Tacoma Power says the proposed increase is the best solution for low income customers. It’s not.
On Tuesday, March 7, Tacoma City Council will consider a request from the public electric utility, Tacoma Power, to more than double its fixed monthly charge to customers over two years. While the utility’s need for additional revenue is not in question, an across-the-board fixed charge that you have to pay even before you turn on the lights is a horrible way to collect it. Here’s why.
The proposed fixed charge increase is ferociously regressive
If you’re wealthy, have a big house, and use 30,000 kWh of electricity per year, this increase will only cause your bill to go up by a little more than 5%. But, if you’re poor and use 7,000 kWh, your bill is going to rise by more than 20%. And the lightest users will see their bills go up by more than 30%.
This increase, if allowed, will mean that Tacoma Power’s fixed customer charge will be more than two times the national average for fixed service fees and also more than twice the amount that any other large Washington electric utility charges.
The ability to collect fixed charges is a privilege that shouldn’t be abused
Because it’s a public utility, Tacoma Power has the privilege collecting fixed charges. That’s something that commercial enterprises with high fixed costs — from carmakers, to clothing manufacturers, to movie studios – can’t do. Like most privileges, it shouldn’t be abused.
There’s a better way
Tacoma Power could generate the added revenue it seeks from a simple rate increase whose burden would be shared proportionately by all customers. While this would create a challenge for a small portion of customers who have both low incomes and who are heavy users, their needs can best be addressed through targeted energy efficiency and home weatherization programs at which Tacoma Power has already proven itself to be highly effective.
Please see the accompanying flier for more information, share it with your friends, and come to Tacoma City Council’s next meeting at 5PM on Tuesday, March 7 and voice your opposition!