Puget Sound Energy announcement.
Puget Sound Energy has filed a three-year rate plan request with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) — a plan that provides safe and reliable energy and accelerates efforts toward meeting ambitious clean energy goals and enhancing climate resiliency.
For residential customers, the proposal would increase rates in the first year by a net of 12.9% for electricity and 11.9% for natural gas, starting in January 2023, with increases of between 1.2 and 2.7% in the second and third years. If the request is approved, a typical residential electric customer would see an average monthly bill increase of $12 and a typical natural gas customer a monthly increase of $9 next year.
The proposal enables the next phases of the transition to a clean energy future, including meeting the 2030 and 2045 carbon-reduction targets set by the 2019 Washington Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA), as well as recovery of approximately $3.1 billion in reliability and service upgrades made over the past four years that are not currently factored into rates. Additionally, the proposal includes nearly $10 million per year in expanded assistance for low-income and economically disadvantaged customers.
“We’re asking more of our energy infrastructure now than ever before, whether it’s to help withstand the demands of record-setting weather such as we saw in 2021 or to do our part in meeting the challenge of climate change by 2030 and beyond,” said Andy Wappler, Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer. “Our proposal enables our region to lead in supplying reliable, clean energy while also doing more to support those who are struggling in the current economy.”
Actions proposed by PSE include a new discount rate for low-income customers and seniors, increased funding for low-income bill payment assistance, as well as a new program that would forgive the debt of eligible customers facing significant past-due balances. These proposals would build on the more than $53 million in bill payment assistance the utility has made available since April 2020 through its Crisis-Affected Customer Assistance Program (CACAP). To date, these on-going programs, developed in coordination with the UTC and community advocates, have assisted more than 90,000 local families.
“Higher bills are never welcome, yet failing to build a stronger, cleaner grid is the wrong choice for providing our customers with resilient, low-carbon energy they can count on every day,” Wappler said. “Our rate proposal seeks to make progress toward both the new technologies we need to drive our economy and the creation of jobs for tomorrow all while providing a helping hand right now.”
Historically, PSE residential electric bills have increased at less than two percent per year for the last 10 years, with PSE residential gas customer bills declining over the same period.
“We encourage all of our customers to make sure they are taking full advantage of our energy efficiency rebates and tips, too, to make sure their energy dollars aren’t wasted,” Wappler noted. “Our online energy analysis tools and our team of Energy Advisors can help everyone use their electricity and gas wisely.”
Washington state has set ambitious goals for clean energy and many customers and stakeholders want PSE to go further and faster to achieve those goals. To comply with the state’s Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA), PSE will significantly increase the amount of clean electricity in its portfolio over the next four years moving to more than 60 percent clean electricity by the end of 2025, up from 34 percent in 2020. In January 2021, Puget Sound Energy set an aspirational goal of being a Beyond Net Zero Carbon energy company by 2045, by targeting the reduction of carbon emissions to net zero and going beyond that by helping enable carbon reduction in other sectors across the state of Washington.
Following the proposed first-year rate increase, requested increases in the second and third year include 2.7% and 1.2% in 2024 and 2025 for residential electric customers and 2.2% and 1.7% for residential gas customers.
Energy infrastructure improvements reflected in the request include:
- PSE’s Baker River hydroelectric project to maintain the safety and integrity of a vital source of carbon-free energy
- The Energize Eastside transmission project serving as the backbone of growing Eastside communities that haven’t been upgraded since the 1960s
- Complete installation of PSE’s advanced metering infrastructure to replace obsolete equipment with meters that enable robust, two-way communication, which will be essential as we add more clean energy resources to our grid
- Investments in strengthening and modernizing the electrical grid to improve the system’s resilience and reliability, especially during severe weather and other peak demand events resulting from climate change
- Support for electric vehicle adoption, including PSE Up & Go public charging stations and customer education around electric vehicles
- Installation of Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) such as local rooftop, ground solar and battery storage programs to double what they are today in partnership with homes and businesses
- Continued modernization and decarbonization of the natural gas pipeline system, improving pipeline safety and reliability and integrating low carbon fuels such as renewable natural gas and green hydrogen
- Significant upgrades to customer-facing technology and online self-service tools to improve efficiency and enhance customer experience
Business customer increases would vary according to the tariff service categorization for electric and natural gas customers.
Proposed changes by service schedule
The requested electric increase by service schedule is as follows:
|Secondary Voltage (8,11,12,24,25,26)||8.18%||2.18%||1.18%|
|Primary Voltage (10,31,35,43)||7.15%||2.31%||1.27%|
|High Voltage (46,49||1.55%||1.96%||1.55%|
|Retail Wheeling (449-459)||-2.84%||1.29%||0.20%|
|Total Retail Sales||10.56%||2.47%||1.22%|
The requested natural gas increase by service schedule is as follows:
|Commercial & Industrial (31, 31T)||14.50%||2.50%||2.00%|
|Large Volume (41, 41T)||12.08%||2.05%||1.64%|
|Interruptible (85, 85T)||22.10%||4.12%||3.37%|
|Limited Interruptible (86, 86T)||4.10%||1.78%||1.61%|
|Non-exclusive interruptible (87, 87T)||19.47%||2.71%||2.17%|
In Washington, any proposed rate changes for an investor-owned utility undergo a review process of up to 11 months by the UTC, which has the authority to set final rates that may vary from PSE’s requests, either higher or lower or structured differently, depending on the results of its review.