For the first time since 2011, Clark Public Utilities (CPU) will raise its energy rates, this time by 14%.
On March 1, a customer paying the estimated average energy bill of $109.92 at the current rate and basic charge will pay $14.56 more.
The CPU board of commissioners approved the 14% electric service rate increase for everyone on Tuesday, Jan. 23, according to a news release.
With CPU being an at-cost, nonprofit public utility, the company’s goal for its annual budget is to break even, CPU director of communications Erica Erland said.
The new rate is needed to balance the 2024 budget, which has already included increased power supply costs that have been impacted by weather events and carbon reduction and renewable energy requirements.
Erland said during extreme-weather events — hotter than anticipated summers for example — CPU had to purchase additional energy from suppliers to cover the above-average usage. When CPU had to buy more energy than what it purchased based on usage projections, the cost was more expensive.
“We’ve seen swings between $60 per megawatt hour to $1,200 per megawatt hour in the last two weeks,” Erland said after the recent winter ice storm.
Cost of energy has also gone up due to changes in governmental and environmental regulations.
The $60 to $1,200 swing in market prices is a new variation that Erland added could become a new normal.
“This was truly interesting timing in that when we started these discussions in the fall and then even the first two weeks of January, this rate [increase] discussion was to address a $17 million budget shortfall for 2024 because of power supply,” Erland said. “And between Jan. 12 and Jan. 19, there was an incremental $26 million expense for power supply related to that storm.”
Initially, the utility was considering only a 10 percent rate increase to address a $17 million shortfall and to replenish the reserve funds used in 2023 to purchase additional power. Now, the 14% rate increase will cover the shortfall and what is now, only in January, a $26 million incremental increase in the net operating costs, Erland said. In 2025 CPU will begin to replenish the rate stabilization and reserve funds, she added.
“I think it’s important to recognize that as a nonprofit utility, we take a lot of pride in having maintained stable rates since 2011,” Erland said. “And we also recognize that these kinds of changes have impacts. So, if customers are struggling to pay their bills, they should call us. We have programs available. We have account management tools available.”
Erland recommends utility users try implementing energy-efficient methods to help lower their bills.
“There is often opportunity within the home or the business to make some changes either in the equipment used or the way that we operate it or behavioral changes, turning down our temperatures in the winter and turning up our temperatures, if we have air conditioning, a bit in the summer, that can add up to help manage those monthly costs,” Erland said. “So we are available. Our customer service is available 24/7 with live human people who live here in Clark County answering the phones and they are prepared to help our customers who are having hardship.”
To find tips on energy efficiency, visit CPU’s website, clarkpublicutilities.com, or call 360-992-3000 to speak with a representative.