KIRO NEWSRADIO

Puget Sound Energy customers now paying more as rate hike takes effect

May 1, 2024, 6:43 PM

Image: Puget Sound Energy crews prepare for a windstorm....

Puget Sound Energy crews prepare for a windstorm. (Photo courtesy of PSE Flickr)

(Photo courtesy of PSE Flickr)

Puget Sound Energy (PSE) customers will now be paying more for natural gas and electrical service, as a new rate increase took effect Wednesday.

According to PSE, a typical residential electric customer will now see an average monthly bill increase of $4.11. A typical residential natural gas customer will see an average monthly increase of $7.68. Those are higher numbers than previous estimates from last year, which indicated a less than $2 bump for either service.

The rate changes are a result of several factors. One is the rising price of natural gas in the wholesale market. However, the main impact comes from the increasing number of customers now participating in the Schedule 129 Low-Income Program. The grant money from that program is rapidly being used up, according to PSE spokesperson Melanie Coon.

“This has caused the available amount of funding to decline at a faster rate than anticipated. To ensure customer needs are met, we are seeking additional funding for the remainder of the program year,” Coon told KIRO Newsradio.

Related coverage: Puget Sound Energy rate hikes are about to hit customers

She also said this rate increase is not related to the Climate Commitment Act or House Bill 1589, which was recently passed by the state legislature. It’s also not connected to a two-year plan PSE recently submitted to the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) outlining their strategy for natural gas and electric service costs in the future.

More electric and natural gas rate hikes expected in 2025

However, that two-year plan will mean additional costs for PSE customers, on top of the increase, starting in Jan. 2025. If the UTC approves the request, an average monthly bill would increase by $7.84 for a typical electric customer. For natural gas, it would go up around $13.96 on average.

In 2026, another $11.20 would be added for residential electric customers and $1.51 for residential natural gas customers. Those rates, however, are not set in stone. The UTC has the authority to set final rates that may vary from PSE’s requests, either higher, lower or structured differently. The agency is expected to deliver a decision on the plan in mid-January.

Unlike the rate hike that took effect Wednesday, the proposed two-year plan’s rates are largely driven by the state’s climate laws. The plan includes significant investments to advance clean energy and provide safe and reliable service to PSE’s more than 1.5 million customers, according to the company. The rate increases would, among other things, funnel hundreds of millions of dollars to the Beaver Creek wind farm and the Baker River hydroelectric project. Numerous other existing facilities would also see significant upgrades or modernization.

PSE said it continually works to keep costs reasonable for customers, including a new bill discount rate in the plan that allows qualified customers to save between 5% and 45% on their bill each month. Another program rolling out this fall is designed to help customers with past-due balances.

You can read more of Kate Stone’s stories here. Follow Kate on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email her here.

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Puget Sound Energy customers now paying more as rate hike takes effect