State OKs power rate hike

Typical Pacific Power residential customers will see an increase of about $4.80 a month in their bills.

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Residents from Walla Walla to Pomeroy will see a boost in their electricity rates starting Jan. 1.

State regulators have approved a rate increase for Pacific Power customers, according to an announcement from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission.

The increase, approved this morning, allows Pacific Power to collect an additional $13.5 million in revenues, which will equate to a $4.80 monthly increase for the typical residential household using 1,300 kilowatt hours.

According to the announcement, the average residential customer will see their monthly electricity bill increase to about $94.

There is no increase to the basic monthly service charge of $6, which customers pay regardless of the amount of electricity used. However, customers will be charged 2 more cents per month for their contribution to the low-income bill assistance program. That contribution will rise from 44 to 46 cents each month.

Portland-based PacifiCorp, owned by Warren Buffet's MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., does business as Pacific Power in Oregon, Washington and California. The company provides electric service to about 130,000 customers in five Eastern Washington counties, including Walla Walla, Columbia and Garfield.

The 5.3 percent monthly rate increase is about two-thirds less than the amount originally request by Pacific Power last February.

The energy company filed a request with the UTC for $38.5 million, or a 15.1 percent increase, in additional annual revenues Feb. 9.

On Aug. 25. a settlement was reached by Pacific Power, UTC staff, the Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities, the Energy Project, which represents low-income ratepayers, and the Public Counsel Section of the Attorney General's Office, which represents the interests of residential and commercial customers.

The proposal was the subject of a public hearing in October in Yakima.

January's rate increase follows an 8.5 percent increase implemented in the fall of 2008.

In its February filing with the UTC, the utility said the rate hike is expected to help recover costs associated with new generating capacity and last year's purchase of a 520-megawatt natural gas-generating plant in Chehalis, Wash.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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