Whidbey customers are PSE's cash cows
October 17, 2008 · 3:24 PM
I worked in public power for 17 years before coming to Whidbey. People I talk to now urged me to write you and share what I know with your readers.
I was distressed to see manipulations inside the regulatory processes that approve rates for all the Investor Owned Utilities (not just PSE) in all the Northwest states (not just Washington); manipulations to benefit the shareholders at the customers’ expense.
We are paying PSE for things we should not be, plus their profit. With a PUD there is no profit and if you don’t like what the commissioners are putting into rates you can recall them. On Whidbey we are blessed with commissioner candidates of exemplary quality compared to the many PUD commissioners I know across the state, all of whom have rates less than PSE's. My dad is a PUD commissioner.
The reason PUD rates are better is that the two biggest components of electric rates are in their favor. PUDs can buy cheap power from BPA, while PSE cannot. PUDs get A ratings on their bonds while PSE’s are rated BBB-minus.
The reason PSE is fighting so hard against the PUD proposal is that they stand to lose their cash cow. PSE is financially challenged according to their spokesmen (it’s the reason they’re selling out to the foreign investor). PSE takes about $60 million in electric revenues off Whidbey Island yet almost half of the outages here are due to equipment failure. No PUD run by its customers would ever allow such bad performance. This is a horrible example of why PUDs generally have better customer satisfaction than IOUs. Of all PSE’s service territory Whidbey Island has the worst reliability, so we really need a PUD in order to take care of ourselves.
The other reason PSE is fighting so hard is that Washington law does not provide a level playing field. The PUD and condemnation laws are so favorable to us that the legal effort (once the PUD has been formed) should be short and sweet. So PSE has to oppose it hard now in order to have a chance. They hope to scare us out of trying.
The huge risk of not voting for the PUD is that the foreign owner with North American partners could invoke NAFTA to completely bypass the state regulators.
The low risk option is to vote in the PUD and pay a few dollars tax to get the PUD started; a tax which can end once the PUD begins selling electricity. The commissioner candidates have said they plan for it to end and every Washington PUD has done the same thing.
I urge you to vote to form a PUD for the sake of the Island’s economic future.