America’s ‘Greenest Utility’ Overspent, Will Force A 30% Rate Increase For Seattle

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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Evolution of the energy industry and gross mismanagement will ultimately result in higher rates for electricity consumers across the city of Seattle.

Seattle residents, already beset with a high cost of living, will soon be slapped with higher energy bills. The City Council voted to raise electricity rates during a Monday afternoon meeting, a spokesman confirmed to The Daily Caller News Foundation. The rate increase comes as government officials deal with how to best manage Seattle City Light — the city’s public utility provider of electricity — and its mounting financial difficulties.

Now that council members have passed the utility’s new strategic plan, rates will increase by 4.5 percent annually for the next six years. The result will mean more money to keep the lights on. The average residential bill in 2019 will be $65, and this price will climb to $85 by 2024.

Seattle City Light is in desperate financial need of the rate increase.

Despite the city’s population growth, advances in energy efficiency and the proliferation of alternative energy sources have led to a decline in electricity consumption. This, in turn, has led to Seattle City Light collecting less revenue and accumulating more debt. A review panel determined the utility has collected $118 million less over the years than what was originally projected. (RELATED: Portland One Step Closer To Implementing A New ‘Green Tax’)

Additionally, the electricity provider has been accused of mismanaging taxpayer dollars. After a watchdog blew the whistle on its unsustainable spending habits, Mayor Jenny Durkan ordered City Light to reduce projected costs by around $360 million over six years. However, the utility continues to be beset with spending problems, including a major mistake when purchasing meters. These advanced meters are costing the city over $17 million more than anticipated — mostly because utility employees failed to budget for an obvious sales tax on devices.

The previous City Light CEO, Larry Weis, resigned his position in December 2017 after less than two years on the job. Weis stepped down after the utility became engulfed with scandals, including sexual harassment allegations, mounting customer complaints and billing-system errors. Jim Baggs has since served as interim general manager.

City Light has taken great strides in establishing itself as an environmentally friendly company. It was the first major utility provider to become carbon neutral in 2005. Due to its proximity to running bodies of water, hydropower makes up almost 90 percent of its fuel mix.

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