No PUD electricity rate hike this winter

Monthly electric rates for Clallam County Public Utility District customers won't increase this winter despite a 7-percent wholesale rate increase from the Bonneville Power Administration.

"By spreading the wholesale increase over two years, we can manage our budget so it is not necessary to increase retail rates this winter," said Clallam PUD treasurer Josh Bunch.

"By operating efficiently and managing our finances conservatively, we saved enough money to absorb the higher wholesale power costs and still maintain a strong financial position in this challenging economic climate."

Clallam PUD buys 98 percent of its electricity from the Bonneville Power Administration, which increased its wholesale rate by 7 percent effective Oct. 1.

Spokesman Jeff Beaman said instead of taking that 7-percent wholesale increase all at once, the commissioners opted to take a 4.95-percent wholesale increase effective Oct. 1 and another 2-percent wholesale increase effective Oct. 1, 2010. Under either option, the net increase in the PUD's wholesale power costs would be the same but spreading it over two years means retail rates wouldn't increase this winter, he said.

Typically when Bonneville increases its wholesale rate, the ensuing retail rate increase is about half that.

The district charges its residential electricity customers a $15 flat monthly rate, plus 6.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of energy used.

An average residential customer using 1,500 kilowatt-hours a month pays the $15 flat rate plus $93 for energy use or a total of $108 a month.

Clallam PUD board president Will Purser said the commissioners wanted to balance the district's financial needs with that of their customers.

"We felt it both financially responsible and in the best interests of our customers to defer any rate increase for customers in light of the current economic conditions.

"Because the higher wholesale power costs create an ongoing increase in our costs, we may have to revisit the need to increase retail rates around the middle of 2010," Purser said.

Clallam PUD serves about 28,500 electricity customers in Sequim, Forks and the unincorporated areas of Clallam County, plus the Port Townsend Paper Corp. mill.

Clallam PUD last increased its retail electricity rates in April 2008 by an average of 5.5 percent.

Reach Brian Gawley at

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