Electricalrates going higher

Published on Thu, Sep 15, 2005 by eg Olson

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Electrical rates going higher

By Meg Olson

Blaine electric rates are set to go up again, but this time it isn’t because the cost of power is rising. It’s because the city’s cost of delivering it has gone up.

“In the last few years we’ve just changed the energy charge,” said Blaine public works director Steve Banham at the September 12 Blaine city council meeting. “In this case, it’s the fixed costs. Our operating expenses have gone up.”

Since a substantial jump in the cost of wholesale power led the city to raise rates 22 percent in September 2001, the city has raised or lowered rates every six months as the cost of buying the energy from Bonneville Power Administration changed – rates have gone up three times, down three times and stayed the same one time despite an 8 percent power cost increase.

Banham said the city electric utility needs a 5 percent increase in revenue to keep its fund balance healthy, but suggested council had some options other than just raising the energy charge component of the rates. One of those would be to raise the base charge for power service to residential and commercial users. “It tends to spread it across the customer base in a different way. Our base rates right now compared to Puget Sound Energy are way lower,” he said. “The fixed component of our operations is under-represented and we’re relying on heavy users to make up the shortfall.”

City council member Bonnie Onyon wanted to see comparisons between Blaine and Puget Sound Energy rates to large commercial users to get an idea if the city presented a competitive environment for industry.

“Our energy charge tends to be skewered in favor of the residential users,” Banham said. “My impression is because they vote.”