Hikes will vary by service category
Okanogan County Public Utility District (PUD) residential ratepayers will pay 5% more for power starting this week. The new rates for residential accounts include a basic monthly charge of $39.95, plus 5.441 cents for the first 2,000 kilowatt hours (kWh). That’s $1.90 per month more than last year for the basic charge, plus 0.0314 cents more for the first 2,000 kWh.
The PUD commissioners approved the increases at their meeting on Monday (March 28). The rate increase, an average of 3.75% for all service classes, was included in the budget approved last year. It takes effect on Friday (April 1).
Residential customers get the highest rate hike, based on a cost-of-service study that showed residential customers were further from paying their share of the PUD’s cost of providing power to them than other customers.
The new residential rates preserve two tiers, so that customers pay more for any use above 2,000 kWh in a month. Each kWh above 2,000 will cost 7.019 cents, or 0.0098 cents more than last year.
The increase for small general service — most business accounts — is 3.25%, with a new base charge of $46, up from $43.30. The new cost per kWh is 6.23 cents, an increase of 0.0139 cents, with an additional demand charge for businesses that use more than 50 kilowatts in a month.
Large general service and industrial customers will see a 1.87% increase, with the new base charge at $30.10, up from $25.40, and the cost per kWh up by 0.084 cents. Irrigation customers will pay 2.5% more, and frost control, 10% more.
The new rates also remove the $14.95 monthly basic charge for domestic wells, switching them to the regular residential basic charge of $39.95. This change affects 181 meters, which were found to have been paying less their full share. Moreover, the PUD has no way of confirming that the meter serves only one residence’s domestic well, according to PUD Public Relations Coordinator Sheila Corson.
There is an additional component of the rate structure called the Cost of Power Adjustment, which is adjusted for all customers every April 1 based on the PUD’s overall cost of power. This year, that went from 0.006 cents per kWh to 0.03057 cents. That component of the electric bill is automatically adjusted every April, either up or down, based on the PUD’s cost of power.
The PUD has raised rates in recent years — rather than borrow money — to fund regular maintenance on aging infrastructure. In addition, construction and equipment costs have increased, Corson said.
The PUD is financing larger projects, including the rebuild of the Okanogan-Brewster transmission line and the Tonasket substation, with a $40-million bond issue. The bond also covers replacement of power transformers.
Last year also saw higher power costs, finding the PUD $1.7 million short of what it had budgeted for power in 2021, Corson said.
Editor’s note: This article was edited on April 4, 2022, to correct a statement about the annual Cost of Power Adjustment.