Natural gas and electric utility rates changed Monday for the state of Washington's three major private-sector energy utilities: Avista Corp., Cascade Natural Gas Corp. and Puget Sound Energy (PSE). The changes had previously been approved by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC).

As combination utilities, Spokane, WA-based Avista and Bellevue, WA-based PSE implemented changes in both retail gas and power charges. Avista rates for both increased after the UTC allowed two bill credits to increase.

Avista received UTC approval to pass through higher gas costs amounting to a nearly 5% monthly increase, or about $3/month for the typical residential customer, and higher power costs under the federal Bonneville Power Administration's (BPA) residential exchange program that amounts to about a 2%, or $1.42/month, increase for retail residential electric customers.

For PSE, the changes were mixed -- a small increase for retail gas customers and a small decrease for electricity customers. The gas increase amounts to nearly 2% monthly, or about $1.50/month for a typical residential customer, and the decrease in power rates is a result of two separate actions by the UTC resulting in the small drop in charges for the five-month period through March next year.

The proceeds from the sale of residential energy credits (REC) exceeded the increase in electric rates tied to BPA's changes in the residential exchange program, leaving a 2.63% power rate decrease, or about $1.65/month for a residential customer. The regulators noted that PSE's REC sales since they began in 2009 have brought in more than $150 million in revenues.

Finally, a large rate decrease is now in effect for Washington-based Cascade Natural Gas customers, about 9% for residential customers and up to 10% for businesses. The typical residential customer will see a monthly savings starting in November averaging $6 for residential customers and up to $31 for businesses.

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