Oregon Utilities Do Flip Flop on Rate Requests
The same day that Avista Corp.'s utility affiliate filed a
request for a natural gas price adjustment with the Oregon Public
Utility Commission, the state's largest provider, Portland General
Electric, rescinded its own request last week for a 17.1% rate hike
that would have taken effect next month.
On Wednesday, Avista Utilities requested a Purchase Gas Cost
Adjustment (PGA) from OPUC, reflecting increases from the company's
suppliers in the cost of gas purchased for use by its customers. As
a natural gas distribution company, Avista said it needs to pass
along the higher costs of acquiring gas from suppliers for its
customers, a problem facing many utilities along the Pacific Coast.
PGA filings normally are made once a year to reflect either
increases or decreases in the gas supplies, said Avista, but market
conditions have been "far from normal," and recent increases in
market prices "made the filing necessary."
Avista's filing, which proposes an effective date of Jan. 19,
2001, requests an overall increase of 35%, or $22.5 million in
revenues, to reflect changes in the cost of gas it has purchased.
Avista Utilities serves about 79,000 natural gas customers in
If approved by Oregon regulators, a residential customer using
an average 60 therms of natural gas a month would see an increase
of $15.90, with a total bill of about $61.30. Larger-use commercial
and industrial customers in the state would see a higher percentage
increase because of lower base rates.
In what would be good news in the short term for the state's
consumers, Oregon's largest utility, PGE, said it would not need
its 17.1% increase in residential rates starting Jan. 1, 2001, and
asked the OPUC to rescind the request. PGE customers still could
face increased rates if wholesale electricity prices remain high,
however. PGE replaced its previous rate request, first filed in
November, with a proposal to shift the risk of buying and selling
wholesale power to consumers.
PGE said it decided to cancel the November request after
performing a computer analysis Dec. 15-18. PGE found that it would
have a surplus of energy this winter if "normal" weather conditions
continue. The surplus could be sold to California utilities, and
those profits would eliminate the need for a rate hike. PGE's
surplus came from purchases it made about a year ago when wholesale
prices were low. PGE expects to sell its surplus for around $.30
kWh after buying it for $.04 to $.06.
OPUC rescinded PGE's previous rate request, but will not rule on
the amended request or Avista's request for two weeks.
Carolyn Davis, Houston
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