Power rates for Benton Public Utility District customers will increase an average of 6 percent starting Jan. 1.
On Tuesday, the PUD commission approved the increase, which includes a 5.4 percent bump for residential customers.
The average home bill will increase from about $101 a month to $106.
For businesses and institutions that pay the general service rate, the increase will be 4.5 percent for small general service, 7.6 percent for medium general service and 8 percent for large general service.
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The public utility district actually needed a rate increase of about 10 percent for 2012, but it is using cash reserves to help keep the increase smaller, according to Benton PUD.
It also made cuts where possible in its overall budget. However, about 75 percent of the budget is for power costs, taxes and debt, limiting the cuts that could be made.
The main reason for the rate increase is the rising cost of power, according to the Benton PUD.
"Power costs continue to have a major impact on our budget and therefore our customer rates," Jim Sanders, Benton PUD general manager, said in a statement.
The Bonneville Power Administration has raised its rates for power that the Benton PUD purchases an average of 7.8 percent as of last month.
In addition Initiative 937 passed by voters in 2006 requires the Benton PUD to buy renewable resources, such as wind power, even if it already has enough power to serve customers.
Benton PUD has invested in wind power projects to meet the requirement, and the wind power is about twice as expensive as power from BPA.
The Benton PUD also expects to make less money from selling surplus power back into the wholesale market in 2012. It expects to have less power to sell and to make less money on what it does sell.
-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; firstname.lastname@example.org