Pacific Power may not get requested rate hike in Yakima Valley

Staff working for the state Utilities and Transportation Commission is recommending a much smaller rate increase than the one being sought by Pacific Power, the Portland-based electricity supplier to most of the Yakima Valley.

Pacific Power should be granted a 4.8 percent increase rather than the 14.1 percent increase it seeks, according to the staff’s filing with the three-member commission.

That would generate $14.6 million per year, rather than the $42.8 million sought by the utility.

If adopted by the commission later this year, the staff recommendation would increase the average customer’s bill to $110.03, or $2.42 per month.

The commission, which is not bound by the staff recommendation, will make a final decision on the utility’s rate request this fall. New rates will be effective Dec. 11.

Pacific Power last received a rate increase of 1.5 percent in early 2012. The utility filed its most recent rate increase request in February.

The commission will conduct a public hearing on the Pacific Power rate increase July 15 in Yakima.

Pacific Power’s increase request cited higher costs for power production, infrastructure investments and declining consumption.

The agency news release said the staff recommendation proposes a lesser overall rate of return than Pacific Power had asked for, which accounts for $10 million of the difference between the utility’s request and the staff’s position. Other major differences are a $14 million reduction for power supply costs and $3 million for investments in infrastructure.

Pacific Power also sought to increase the basic monthly charge from $6 to $10. The staff recommendation is for an increase to $8.64 per month.

The commission regulates private, investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities in Washington state.

Public hearings:

-- The Washington Utilities and Transporation Commission will conduct a public hearing on Pacific Power’s requested rate increase at 6 p.m. on July 15 at Yakima City Hall, 129 N. Second St. A second hearing is scheduled for noon on July 16 at the Walla Walla City Council chambers, 15 N. Third Ave.

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