Clark Public Utilities to give customers credit on bill

Utility to use surplus to help with harsh winter

By Dameon Pesanti, Columbian staff writer

Published:

 

Clark Public Utilities is giving customers a one-time credit on their March bill to help ease the financial strain caused by this especially cold winter.

“Long stretches of freezing temperatures took a toll in Clark County and we saw electric usage increase dramatically,” Clark Public Utilities Board of Commissioners president Jane Van Dyke said in a news release. “Staff came to the board and suggested using a portion of 2016 surplus revenue to help customers with these high bills.”

During a meeting Tuesday, the utility’s board of commissioners approved a plan that distributes about $10 million of 2016 surplus funds back to customers. Just about every residential, commercial and industrial ratepayer will see a credit equal to about 24 percent of their average monthly energy costs this winter.

“It’s for everyone except for basically customers who have final bills and are moving out of the system — customers who didn’t have March read,” utility spokeswoman Erica Erland said.

EqualPay customers and Guarantee of Service Program customers will see the credit applied to their account balance, rather than their regular payment.

According to the National Weather Service, December 2016 was the eighth coldest December on record in the last 90 years. January was the 12th snowiest January in recorded Vancouver history.

Erland said Clark Public Utilities saw a spike in the demand for power this winter as people were forced to miss work and schools were closed during the nastiest days.

“We see the loads, and we know people were using more energy,” she said.

The surplus funds are the result of lower-than-expected power supply costs and increased power usage in 2016.

“Normally when we see spikes in energy use, the prices to purchase energy to meet that demand increase,” Erland said in an email. “This year power prices remained stable through the cold snaps and staff was able to realize opportunities for cost savings despite dramatic increases in consumption.”

Erland said the nonprofit organization’s board decides how to allocate surplus funds every year. During the last several years, those funds have gone to the rate stabilization fund, which guards against fluctuations in rates. Other years, the board allocated some surplus funds to capital investments.

Clark Public Utilities provides electricity to more than 195,000 customers and water to about 34,000 customers in the county.

“Rates haven’t changed since 2011 and staff has done an excellent job of finding opportunities for cost savings. As a result, this year we are fortunate to be in a position to help customers after this extremely cold winter,” Van Dyke said.

Customers can donate their one-time credit to needy families or make recurring donations to Operation Warm Heart at clarkpublicutilities.com or by calling 360-992-3000.