Clallam PUD commissioners approve budget, rate increase

Clallam County Public Utility District commissioners have approved a 2018 budget that includes a 4.8 percent average increase in retail electric utility rates.

District commissioners voted on Jan. 29 3-0 to approve a $66.9 million electric system budget, which was balanced through the use of $2.6 million in reserves.

The 4.8 percent electric rate increase will take effect on bills rendered on or after April 1, PUD officials said after last week’s vote.

“This electric rate increase is consistent with the strategic plan objectives of maintaining stable rates and financial responsibility to our customers,” PUD General Manager Doug Nass said in a news release.

“Although rate increases are not popular, they are necessary given the challenges to these objectives. Even with these challenges, we are fortunate to have amongst the lowest electric utility rates in the state and country.”

The budget also includes a 7 percent average retail rate increase for water and sewer customers.

That increase, which was approved with the 2017 budget for three consecutive years, will appear on this month’s bills.

The PUD’s electric utility is challenged by minimal load growth due to weather, conservation and development and the increasing cost of wholesale power, district officials said.

The Bonneville Power Administration, which supplies power to the Clallam County PUD and other local utilities, increased its wholesale rate by 5.4 percent last October.

Another increase of 2 percent is expected in April because of higher spill over the Snake River dams, PUD officials said.

“In addition, there are the added costs of meeting the mandates of Washington’s Energy Independence Act, personnel costs that include health care and retirement obligations and planning for capital improvements and infrastructure replacement,” PUD officials said in the news release.

The PUD’s approved electric budget for 2018 shows $64.3 million in revenue $66.9 million in expenses. A $2.6 million draw on reserves would leave $21 million in the electric fund reserve, according to a budget summary.

The $7 million PUD water system budget uses $304,396 in reserves. The sewer budget is $58,492 and spends $5,992 in reserves.

PUD officials say the water and sewer systems face challenges of aging infrastructure, limitations on capital financing and regulatory mandates.

“By planning for incremental rate increases over three consecutive years, we achieve that rate stability while allowing us to maintain the water quality our customers have come to expect while planning for future infrastructure replacement and growth,” Nass said.

Clallam County PUD serves about 30,000 electric customers, 5,000 water customers and 60 sewer customers. For information on the PUD, visit www.clallampud.net.

Rob Ollikainen is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. He can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

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