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PUD offers new billing option, adds weatherization cap

Northern Wasco County PUD will soon have a second option to help customers smooth out the seasonal spikes in power bills.

The district has long had a budget plan that bases monthly bills on an average of the past 12 months, but customers can only enroll in the plan in the spring and must have lived at their residence for the past year. It also often requires a “catch-up” payment at the end of the 12-month period.

The new, levelized payment plan, unanimously approved Sept. 24 by the PUD board of directors, is based on a rolling 12-month average, which allows customers to enroll at any time of the year. Starting with the second month of billing, the bills are averaged. The bills are recalculated monthly over the course of the year.

Directors observed that the bills would still have some spikes initially.

“It takes about six months for it to flatten out,” said Kelly Ingraham, PUD chief financial officer.

The PUD will also see changes in its conservation credit plan after experiencing a year with a little more success than the program can afford.

“We’re approaching a new fiscal year and looking over the budget we have been very, very productive, but in one area, weathization, we have been super-productive,” said Steve Holmes, who oversees the conservation programs. “Even though we had a pretty big program budget, we blew right through that. We need to do something to try to bring the weatherization part of the conservation budget into line with BPA’s [Bonneville Power Administration] goals and our credit budget. Right now we are exceeding it by a lot.”

Local contractors have done a good job of promoting conservation credits among their customers, Holmes said. One contractor, in particular, aimed his sales efforts at landlords, who could take advantage of 100 percent weatherization credits and had good success.

To reel in the expenditures, Holmes recommended, and the directors unanimously approved, an 80 percent cap on reimbursements to moderate the costs. The only weatherization program that won’t be subject to the cap is the duct-sealing program.

Holmes did ask the board to delay imposing the cap until Jan. 1. The three-month window will allow contractors to complete fall weatherization projects before the cap takes effect.

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