Benton PUD raises rates. Is Richland next?

Benton PUD electric bills will increase about 2 percent starting in October.
Benton PUD electric bills will increase about 2 percent starting in October. Tri-City Herald

Electric bills for Benton PUD customers will increase an average of 1.9 percent starting Oct. 1.

The Benton Public Utility Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to increase prices to pay for a 3.8 percent increase in the cost of electricity it buys from the Bonneville Power Administration.

Residential customers will see the increase in the daily base rate they are charged for service. It will increase from 55 cents to 62 cents a day, with customers paying for the amount of electricity they use in addition to the base rate.

The average monthly utility bill for residential customers is expected to increase from $113.40 to $115.50. That compares to a median monthly residential bill of $122 for comparable Northwest utilities, according to the Benton PUD.

The current Benton PUD residential base rate does not fully cover fixed costs of providing service to customers, and the PUD has chosen to gradually raise it, PUD spokeswoman Karen Miller said.

Other customer classes of the Benton PUD also will see a 1.9 percent rate increase starting Oct. 1.

BPA will raise its average wholesale rate the same day.

The amount Benton PUD is charged for BPA’s wholesale power will increase 3.8 percent. The cost of wholesale electricity is only part of the PUD cost for electric service included in customer bills, so the increase to customers will be held to 1.9 percent.

BPA has increased its rates as it makes less money from selling its excess energy into the wholesale market, which has seen dropping rates. That means BPA has less extra revenue to offset the rates it charges utilities, including the Benton PUD.

The BPA rate increases are affecting other utilities.

Franklin PUD raised rates 4.1 percent effective May 1. The increase, which was in the charge for kilowatt-hours used, increased the average monthly residential bill by about $5.

The Richland City Council is expected to discuss a 6.5 percent rate increase at its Sept. 19 meeting. If approved, the rate increase would take effect Jan. 1.

Benton PUD last raised rates in September 2016, implementing a 4.9 percent increase. That increase for residential customers included both an increase of 3 cents per day in the daily base rate and an increase in the charge for electricity used.

Annette Cary: 509-582-1533, @HanfordNews