SEATTLE – The Attorney General’s Public Counsel Section, which represents the public in utility rate cases, announced today that an agreement has been reached between Pacific Power and other parties concerning the company’s proposal to raise electric rates.
Under the agreement, which still requires approval by the state Utilities and Transportation Commission, residential customers would see an 8.5 percent increase to their monthly electric bills – instead of the 15 percent boost Pacific Power originally sought. Small-business customers will see a 7.4 percent increase. The new rates would take effect in mid-October. A typical residential customer now paying $85.11 would see bills climb to $92.48 under the agreement, instead of $98.14 under the original request.
Public Counsel, UTC Staff, the Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities (ICNU), and The Energy Project, a low-income advocacy group, together reached agreement with the company and filed the agreement with the UTC on Aug. 1. The UTC staff’s recommendation to approve the agreement is not binding on the commission.
Public Counsel Section Chief Simon ffitch said he believes the agreement is in the best interest of Pacific Power’s residential and small-business customers.
“While any utility rate increase is a challenge to household budgets, this agreement substantially reduces the impact and eliminates some substantial problems with Pacific Power’s original request,” ffitch said.
Portland-based PacifiCorp, which does business locally under the name Pacific Power, filed its original request with the state Utilities and Transportation Commission in February. The agreement whittles down the request as follows:
- Less additional revenue.
The company sought an additional $37.4 million in revenues by raising rates for its more than 125,000 customers in central and southeast Washington. Under the agreement, the company would be allowed to take only $20.4 million in new revenues.
- Smaller increase in the basic monthly charge.
The company wanted to increase the $5.25 monthly basic charge that all residential customers pay regardless of the amount of electricity used to $7. Under the agreement, the company can only increase the charge by 75 cents, so customers will pay $6 a month.
- No Generation Cost Adjustment Mechanism (GCAM).
Pacific Power requested authorization of the GCAM, which would give the company permission to change rates between formal general rate cases in order to offset claimed increased costs from generating power or purchasing wholesale power. As part of the agreement, the company agreed to withdraw the request and not propose a GCAM as part of its next general rate case.
- Fewer and reduced fee increases.
Under the agreement, Pacific Power reduced or eliminated its proposed increases to other fees and charges. The field visit charge will not increase, and evening and weekend reconnection charge increases will be significantly lower than originally proposed.
“The withdrawal of the GCAM is a major benefit for customers because it removes an opportunity for rate changes in between rate cases. It is preferable to review PacifiCorp’s cost requests in a general rate case where we can look at the whole picture of company earnings as well as costs,” ffitch said.
Public Counsel issued a news release on July 25 encouraging customers to tell the UTC what they think about Pacific Power’s requested rate hikes. ffitch said customers can still submit comments about the proposed agreement because the UTC has the final decision on whether the agreement should be approved.
Monthly bills will include a notice with details of the proposed agreement, as well as a detachable, pre-addressed comment form for customers to share their opinions with state regulators.
Customers also have the chance to speak out during a public hearing Sept. 25 at the Yakima County Courthouse, 128 North Second St. The hearing begins at 5 p.m. in Commissioners Hearing Room No. B-33. An administrative law judge will be present and commissioners from the UTC will participate by phone to hear customer comments.
As an alternative, customers can submit comments to the UTC via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, online at www.utc.wa.gov/comment or call toll-free 1-800-562-6150. Details about the company’s proposed rate changes are online at www.utc.wa.gov. Enter docket UE-080220.
The Public Counsel Section advocates for the interests of consumers on major rate cases, mergers and other rulemakings before the UTC. Public Counsel also advocates for consumers in court appeals, through technical study groups and before the Legislature and other policy makers. The office maintains contact with the public through a citizen advisory committee, community organizations, public hearings and personal contact with consumers in major cases. More information about Public Counsel’s work is available online atwww.atg.wa.gov/utilities.aspx.
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Media Contacts: Simon ffitch, Public Counsel Section Chief, (206) 389-2055
Kristin Alexander, Media Relations Manager - Seattle, (206) 464-6432
Editor’s Note: The spelling of Simon ffitch is correct – the surname begins with two lowercase f’s.