Billing and Account FAQs

Review some of the most common questions we receive regarding billing, payments and your account. If you don't see your question here, just call us at (206) 684-3000 and ask a customer service representative.

If you have never had an account with us, you may start service online. You will be prompted to answer questions about previous residences in order to verify your identity. This is required under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (FACT). Or, you can call (206) 684-3000. If you have had a City Light account in the past, you can start service online or call (206) 684-3000.

Your first bill will include a new service charge of $16 to cover administrative costs of starting service at your new address.

Most residential customers receive a bill every two months. The bill shows your energy usage for the two-month billing period and the rate charged based on your service area and time of year (winter or summer). If you are a new customer and do not receive your first bill within three months after opening your account, please call us at (206) 684-3000 Monday-Friday, 8:00 am-5:00 pm to avoid late fees. Once you receive your first bill, we encourage you to set up e-billing to save you time and help reduce waste.

Signing up for e-billing is easy. Simply set up or login to your online account to sign up for e-billing or automatic payments. Payments can be made with Visa, Mastercard, American Express, or automatically from your bank account.

If you are unable to pay your full bill by the due date, you may qualify for the following options:

    1. Long-term assistance: We encourage all income-eligible customers to enroll in the Utility Discount Program to receive an ongoing 60% discount on electricity bills, plus a 50% bill discount for customers who receive their water, sewer, and solid waste services from Seattle Public Utilities, even if your landlord pays the bill.
    2. Immediate assistance: If you have received an urgent or shutoff notice or have a past due balance of $250 or more and meet the income-eligibility requirements, our Emergency Bill Assistance Program can help. Eligible customers receive up to $1,000 annually (issued as separate bill credits of up to $500 each) in immediate, emergency assistance to reduce their past due balance. 
    3. Payment arrangements: We can help you set up a payment plan to pay your balance over time.

        If you feel your bill is incorrect or you've received a bill that is much higher than normal, please contact us right away at (206) 684-3000. We will investigate and help you understand the charges on your bill or make corrections as necessary.

        If it is determined that you need to set up a payment arrangement or you qualify for short-term payment assistance, our customer representatives can help. You can also see how to understand your bill for more information.

        For bill disputes, we have four levels of review:

        1. A Customer Service Representative reviews your bill and adjusts any billing errors or explains the charges.
        2. You can ask to speak to a Customer Service Supervisor, who will review the bill and any details you provide. If adjustments are approved, the supervisor will make the necessary adjustments. If you disagree with the supervisor's decision, you can request a review by a Customer Service Manager.
        3. The Customer Service Manager will review the bill and details you provide and either support the decisions already made or make a new decision and make adjustments as necessary. If you disagree with the Customer Service Manager's decision, you may request a review by the Hearing Officer.
        4. A Hearing Officer review is only used when all previous channels have been already used. You must file an appeal in writing within 15 calendar days after completion of the Customer Service Manager review.

        The utility bills customers based on actual reads recorded by electric meters that are predominantly Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) meters. AMI meters are programmed to automatically send consumption data to the utility on a regular basis, eliminating the need to send a meter reader to the property. However, in some circumstances City Light may need to estimate consumption. Examples include:

        • Shortage of staff available to read a non-AMI meter.
        • A non-AMI meter is read incorrectly by staff.
        • Premise access barriers—like a locked gate, a menacing dog, or difficult terrain—prevent utility staff from reading a non-AMI meter.
        • A change in seasonal rates in the middle of a bill cycle.
        • A bill segment is longer or shorter than a normal billing period.
        • A meter is tampered with whereby electricity is diverted from being registered by the meter.
        • A meter is not properly linked to a customer’s account.
        • A meter malfunctions.
        • A problem with the wireless network prevents an AMI meter from transmitting usage data.
        • An unexpected error occurs with the utility’s billing system.

        Pursuant to Seattle Municipal Code, estimates will be calculated using standard engineering practices, which may include but are not limited to regression analysis, customer loads, load comparison, meter conditions, and test readings. In cases where estimates cannot be made using standard engineering techniques, the longest periods before and/or after the period of usage may be averaged to arrive at an estimated rate of consumption. When an actual read is acquired, the estimated bill will be adjusted.

        In line with these standards, City Light will use the following table to estimate consumption for residential customers: (1) if no meter is installed to register actual usage; (2) if there is a problem loading meter reads to our billing system; or (3) if due to no fault of the customer, the utility issues estimated or subsequent true-up bills.

        PRESUMPTIVE CONSUMPTION TABLE FOR RESIDENTIAL CUSTOMERS
        Consumption
        Level
        Calculation
        Basis
        Flat
        Consumption
        Value at
        2021 Rates
        Normal 70% of average consumption 420 kwh $46.76/month
        Below Average 50% of average consumption 300 kwh $33.40/month
        Above Average 130% of average consumption 780 kwh $86.85/month

        City Light has agreed to implement procedures generally consistent with AMI-TMO.26 when conducting meter investigations, as part of a legal settlement. The Technical Metering document entitled Field Meter Investigation | AMI-TMO.26, dated June 15, 2018, outlines the procedures and process for City Light’s meter investigations. 

        The document describes six different meter investigation work practices that might be triggered in the event a customer receives a high electric bill and the customer expresses a concern to City Light that a high electric bill may be attributable to an inaccurate meter. Under these circumstances, City Light will first determine if the cause of a high electric bill is discernable via internal monitoring systems – either through CCB (Customer Contact and Billing) or MSCS (Meter Solution Cloud Service). If this preliminary investigation does not resolve the concern, technicians may perform one or more of the following on the meter:

        • Test the meter for accuracy.
        • Confirm functional integrity of the meter.
        • Replace meter where necessary.
        • Troubleshoot meter communication issues.
        • Troubleshoot meter operational functions.
        • Identify security or tampering issues with communicating (AMI) meters. 

        In the event a meter is tested for accuracy, City Light will communicate the results of the meter test to the customer. Similarly, if City Light determines the cause of a high electric bill, City Light will communicate an identified cause to the customer.  

        In addition to the above investigative and communication procedures, AMI-TMO.26 also includes a list of tasks to implement the above process, the persons identified by title responsible for performing each task; and activity numbers to be used to track the progress of work in work orders. It also identifies the type of information to be gathered as part of a quality assurance program and subsequent reporting to Landis & Gyr, the manufacturer of City Light’s AMI meters. 

        All electric meters used by SCL for billing purposes are manufacturer certified to meet American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accuracy standards. SCL’s meter department also performs full-lot testing or statistical sampling of all incoming meters to verify accuracy. The utility maintains a calibration laboratory that keeps its test equipment calibrated and is traceable to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). SCL only purchases and uses ANSI accuracy metering devices, such as current and voltage transformers.

        Electric service may be terminated by City Light for the following reasons:

        • Failure to timely pay a bill or make satisfactory payment agreement.
        • Failure to comply with terms of a payment agreement.
        • Failure to correct impaired or unsafe access to the utility meters or service within a reasonable time after being requested to do so.
        • Failure to separate an electrical meter or other utility equipment from living quarters after being requested to do so.
        • A customer’s wiring or electrical equipment is defective or hazardous to life or property.
        • Unauthorized use of service. If your service has been disconnected, it is illegal for you to reconnect it. See the Current Diversion DPP.
        • Upon a customer’s request to disconnect. For disconnections when a property is vacant, see the Electric Service Disconnect/Reconnect – Vacant Premises DPP.
        • Upon Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections’ request for disconnection when a building is vacant.
        • Failure to comply with the utility’s written rules and regulations.

        Disconnections may be delayed under the circumstances listed in Section 2.7.2 of the Credit & Collections DPP.  

        Prerequisites for Disconnection: Before shutting off electric service due to a delinquency, we provide two notices. Notifications will be sent to the contact information on record. Failure to receive notification will not prevent disconnection.

        Avoiding Shutoff: To avoid disconnections due to delinquency, stay current by timely submitting payments by the bill due date or payment agreement date. If you cannot stay current, submit payment in full as promptly as possible before the shutoff date, or contact the utility to establish a payment agreement and to determine whether you are eligible for financial assistance to avoid disconnection.

        To permanently close your City Light account, you can notify us online or contact a customer service representative at (206) 684-3000. You can also visit a Payment Center to close your account in person. Make sure to let us know what date you'd like service to be stopped.

        City Light uses an Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) as its standard technology for reading electrical consumption of our customers. AMI is a safe and proven technology that is widely used across the US. More than 500 utilities across the nation already use this technology, with 50 million advanced meters installed at 43 percent of American households (Institute for Electric Innovation, 2014).

        What is AMI?

        AMI collects and connects customer energy-use information to our internal systems. The meters provide automated wireless communication between the meter and the utility. This means that:

        • Meters record customer energy-use information throughout the day and deliver it to utility computer systems
        • Customer energy-use information is sent several times a day to City Light using radio frequency waves. This is like the wireless communications used by cell phones and WIFI. The meters transmit data for a maximum of 90 seconds per day.
        • Once the data is within City Light's secure firewall, the information will be matched up with customer accounts for billing and other customer service activities.

        AMI Benefits 

        • Empower customers to make energy-saving choices: This data can enable customers to make better informed energy- and money-saving decisions.
        • Improve customer service:
          • Faster outage detection and restoration: AMI will eventually automatically report power outages to City Light, allowing us to respond and restore power faster.
          • More accurate billing: AMI greatly reduces billing estimates that lead to incorrect charges.
        • Reduce environmental impact: Customer energy-use is automatically sent to City Light, reducing the need for meter reader vehicles on the road, eliminating up to 72 tons of CO2 emissions per year.
        • Improved City Light Operations: AMI helps us monitor for outages, voltage issues and equipment problems across our entire distribution network. This helps us operate grid systems more efficiently and catch issues before they become problems.
        • AMI also helps us:
          • Provide new safety features such as sensors that can detect heat-related issues.
          • Reduce energy theft with an alert that is sent to the utility at the first sign of tampering.

        Still want to opt out?   

        In order to opt out, you must submit an application to Seattle City Light and meet eligibility requirements.

        • Eligibility guidelines
          • You must be a residential customer.
          • Non-property owners who wish to opt-out must obtain signed permission from the property owner.
          • You are responsible for providing and maintaining access to City Light for meter installation, maintenance, and reading.
          • Owners and tenants of buildings with 4 units or less are eligible for opt-out. Tenants must have the owner's permission to opt-out. If the building owner chooses to opt-out the entire building, the owner will be responsible for paying all fees associated with the opt-out meters for all units.
          • Customers who live in multi-unit apartment buildings with 5 or more units are not eligible to opt-out.
          • Net metering (solar) customers are not eligible to opt-out.   
        • Need assistance?
          • Contact the Advanced Metering desk at (206) 727-8777 during regular business hours to request a hard copy application be mailed to you.
          • Email the Advanced Metering desk at SCL_Advanced_Metering@seattle.gov if you need further assistance.

        Comparing City Light meters As shown by the following chart, there are additional costs associated with opting out, and fewer benefits with a non-communicating digital meter. Fees cover the City Light's overhead, costs, ongoing maintenance, and meter reading related to the non-communicating digital meter and equipment.    

        Benefits & Fees Advanced Meter Opt-out with Non-communicating digital meter Opt-out with Non-communicating Digital Meter for Utility Discount Program Customers
        View your daily electricity use Yes No No
        Outage detection Yes No No
        Remotely connecting your service Yes No No
        One-time service and administration fee No $124.43 $49.77
        Recurring billing cycle No charge $15.87 per billing cycle $6.35 per billing cycle

             

        Property owners and tenants are both equally responsible for timely notification to City Light of changes in occupancy and/or property ownership. An owner is responsible for electric service provided to their property and can be billed for charges incurred by tenants if City Light is not notified within ten (10) working days of any change in occupancy or change in the account holder's name. This means that if you or your tenants do not notify City Light of their move-in-move-out dates within 10 working days, you could be held responsible for any outstanding charges, even if the bill is in the name of the tenant.

        Authority:

        SMC 21.49.100B, C
        SMC 21.29.130B
        DPP 500PIII-302, Section 4, 5, and Section 4.14  

        Please read the RCW to understand when new owners can be held responsible for charges incurred by former owners and former tenants. 

        RCW 60.80.020(1) and RCW 60.80.020(4)(a)
        DPP 500PIII-302, Section 4,6