Pacific Power to jolt rates by 12 percent

The UTC received 297 public comments on the rate-increase proposal — 291 were opposed.

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WALLA WALLA - Electricity rates for Pacific Power customers will jump 12 percent on April 3.

State regulators approved the increase in electric rates Friday to Pacific Power's 130,000 customers.

The decision equates to a roughly $11.26 jump in the monthly bill for residential users. The average residential customer using 1,300 kilowatt-hours per month will pay $105.30.

The approved increase was about two-thirds of Pacific Power's original request when the subject was broached last May with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission.

Power company officials said higher rates were needed to pay for new power and gas-supply contracts. The increase was also driven by increased power costs, additional transmission and distribution facilities and a natural gas plant in Chehalis deferred from the last rate case, the UTC said Friday.

The new rates will add up to approximately $38 million more a year for Pacific Power. The UTC said the rates will be offset by a customer credit of $4.8 million, which reflect the electric provider's revenue from the sale of renewable energy credits from its wind facilities. The estimated monthly increase takes that credit into account.

Pacific Power had originally asked the UTC for a nearly 21 percent overall rate increase, which would have resulted in an additional $56.7 million for the company. That request was subsequently lowered to $48.5 million or almost 18 percent.

Not including the renewable energy credit revenues, the amount approved Friday by the UTC was about $38 million, a 14 percent overall increase.

The regulatory agency rejected Pacific Power's request to also raise the basic monthly service charge for residential customers from $6 to $9. The charge is a flat rate paid by all customers regardless of how much power is used.

The UTC received 297 public comments on the rate-increase proposal. Five of those were neutral or undecided; one was in favor; and 291 were opposed.

A recent ruling from the UTC required proceeds from Pacific Power's sale of the surplus renewable energy credits be returned to customers.

According to the announcement, Washington's electric utilities must generate at least 3 percent of their loads from environmentally friendly, renewable energy generation by Jan. 1. Utilities that have a surplus of these credits may trade or sell them on the open market.

Starting on the same day as the new rates, Pacific Power customers will receive the $4.8 million credit distribution on their power bills for revenues realized from the sale of future renewable energy credits.

Pacific Power is a division of Portland-based PacifiCorp, which is owned by Warren Buffet's MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co.

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