May 1, 2012

Renewable energy may have your utility bill on the rise

By Melanie Tubbs, KEPR, 30 April 2012

TRI-CITIES, Wash. – Keeping the lights on is a little harder these days. The Energy Independence Act went into effect at the beginning of the year. It forces local PUDs to invest more in renewable energy.

Michael Colson hesitates to look at his electric bill. He tells KEPR, “Lately, it’s been upwards of 200 or 250 dollars.”

He’s not alone.

Benton PUD spokesperson, Karen Miller explains, “It does impact our rates and will continue to impact our rates down the road.”

Michael comments, “Ridiculously high to where we can’t pay it. We only pay $100 on it.”

The Energy Independence Act is supposed to reduce the country’s dependency on non-renewable energy sources like coal and oil.

To comply, Utility districts have to buy renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Water power is not included.

Miller says, “That’s good, but we already have a lot of hydro and already make investments in wind and we don’t want to buy power that’s not needed.”

It’s expensive for utilities. Benton’s PUD already spent 13-million dollars. Miller continues, “Wind power is twice to three times as much as hydro.”

Michael says, “We’ve got a lot of water resource to use. Why not use the water we have and keep away form solar til we can afford it? I think we should have a choice whether we want to do it too, but we’re not being given that chance and being cut out.”

In the most recent legislative session, state lawmakers in both the house and senate considered bills that would have let utilities only buy what they need.

Miller says, “They didn’t pass, so we’ll continue to work on that kind of initiative.”

The Tri-Cities Chamber is now working on a campaign to get more public support for a change next time. Until then, people like Michael will just try to pay the bills. Michael looks at his bill, “Only thing I can do is keep giving them 100 dollars here, 100 dollars there and just do what I can do.”

Franklin PUD says it is growing rapidly and preparing for the same sort of impact by trying to buy zero surplus energy, knowing it will have to spend more on wind and solar in the next year or so.

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