Pacific Power pushes rate hike proposal

The proposed rates would raise the average residential customer’s monthly bill by $15.84.

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WALLA WALLA — Electric rates could be heating up for Pacific Power’s Washington customers.

The energy company, a division of Portland-based PacifiCorp, has filed for a 14.1 percent overall rate increase with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission.

If approved, the rate hike would increase the utility’s revenues by $42.8 million, according to a Jan. 11 public filing with the regulatory agency. The company serves about 128,000 customers in Washington, including in Walla Walla, Columbia and Garfield counties.

In its filing, Pacific Power requested the increase take effect Feb. 10. However, a pre-hearing conference with the Utilities and Transportation Commission hasn’t been scheduled to take place until Feb. 13.

An attempt to reach a Pacific Power spokesperson Saturday was not successful.

The proposed rates would raise the average residential customer’s monthly bill by $15.84 based on 1,300 kilowatt hours of use.

The revenue change in percentage is the greatest for residential users, whose bills would rise 15 percent. Under the proposal, commercial and industrial customers would have a 13.5 percent increase; while costs for public street lighting would go up 4 percent.

In dollar amounts, the increases would result in revenues of about $20.1 million for residential users; $22.6 million for commercial and industrial customers; and $66,000 for public street lighting.

Pacific Power President and Chief Executive Officer Pat Reiten has testified that Pacific Power’s return on equity during the 12-month period that ended last June 30 is significantly less at 3.9 percent than the 10 percent it is authorized to receive. With net power cost estimates through Dec. 31, 2014, the overall increase is required to produce the 10 percent return on equity needed to “maintain the financial integrity of the company.”

In addition to net power costs, other drivers of the increase include recovery from major investments in the company’s hydroelectric generating facilities, a decrease in retail revenue levels upon which the prices were based in the last general rate case.

Reiten testified the company has tried to mitigate the increase through $800,000 in reductions in operations and maintenance expenses and reduction of long-term debt.

Pacific Power’s last increase was June 1, 2012. Under that jump, residential electric customers had a boost of about $1.24 per month on 1,000 kilowatt hours. Under terms of that settlement, Pacific Power was not allowed to file for another general rate increase until this month.

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