Idaho regulators approved a rate settlement for Spokane, WA-based Avista Utilities, pushing typical monthly residential natural gas and electric bills up a buck each starting Aug. 1. The Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC) said its approval means Avista residential customers will pay just slightly more than an added 1% — about $1 — as the net result of four rate adjustments.

The Idaho PUC announced two adjustments last Friday — a base rate increase and an electric and gas supply decrease — and it said it will announce an increase in the combination utility’s energy efficiency rider later this month. The fourth component, the resumption of the Residential Exchange Credit from the Bonneville Power Administration, will result in a rate decrease.

This settlement increases Avista Utilities’ annual electric revenue by $12.5 million and gas revenue by $1.93 million. The utility originally sought a $31.2 million increase in annual electric revenue and a $2.7 million gas revenue increase. “The result of the rate case filed last January is an average 1.5 % increase for electric customers (1.2% for residential customers) and no increase for gas customers,” said a PUC spokesperson, noting, however, that when including the increase in the energy efficiency rider to be announced later this month, the net result for residential gas customers is about a 1.2% increase.

Rate adjustments included the following: a permanent base electric rate increase of 5.7%, but because of a 4.2% reduction in the company’s annual power cost adjustment (PCA), the net increase to all electric customer classes is 1.5% (1.22% for the residential class). Avista originally sought a 12.8% base electric increase that would have netted 7.8% with the PCA reduction, the spokesperson said. On the gas side, the permanent rate increase is 2.1%, but because of a decrease in the annual purchased gas cost adjustment (PGA) there was no net increase in gas rates for most customers.

Idaho regulators said the disputes among the parties to the rate case were “numerous and significant,” and they congratulated the parties for their “diligent work on the settlement” and their ability to resolve all the issues in this case. The PUC said the settlement represents a reduction of about 60% from the original Avista request.”

The commission said it received more than 200 written comments in the case in addition to those obtained through hearings and workshops in northern Idaho. Many of those comments addressed the issue of company salaries. The settlement adopts the commission staff proposal “to reduce wages for executive and nonexecutive employees to reflect actual wages in 2009 and to eliminate any pro forma increase in 2010,” the order states. “For ratemaking purposes, the stipulation (settlement) also removed pay increases for the company’s executives in 2009 and 2010,” the PUC spokesperson said.

The parties in the case included Avista, commission staff, the Idaho Forest Group, Clearwater Paper Corp., the Idaho Conservation League, the Idaho Community Action Network and the Community Action Partnership of Idaho.

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