Electric, water rates to jump in 2013

Published 9:44 am Thursday, November 15, 2012

Austin residents will soon see increases in their water and electric bills.

Following a decision Tuesday to adjust rates by the Austin Utilities Board of Commissioners, Austin Utilities customers will see, on average, a 1.5 percent increase to their electric bills, and a 6.9 percent increase to their water bills. The changes — the result of recent AU maintenance work and higher operating costs — will go into effect Jan. 1.

“Anytime there’s an increase, our customers need to plan for that,” said Mark Nibaur, Austin Utilities’ general manager. “We think it’s fairly minimal in compared to other expenditures.”

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An average home’s electric bill will see an increase of about $1.28 per month more than their current 2012 billing rate for 700 kilowatt hours — an increase of 1.5 percent — and $1.27 per month for water based on 6 hundred cubic feet — or about 6.9 percent per year. Gas rates will not increase. Changes will be made to both the monthly customer charge and the commodity rate for residential, commercial, and industrial customers.

In a news release, AU said the decision to adjust rates has not been taken lightly.

“I’m never going to say it’s easy, but hopefully it’s manageable,” Nibaur said of customers’ ability to take the increase into account. “The goal, obviously, is to continue to run very efficiently and continue to keep our rates neutral.”

The increase follows a September cost-of-service rate study. Needed infrastructure improvements made the cost adjustment necessary, Nibaur said. Materials, consulting services and employee wages have all gone up.

“Just those components that make up your day-to-day operational expenses,” he said.

In terms of the water rate, the increase stems from capital improvements during the last two to three years, including water tower work like the painting of the Ellis Water Tower.

Austin Utilities’ last rate adjustments were a 10-15 percent electric rate increase in 2010 and a 10 percent water rate increase in 2009.

Customers can take several steps to ensure utility dollars are spent wisely. Austin Utilities offers a range of conservation programs designed to help customers reduce their energy bills. Call Austin Utilities Energy Service Department at 507-433-8886 for more information on the programs.