Drought Cuts Seattle City Light's Revenue By Millions | KUOW News and Information

Drought Cuts Seattle City Light's Revenue By Millions

Aug 13, 2015

Seattle’s electric utility says it's taking a big financial hit because of the weather: The lack of rain has affected its ability to produce surplus power to sell in the open market.

Its revenue from selling that surplus is down more than 40 percent, KUOW has learned.

The utility relies primarily on hydropower, and in this normally wet corner of the country, it typically produces a lot more power than its customers need.

This year, the utility projected that it would earn $65 million selling excess power. That money helps keep electricity rates down for its 410,000 customers.

But the warm, dry winter left little snow in the mountains. And record-breaking heat and drought hit in the spring and summer.

In July, a time when the last of the snow is usually melting in the mountains and filling reservoirs, there was very little water available to produce electricity. In fact, the utility had to buy more power on the open market than it was able to produce.

So its revenue from excess power has fallen to $38.6 million -- a 41 percent decline from projections.

A utility spokesman says the loss will not likely affect rates this year, since the utility is keeping more than $128 million in a rate stabilization fund. That's meant to protect ratepayers from swings in the surplus power market. 

But in future years, whether customers feel the hit will depend on the weather.