The Snohomish County PUD Board of Commissioners approved the 2021 budget for the electric system on Tuesday, including staff’s recommendation to forego a general rate increase for the fourth consecutive year.
The PUD’s residential electric rate will remain 10.4 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in 2021, keeping it competitive with other Northwest electric utility rates and below the national average of 12.95 cents/kWh.
“This past year has been a challenge for many of our customers and I’m glad that we’re able to deliver on our promise to bring affordable power to those we serve,” said PUD GM/CEO John Haarlow. “It’s a credit to our staff who continue to work hard to keep costs down and find new and innovative ways to operate the business more efficiently.”
In October, PUD rates could be adjusted once the Bonneville Power Administration incorporates its rates and credits that pass-through to PUD customers. This adjustment is expected to be at or below inflation overall, with the potential for flat to decreased rates for PUD residential customers. Details will be shared with BPA’s customers, including the PUD, in July.
PUD Commissioners also approved the budget for the utility’s water and generation systems on Tuesday.
The PUD’s 2021 forecasted energy retail sales are down approximately $5 million from 2020 budgeted retail sales, due in large part to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March, the PUD’s commercial and industrial sales are down approximately 6%, while residential sales are up about the same due to workers and students spending more time at home.
Despite declining energy consumption in its service area, the PUD was able to avoid a general rate increase through the diligence of staff’s cost cutting measures, increased efficiencies and reprioritizing select capital projects. In addition to continuous improvement efforts, the PUD also reduced costs through a reduction in staff travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, removal of contingency contracts, delay or removal of some vacant positions and a shift of training to online instead of in-person.
The PUD’s 2021 operating budget basically remained flat at $660 million in comparison to the 2020 operating budget electric system.
The 2021 budget provides for continued investment in capital funding to improve system reliability, including maintenance and upgrades to aging poles, lines and transformers, as well as to equipment at the PUD’s five hydroelectric plants. The 2021 budget includes funding for major maintenance and a related two-week shutdown of the PUD’s Jackson Hydroelectric Plant.
The PUD’s budget will also continue to robustly fund energy-efficiency programs, income-qualified assistance programs and fish and wildlife recovery efforts.
The PUD’s water customers will also see no rate increase in 2021. Despite the rising costs of purchasing water and operations and maintenance, the approved water system operating budget includes no plans to raise the retail rate in 2021. Capital improvement projects to the PUD’s Warm Beach system, Walker Hill reservoir and Lake Stevens treatment plant are included in the budget.