LEWIS PUD INCREASES RATE EFFECTIVE SEPTEMBER 1, 2011
On August 15 Lewis County PUD Commissioners decided to increase retail electric rate in two steps, 8% effective September 1, 2011 and 5% effective May 1, 2012. The increase is primarily the result of a wholesale power rate increase from the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and Washington voter Initiative 937 which requires the PUD to supply a portion of its power from renewable resources. BPA is increasing rates by 7.8% on October 1, 2011, and Initiative 937 requires the PUD to purchase high cost wind power that it does not need.
BPA made the decision to increase the power rates that it charges public utilities like Lewis County PUD even though nearly all public utilities in the Pacific Northwest argued against an increase. Lewis PUD and public power encouraged BPA to cut costs in order to keep power costs stable during the current economic recession, however, zero-increase arguments pretty much fell on deaf ears at BPA.
Lewis County PUD currently gets nearly 100% of its power from the BPA at relatively low cost (even with the BPA increase); approximately 3 cents/kwh. However, in 2006, the voters of the state of Washington approved Initiative 937 which requires public utilities, including Lewis PUD, to supply 3%, 9%, and 15% of their power from renewable resources by 2012, 2016, and 2020, respectively. Even though over 85% of Lewis PUDs supply is from clean, non-carbon emitting, hydroelectric resources, hydroelectric power does not count as renewable for purposes of Initiative 937. The result, Lewis PUD and other public utilities in the State of Washington have had to purchase high cost wind power (in the 6 to 10 cent/kwh range) that they do not need and is no cleaner than the hydroelectricity the PUD already delivers to customers.
Lewis County PUD, along with other PUDs and Public Utilities in the state have been working with local state legislators to modify I-937 to remove the requirement to purchase renewable power when it is not needed to meet load and to include hydroelectric power as renewable. To date this effort has been unsuccessful, as the environmental and legislature interests from the Puget Sound area have been opposed to the change.