Puget Sound Energy wants to raise residential electric rates by 17% during the next three years. Higher rates would offset the rising cost of natural gas used to generate electricity and fund some large infrastructure projects.
But the company’s proposal contains unpleasant surprises. For example, a significant portion of the added revenue would defray costs of a $280 million power line project known as “Energize Eastside,” even though the project isn’t built or permitted yet.
Normally, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission allows PSE to charge customers for an infrastructure project only after it is in service. In this case, PSE puts the cart before the horse by asking the Commission to pre-approve this project. If the Commission agrees, PSE will start draining money from the pockets of 1.2 million electric customers, years before they receive any benefit from the project.
In its defense, PSE might claim the project is a “done deal,” but that is not clear. A recent study completed by the City of Newcastle found the project was not needed to serve demand from the city’s residents and businesses. Nor was any need found to serve a theoretical winter emergency scenario that justified the project eight years ago.
Energize Eastside is an expensive and obsolete solution for a type of power outage that has never happened and probably never will. PSE’s customers should not be forced to pay for an outdated project that benefits the company’s Canadian and Australian investors more than its local customers.