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Economic and dam related articles

Rate Hike is Fourth in Five Years

by Michael Dashiell
Sequim Gazette, July 2, 2014

Lower Granite Dam in SE Washington state impounds the Lower Snake forty miles up beyond the Idaho border. On July 1, customers of Clallam County Public Utility District 1 saw a bump in their electric utility rates. It's a familiar sight and something PUD officials say they should get used to.

For the fourth time in five years, the county's PUD commissioners agreed to raise rates as costs of operating the utility district rise.

This year's increase that went into effect July 1 is a 3.5 percent increase, coming on the heels of rate increases in 2010 (8 percent), 2012 (3 percent) and 2013 (3 percent).

The increase amounts to a $3.35 per month increase for the average PUD residential customer who uses 1,200 kilowatt hours per month.

PUD customers users now pay 6.9 cents per kilowatt hour (plus service charges). Prior to 2010, Clallam County PUD customers were paying 6.2 cents per kilowatt hour.

"Customers can expect about a 3-percent increase each year for the foreseeable years," said Mike Howe, Communications and Government Relations manager for Clallam County PUD 1.

"This rate increase is consistent with our strategic objective of maintaining stable rates and financial responsibility to our customers," PUD general manager Doug Nass said in May, not long after commissioners agreed to the newest rate increase.

Like other private and public entities, PUD's costs of providing services increase as well, PUD officials say -- not the least of which is the rise in rates from the Bonneville Power Administration. In its biennial budget set on October 2013, the BPA raised the rates by approximately 9.5 percent. Bonneville represents the largest cost center for the utility district, accounting for about 45 percent of the PUD's annual total budget.

Howe said about half of the newest rate increase makes up for Bonneville's rate hike and the other half from an expense increased mandate by Washington state. Howe said that Clallam County PUD officials, concerned citizens and groups such as the Public Power Council ( are active in scrutinizing Bonneville Power Administration ratemaking and policies, particularly in biennial budget talks that often see double-digit rate hikes proposed.

"We try mitigate it best we can," Howe said.

In the past decade consumer utility rates from Clallam County PUD stayed constant through the early and mid-2000s -- save for the seasonal irrigation rate adjustments -- until the 2008 rate hike. For additional information about the Clallam County Public Utility District 1, see

Michael Dashiell
Rate Hike is Fourth in Five Years
Sequim Gazette, July 2, 2014

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