The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) on Monday approved retail natural gas and electricity rate increases for Bellevue, WA-based Puget Sound Energy (PSE), effective May 14 -- 1.3%, or $13.4 million annually, for gas customers and 3.2%, or $63.3 million, for power users. PSE originally asked for $32 million and $161 million, for gas and electricity, respectively, when it filed with the UTC last June. The gas increase will cause retail residential bills to increase a little more than a dollar/month, increasing to an average monthly bill of $86; the electric increase will push monthly residential bills up $3.30 to $102.56/month. Among the major reasons for the wide difference between what PSE asked for and what the UTC granted for power rates was the steep decline in natural gas prices during the past 11 months, a UTC spokesperson said. As part of the general rate case decision, the UTC lowered PSE's returns on equity (10.1% to 9.8%) and overall rate of return (8.1% to 7.8%).
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