PRESS RELEASE: Utility Commission Makes Energy Efficiency Work For Utility and Customers

For immediate release, September 8, 2016

Utility Commission Makes Energy Efficiency Work For Utility and Customers

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission ruled Thursday that Pacific Power can recover costs while encouraging customers to save energy even if those efforts result in the sale of less electricity.

The ruling, which came as part of a rate case, approved a proposed “decoupling” provision that severs the link between customer energy consumption and utility company sales and replaces it with a model in which Pacific Power will be able to recover fixed costs based on the number of customers served.

Wendy Gerlitz, policy director of the NW Energy Coalition, a clean energy advocacy organization that has worked to advance decoupling provisions and testified on its behalf, explained that severing the link between energy use and sales revenue removes a disincentive for utility companies to promote energy efficiency and to support home solar and other distributed energy technologies that result in reduced demand. “Decoupling is a great tool that protects customers by spurring utilities to do more energy efficiency. Aggressive energy efficiency keeps customer bills low, saves money and reduces carbon emissions.”

The ruling makes Pacific Power the third investor-owned Washington utility with which the NW Energy Coalition has collaborated to develop and win approval for decoupling provisions, which now cover more than half of all Washington households.

As in earlier decoupling rulings with Puget Sound Energy and Avista, Pacific Power is required to achieve increased energy savings by expanding customer conservation programs, including rebates for high-efficiency appliances and home insulation as well as energy system controls for commercial buildings.

The UTC also reduced by 45% the rate increase that was sought by Pacific Power and ordered the company to take a number of steps aimed at protecting low-income customers. These include convening collaboratives with community representatives to explore whether there is a need for expanded bill assistance and weatherization programs.

As a part of the order, the UTC approved a request by the Company, supported by the Coalition, for an accelerated depreciation schedule for coal-burning power plants in Montana and Wyoming that serve Washington customers. This will decrease financial pressure to prolong the life of those coal units. The UTC also denied the utility a return on pollution control equipment at units 3 and 4 of the Jim Bridger power plant in Wyoming because the company failed to adequately evaluate options for closing the units or converting them to natural gas.

For more information contact:
Communications Director Sean O’Leary at
Call the Coalition at (206) 621-0094

The NW Energy Coalition, the region’s foremost clean energy policy advocacy organization, is a 35 year-old alliance of more than 100 environmental, labor, civic consumer, faith, and human service groups as well as progressive utilities and businesses in Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Washington state, and British Columbia committed to meeting new power needs with energy efficiency and new, clean renewable energy.