either one side of the street or every other light. A few old circuits in Tacoma do not have this capability and will be left at their current lighting levels. This process will take five weeks.Water fountains:Public Works shut off the pumps for the downtown decorative water fountains on Monday, Dec. 18.Steam Plant No. 2 generation:Public Works has deferred planned maintenance on Steam Plant No. 2 on the Tide flats to keep it operational during the peak of this shortage. The plant, which burns garbage and other fuels, currently produces 13 megawatts of electricity at $70 per megawatt hour-far less than the cost to buy power on the open market. Public Works will work overtime to start generating up to 30 megawatts of power by Jan. 1. “