Seattle Your light bill may go up -- again -- on Jan. 1 : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Your light bill may go up -- again -- on Jan. 1

Friday, October 6, 2000


City Light warned customers a couple of months ago that they would feel California's power shortage in their pocketbooks. Yesterday, the utility told Seattle City Council members how much the hit would be: about $3 a month for the average household.

That is about an 8 percent increase in the electricity portion of utility bills. The rate increase would take effect Jan. 1.

The request comes on top of a

3 percent increase the council granted in November, which was supposed to last for two years.

But since then, City Light Superintendent Gary Zarker said the price of buying electricity has exploded -- largely because California is facing a power shortage, driving up the prices that private electricity suppliers charge.

The average household's monthly bill is now $35.24. Under the proposed increase, it would rise to $38.31 in January.

Council members, including Energy Committee Chairwoman Heidi Wills, agreed the increase is necessary and the council likely will approve it.

Zarker said the center of the problem is California deregulation. A complex 1996 law ordered power companies to sell off their power plants, opening their markets to electric resellers. They were then supposed to buy power on the open market, with competition between the resellers bringing down prices.

But that took away the incentive for utilities to build more plants, resulting in the power shortage and higher prices. As a result, utility bills in California have doubled or tripled.

Here, City Light says the price charged by power suppliers is more than three times what the utility expected -- blasting a $70 million hole in the utility's budget over the next two years.

Zarker told the council's Energy Committee that prices may begin moderating next year as companies build more generators to meet the need for power.

The committee will hold a public hearing on the proposed increase Oct. 19.

-- Martin Thompson (, October 06, 2000

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