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Washington State Regulators Approve US$1.2M in Customer Advocate Funding

March 9, 2022
Utilities will offer financial support to enhance public participation.

Washington state regulators recently approved an agreement outlining how the state’s five investor-owned energy utilities will provide more than US$ 1.2 million in funding to customer advocacy groups participating in commission proceedings.  

The agreement establishes new funds for each utility, making available to customer advocate groups 0.1% of each utility’s operating revenue up to US$ 300,000, and prioritizes one third of the funding for organizations representing vulnerable communities. The agreement also clarifies which UTC proceedings are eligible for funding and requires organizations seeking funding to apply for certification from the UTC for each proceeding. 

The three-member commission approved the following funding amounts for the first year of the program which ends Dec. 31: 

  • Avista - US$ 300,000 

  • Cascade Natural Gas - US$ 265,512 

  • Northwest Natural Gas - US$ 72,735 

  • Puget Sound Energy - US$ 300,000 

  • PacifiCorp - US$ 300,000 

Groups may seek funding for eligible costs incurred in 2022 prior to the agreement’s effective date of Feb. 25. 

Eligible organizations include nonprofit organizations representing low-income, commercial, and industrial customers, and vulnerable populations or highly impacted communities as defined by the Clean Energy Transformation Act. Tribal entities are also eligible to apply; all other government organizations are ineligible.  

Groups seeking certification must demonstrate that they meet eligibility criteria and can effectively represent the public interest. 

The funds will not carry money over from year to year, the companies will remove any unused money from the funds at the end of the term and refresh them based on current agreements.  

The goal of these funds is to enhance public participation in cases that impact customer interests, including customer utility rates and company investments. 

All organizations may use these funds for the costs of participating in UTC proceedings, including consulting or legal fees. Organizations serving vulnerable communities may also use these funds for a variety of costs, including training and technical assistance. Any group may receive funding to advertise the funding opportunity and provide training to organizations representing vulnerable communities. Groups cannot use these funds for overhead expenses, lobbying, or filing formal complaints. 


In 2021, a new law required utilities to enter into written funding agreements with organizations representing broad customer interests in regulatory proceedings and authorized the commission to implement and oversee those agreements.  

The three-member commission issued a policy statement in November 2021, providing interim, high-level guidance on participatory funding agreements including funding caps, funding amounts for prioritized communities, and eligibility. 

After the commission issued its policy statement, the UTC-regulated energy utilities and six customer advocate groups worked together to submit an interim, one-year funding agreement to the commission based on the guidance in the policy statement. 

The commission and parties may revisit both the policy statement and agreement in future years. 

Parties to the agreement include Avista, Cascade Natural Gas, Northwest Natural Gas, PacifiCorp, Puget Sound Energy, the Alliance of Western Energy Consumers, the Northwest Energy Coalition, The Energy Project, Sierra Club, Front & Centered, and Spark Northwest. 


Editor’s Note: The policy statement, commission order, and agreement are available in docket U-210595 on the commission’s website.  

This agreement implements requirements laid out in RCW 80.28.430

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