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 $23 to cover administrative costs of starting service at your new address.

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.

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.

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.

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

  1. Payment arrangements: We can help you set up payment arrangements to pay your bill over a specified period of time.
  2. Immediate assistance: We can help you get short-term payment assistance to help you pay your bill in full through our Project Share program or Emergency Low Income Assistance program.
  3. Long term assistance: The Utility Discount Program lowers electric bills by 60% and water, sewer and garbage bills by 50% for income elligible customers.

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 allowing you to automatically pay your bill with a credit card or bank account.

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  

When property is bought and sold, escrow companies are required to notify the utilities that service the premises for outstanding charges, unless the buyer and seller waive notification in writing. All charges should be paid at the time of closing so the buyer steps in with a clean slate. However, City Light may recover from the purchaser of any property unpaid utility charges prior to closing by former owners and/or tenants (if City Light did not receive a written request for a final billing from the escrow agent, seller or purchaser). Purchasers should check with their escrow agent to verify notification.

Authority:

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