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Long-Term Deal on Northwest Power Grid May Be Close

Investor-owned utilities (IOU) in the Pacific Northwest, three state regulatory commissions and Oregon's citizens utility board all have signed a final agreement on the handling of a long-time policy issues involving Bonneville Power Administration's (BPA) residential exchange program allowing IOU customers to share in the low-cost federal hydroelectric supplies for which public-sector utilities have first call.

BPA needs approval from various public power utility executives from companies that represent 91% of the BPA power load. Efforts to secure the commitments, which are needed by this Friday, are proceeding, according to a Portland General Electric (PGE) spokesperson.

Since the Northwest Power Act of 1980, which created the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, the residential exchange program has been carried out as a means of creating an equitable spread of federal power benefits to residential and small farm customers throughout the four-state region.

After several years of negotiations, the parties worked out a settlement among those utilities serving a majority of the region's electricity customers. The parties agreeing to this deal include Avista Corp., Idaho Power Co., NorthWestern Energy, PacifiCorp, PGE and Puget Sound Energy, along with the state commissions in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

Some of the key points of the deal are that it extends the federal residential exchange benefits to the IOUs through 2028; it establishes an escalating scale of benefits for the residential exchange customers through 2028; it offers the potential to reduce current litigation and avoid future litigation for both the private- and public-sector utilities; and the benefits for the IOUs will continue to be based on the average system costs of the investor-owned utilities.

Signing on for now are Avista, Idaho Power, Oregon Citizen Utility Board, NorthWestern Energy, PacifiCorp, PGE, Puget Sound Energy, and the Oregon, Washington and Idaho regulatory commissions.

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