Starting next year, Seattle residents and businesses will see their electricity bills go up by an average of 3.5% annually for the next five years.
The Seattle City Council unanimously approved Monday a new multiyear hike as part of Seattle City Light’s new strategic plan.
The monthly bill for a typical residential customer is projected to increase from around $77 this year to $91 in 2026, assuming the customer’s use remains consistent.
The new rate increases are lower than the hikes the city approved in 2018, that raised rates on average 4.5% annually until 2024.
The 3.9% rate increase will stay the same next year. It will drop from a 4% increase to a 3.8% increase in 2023, and from a 4.2% increase to a 3.8% increase in 2024. Rates will go up 3% in 2025 and 2026.
Rates, along with the utility’s long-term projects, can be revisited in the fall during the budget season, and again next year, according to a City Council staff member.
Seattle City Light typically presents a six-year strategic plan and a rate ordinance to the City Council every two years. But the pandemic delayed the utility’s planning for a year.
In a review panel letter to Mayor Jenny Durkan, Seattle City Light noted the pandemic caused a “sharp decline” in overall electricity usage on top of existing declines due to advancements in energy efficiency.
While residential use increased slightly due to remote work, there was a significant decrease in commercial use from offices, universities and other gathering places.
Before Monday’s vote, Councilmember Kshama Sawant said she would vote in favor of the resolution because the increases reflect projected costs. But she said she will oppose future rate increases that are primarily paid by working-class residents and not by big businesses.
City Light customers pay different rates depending on whether they are residential or business customers, as well as how much and when they use electricity.
On average, large businesses pay lower rates compared to residential and small-business customers due to delivery costs and economies of scale, according to Seattle City Light Chief Financial Officer Kirsty Grainger.