Spokane, WA-based Avista Utilities has several natural gas and electric rate adjustments before the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC), asking that they be put in effect Oct. 1 with a net result of a slight increase in retail gas charges and a decrease in retail power charges.

However, a PUC spokesperson told NGI Tuesday that the increases requested in base gas and electric retail rates are unlikely to go in effect before next year unless the utility reaches a settlement with various stakeholders. And since the net impacts are relatively small, some stakeholders are urging regulators to leave rates unchanged, the spokesperson said.

The PUC is taking public comments on the rate changes through Sept. 21.

There are five separate cases involving annual adjustments for purchased gas charges and for the residential exchange credit with Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), among others.

For gas, there is an increase of 2.7% for the fixed-cost portion of Avista’s Idaho retail rates, but that is offset partially by a decrease of an average 4.2% in the efficiency cost rider portion of its gas rates. There is also a purchased gas adjustment (PGA) filing pending by Avista, seeking another 1.53% increase in gas retail charges.

Despite asking for the net increase in gas charges, Avista acknowledged that “abundant supplies of natural gas and softening demand for the commodity have continued to keep wholesale natural gas prices at lower levels during the past year.” The utility said elimination of a portion of the gas price savings from a previous PGA results in “a slight net increase in overall rates.”

Even with the slight increase, Avista’s gas rates will remain at about the same level they were in 2004, a company spokesperson said. “The direct costs of wholesale supplies make up about 65% on an Avista customer’s bill, and these costs fluctuate up and down based on the market prices,” the spokesperson said. “The remaining 35% covers the cost of delivering the natural gas: people and equipment.”

Avista plans to also make a PGA filing in September with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission. At the same time, the utility plans to request a rate decrease for residential and small farm electric customers in Washington state under the BPA residential exchange program.

For retail electric charges in Idaho, there is a 6% drop in the power cost adjustment, offset partially by an average 3.7% increase in the base rates (fixed-cost) part of power charges and a 0.3% decrease in the electricity efficiency rider. The power rate decrease could have been larger if not for increased expenses at a gas-fired generation plant, a coal-fired plant and a biogas plant, the PUC said.

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