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Puget Sound Energy holds down electric costs - for now

"While natural gas costs climb, the cost of electricity from Puget Sound Energy will hold steady for Whidbey residents. At least for a while.Karl Kirn, a manager of corporate relations for Puget Sound Energy, acknowledged that several Washington utility companies, including nearby Snohomish County PUD and Seattle City Light, are looking at raising their electric rates in the coming year. But Kirn said Puget Sound Energy, the supplier of electric power to Whidbey, is not among them.The proposed increases are coming as a result of higher costs the utilities are paying for electricity from the Bonneville Power Administration, the federal agency which wholesales Northwest electric power produced by 29 dams along the Columbia and Snake rivers.High consumer demand for electricity has forced the BPA to boost output and also seek extra power on the open market. As a result, local utilities are paying more and need to pass the higher costs along to customers.That's a volatile market right now, said Kirn. He said Puget Sound Energy is working under a rate-increase moratorium with the BPA, so rates will stay where they are through at least the end of 2001 when the contract with the BPA runs out.In addition, Puget Sound Energy gets its power through long-term contracts with many different suppliers and not just from the BPA. As a result, the power company is not as tied to fluctuations in federal rates as other utilities may be.We have rate stability, Kirn said. There are no changes in the foreseeable future, "

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