Cowlitz PUD commissioners Tuesday voted unanimously to adopt an annual budget that does not not raise residential power rates for the second year in a row.
The decision is largely due to the Bonneville Power Administration’s announcement in July that it will not increase its wholesale power rates for fiscal years 2020-2021. The Cowlitz PUD buys 80 percent to 90 percent of its power from the BPA, so BPA rate hikes typically force the PUD to boost local retail rates.
The BPA is the region’s largest marketer of wholesale power, which it mainly gets from federal hydroelectric dams in the Columbia River Basin.
Tuesday’s decision was expected because staff had earlier proposed a 2020 budget with no increase. Nevertheless, Commissioner Duane Dalgleish took the occasion to credit the utility’s “excellent” staff for holding the line on rates.
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Although BPA will not increase wholesale power rates, it likely will need to adopt a small surcharge — perhaps up to 1.5 percent — to make still sure it has enough cash on hand to operate for at least 60 days. General Manager Gary Huhta said the PUD’s 2020 budget takes that surcharge into account.
The PUD raised residential rates in 2018 and 2016 following BPA rate increases, but it did not raise rates last year or in 2017.
Also at the meeting, the commissioners introduced new Senior Power Resources Engineer Chris Allen, a Rainier native and Longview resident.