No Rate Increase in PUD 3’s 2018 Budget

Mason PUD 3 Commissioners Tuesday adopted a $71.5 million budget for 2018 that does not include an increase in local electricity prices. This is the second consecutive year the PUD 3 commission has passed a budget which does not have a rate increase. Sherry Speaks, the PUD’s Finance Manager, summarizes the budget:

The adopted budget is about 8 percent higher than 2017. The PUD expects a 7.8 percent increase in the amount of electricity used next year by its customers, and a 4 percent increase in the sale of energy. This is due to improving economic forecasts and new sources of energy consumption coming online throughout 2018.

Even with an increase in the price of wholesale energy purchased from the Bonneville Power Administration, PUD 3 was able to create a financial plan with no local price impact. Commissioners and staff developed next year’s budget with a zero-based approach, meaning every function in the utility was analyzed for its needs and costs.

Budget highlights include:

  • PUD 3 will spend at least $2.8 million in 2018 to meet requirements of Washington State’s renewable energy law. This includes power purchases and conservation programs. It is a $300,000 increase. The amount of qualifying renewable energy as a part of power purchases increased in 2017 from 3 percent, to 9 percent. It will reach 15 percent in 2020.
  • The PUD’s capital budget includes $1 million for the District’s 40% share of a planned, new substation.
  • The utility’s grid modernization project will be completed in 2018. It is funded by $7 million in savings realized from a 2010 bond sale. To date, $4 million has been expended.
  • Some fiberhood build-outs are proposed in 2018. The projects and engineering will be funded through PUD 3’s Telecommunications Department revenue and cost-recovery adders.
  • $550,000 is budgeted for security system upgrades, and the replacement of the PUD’s outdated radio system. The radio upgrade will provide better communications, safety for staff in the field, and better response during emergency situation.
  • Tax revenue collected for Washington State and the City of Shelton is expected to increase nearly 5 percent. It is directly related to an expected growth in the sale of energy.
  • Other items throughout the budget are natural fluctuations in the cost of goods and services.

Mason PUD 3 is closely monitoring several issues outside its control that could have an impact on local operations next year.

  • Because of a mandate from the Oregon U.S. District Court in Portland, the Bonneville Power Administration may be forced to institute what’s called a “spill surcharge” in 2018. If triggered, it would cover the cost of spilling more water through dams for fish passage, and lost generation revenue.
  • If needed, BPA may impose a financial surcharge to help it meet reserves to make the agency’s annual debt payment to the U-S Treasury.

Qualifying senior citizens and low income/disabled customers may want to ask about available discounts that result in a waiver of the daily system charge from their bills. PUD 3 also has a wide range of rebates and incentives to help reduce electricity consumption. Services include a free energy audit to identify ways to save energy.