Puget Sound Energy is telling customers they may see higher energy bills in late 2022 and in 2023.

The increase is driven by rising natural gas prices, state policy objectives for clean energy, and safety and reliability investments, Puget Sound Energy said in a news release on Monday.

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The utility filed a proposal with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission to increase utility rates. If it is approved, the typical residential natural gas customer could see their monthly bill increase from $75 to $88 over the next two years.

The commission will review the proposal and decide by Dec. 31.

If approved, in Jan. 2023 the typical natural gas customer would see a $5 increase and the typical electric residential customer, an $8 increase. Then, bills would increase again in 2024 by less than $2 for electric and $1 for natural gas.

The rate increases that would go into effect in 2023 reflect $3.1 billion in investments over the last four years to improve reliability and safety and deliver on Washington’s clean energy policy objectives, Puget Sound Energy said.

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The two clean energy goals driving some of the increased rates are Washington’s 2019 Clean Energy Transformation Act, which requires utilities to have 100% clean energy by 2045 and 80% by 2030, and the state’s new carbon trading program, which will launch next year.

According to the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, the utility has 1.1. million electricity customers across eight Western Washington counties and 800,000 natural gas customers in six counties.

Here are some ways customers can manage higher utility costs, according to Puget Sound Energy:

  • Increase energy efficiency: Install window coverings, change furnace filters, use less hot water or switch to LED lighting
  • Turn down your thermostat 7 or 10 degrees while away or sleeping
  • Take advantage of sales on smart thermostats and electric water heaters or rebates on weatherization upgrades
  • Go online on the utility’s website to see details about energy usage or consult an adviser

Puget Sound Energy spokesperson Christina Donegan said around 200,000 customers are behind on their bills at varying amounts. Since the onset of the pandemic, the utility has provided assistance to around 165,000 customers, she said.

Customers who need help paying their bill might qualify for assistance through the utility’s bill assistance program, a government program for low-income households or the Salvation Army’s fund. Puget Sound Energy said all customers can participate in its payment arrangement plan. The utility said it will work with customers to create a payment schedule for up to 18 months.

“We are making our customers aware of these increases now, to give them time to learn about their options for controlling their energy usage and how to get help paying their energy bills,” Puget Sound Energy Senior Vice President Andy Wappler said in the news release.

If approved, the utility’s rate increase for 2023 will also have a discounted rate for low-income and senior customers as well as additional funding for bill payment assistance and a pilot program that would forgive significant past-due balances, the utility said.

Seattle City Light has also requested a rate increase for 2023 and 2024. Though the rate increase would vary based on billing class, the average increase would cost residential customers about $4 more per month in 2023 and $5 more on top of that in 2024.