YAKIMA -- A bigger electric bill will hit most Yakima Valley residents starting in about a week.
Electric bills will jump an average of $11.26 a month under a rate increase approved this past week for Pacific Power, a hike of about 12 percent.
The Portland-based utility originally asked the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission for a 21 percent increase, which would have been an almost $20-a-month increase for a household using 1,300 kilowatts a month.
Still, regulators acknowledged the hike will hurt at a time of rising food and gas prices.
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"The commission is mindful that including these costs in Pacific Power's rates requires an unusually large increase, particularly in these difficult economic times," the three commissioners said in their written decision.
But, they continued, "the company must be able to recover its prudently incurred costs to be able to provide the service on which its customers depend."
Renewable energy credits from wind power prevented the hike from being higher at 14 percent, commissioners said.
Customer bills significantly will vary, with those relying on electricity for heat feeling the heaviest burden.
Pacific Power argued that its own cost to buy power has been going up as it negotiates new contracts with suppliers.
Other items included in the rate increase are the utility's cost to transmit and distribute electricity and operate a natural gas plant in Chehalis.
The company also enacted rate increases in 2009 (5.3 percent), 2008 (8.5 percent) and 2007 (6.5 percent).
Pacific Power provides service to about 130,000 customers in Yakima, Kittitas, Columbia, Garfield and Walla Walla counties.