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Benton PUD raises home, business power bills

Benton PUD rates will increase 4.9 percent starting Sept. 1. It serves customers in Kennewick, Prosser, Benton City and surrounding areas in Benton County.
Benton PUD rates will increase 4.9 percent starting Sept. 1. It serves customers in Kennewick, Prosser, Benton City and surrounding areas in Benton County. Tri-City Herald file

The electric bill for the average household served by the Benton PUD will increase $5.50 a month starting Sept. 1.

The public utility district commission approved a 4.9 percent rate hike at its Tuesday meeting. It covers all customers, including business and residential customers.

For residential customers, the average monthly bill will increase to about $113. The PUD says it still remains lower than the median monthly bill for comparable Northwest utilities of $121.

The increase for residential customers will include an increase in the base charge of three cents per day to 55 cents — or about 90 cents a month — and an increase in the charge for electricity used.

The increase follows a 3.9 percent increase a year ago. Before that, Benton PUD had not changed its rates for almost four years.

The rate increase approved Tuesday was driven mostly by the utility’s increasing costs to buy power to distribute to its customers.

Net power costs, which represent more than 60 percent of the PUD’s total spending, have increased $14.7 million since 2012, or nearly 23 percent, according to the PUD. Power costs include long-term contracts to buy power, primarily from the Bonneville Power Administration.

BPA’s rates have increased 25 percent in the past five years because of the need to upgrade aging infrastructure at hydroelectric dams, build transmission capability for renewable resources such as wind, and spend more money on fish and wildlife programs, according to the PUD.

The Benton PUD also has made less money from selling surplus power. It generally has more power than is needed to meet its customer demand and sells any surplus into the wholesale market. But wholesale market prices have sharply declined since 2008.

The PUD offers discounts of 10 percent to 25 percent to help low income seniors who are at least 62 years old and low income households with a member who is disabled.

It also uses money donated for its Helping Hands program to offer assistance for low income customers.

For information on applying for help, call 509-582-2175.

Annette Cary: 509-582-1533, @HanfordNews

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