Update (August 21st, 2023): This post has been updated to reflect current Seattle-area utility rate increases.
While Seattle and much of the Pacific Northwest receive around 80% of their electricity from hydropower, Seattle-area residents are now experiencing the steepest increases in household energy costs in a decade due to rising electricity costs and a spike in natural gas prices. As Scott Montgomery, a geoscientist and lecturer at the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies mentions, “The cost increase is linked to maintenance work on the electricity transmission and distribution systems.”
It’s worth noting that hydropower dams don’t need maintenance every year, but when they do, upgrades are costly. As one would expect, these expenses are now being shifted to consumers in the form of higher electricity bills.
And while maintenance on critical power infrastructure decreases the amount of energy produced by hydropower, utilities have turned to natural gas for electricity generation, which has resulted in household energy costs in the Seattle area increasing by 10% in the past year.
It’s no wonder that solar energy system installations have increased in popularity in the Seattle area. In fact, “Puget Sound Energy has seen the number of customers jump from 10,000 in 2020 to 17,000 [in 2023],” said Leslie Moynihan, PSE’s product manager for customer-connected solar.
With attractive Washington solar incentives available for Seattle residents coupled with federal solar incentives, Washingtonians are finding that rooftop solar can mitigate the rising cost of owning a home.
Update (August 7th, 2023): This post has been updated to reflect current utility rate increases administered by Avista Utilities.
In March 2023, Avista Utilities filed an Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for electric and natural gas service with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC).
If the filing is approved, customers could see a 6% increase in electric rates in Washington state.
Update (January 6th, 2023): This post has been updated to reflect current utility rate increases administered by Puget Sound Electric, Portland General Electric, and Pacific Power.
Many Northwest homeowners will need to brace for utilities raising electricity rates, as well as gas, come January 2023. Utilities are citing pressures from inflation, and the need to meet regulatory compliance guidelines as their response to the proposed rate increases.
Here’s what five of the biggest utilities in Washington and Oregon have planned for utility rate increases.
Puget Sound Energy. PSE customers could see their utility bills increase by 12.9 percent by January 1, 2023. The utility’s proposal to the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission includes price increases of 12.9 percent in 2023 and between 1.2 and 2.7 percent in 2024 and 2025. This upward trend in cost affects other forms of energy too. PSE customers should also expect an 11.9 percent increase in natural gas prices beginning in 2023.
- Updated January 6th, 2023: The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission increased utility rates for customers effective January 1st, 2023. Initially, Puget Sound Energy sought a 12.9% increase, however, this was rejected in favor of an 8.7% increase. The resulting rate increase will amount to customers’ bills going up by around $7.75 per month.
“Much of the funds raised through the higher rates will target decarbonization efforts and lowering carbon emissions, according to Jarrett Tomalin, PSE’s customer communications manager.”
After significant pushback from customers, and the NW Energy Coalition, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission rejected the 12.9% increase for a less impactful 8.7%.
Pacific Power. PacPower has also made it clear that it wants to raise electricity rates for Oregon customers by more than 12 percent in 2023. They cite higher power costs, general inflationary pressure, as well as increasing costs associated with wildfire planning and mitigation. This increase to its over 600,000 Oregon customer base is the largest general rate increase the utility has requested since 2010.
- Updated January 6th, 2023: Effective January 1st, 2023 Pacific Power customers’ utility bills will increase by 15%.
“In a press release, the company said a typical residential customer using 900-kilowatt hours per month can expect monthly bills to increase from $91.89 to $111.34.”
As with Portland General Electric, the utility cites “fuel cost increases and supply chain delays caused by global events, combined with increasing volatility in regional electricity markets, [which] drive the price for utilities to produce and purchase electricity.”
Portland General Electric. On January 1, 2022, the Oregon Public Utilities Commission approved a price increase for PGE customers of about 4 percent. It wasn’t long after on April 2022, the Oregon Public Utilities Commission gave PGE permission to increase rates again by an aggregate of 3.2 percent.
- Updated January 6th, 2023: Effective January 1st, 2023 PGE customers’ utility bills will increase by 6%. A typical PGE residential customer who uses 780-kilowatt hours per month will see an increase of around $8 on their monthly bill. The utility cites increases in the cost of producing and purchasing electricity as the reason for the increase.
Seattle City Light. SCL’s plan would be to consistently raise electricity rates from 2023-2028. The rate increase amounts to a 4.5 percent increase annually for the first two years, then increases of 3 percent for the remaining four years. While the average rate increase across all customer groups is 4.5 percent, residential customers will see their rates increase to approximately 5.7 percent.
Snohomish PUD. While SnoPUD applied a residential base increase to their customer’s electricity bill on April 1, 2022, this addition amounted to a general rate increase. What’s more, this base charge is scheduled to increase incrementally over the next four years, which falls in line with the general trend utilities are implementing with regard to their hopes of increased revenue starting in 2023.
The best way to stay ahead of increases? Solar. The sun doesn’t raise its rates. Click to get started on a free, no-pressure quote.