Spokane, WA-based Avista Utilities asked Idaho regulators Friday to increase the natural gas efficiency rider for its utility customers in the northern part of the state. The changes would increase the rider by 2.6%, or about $1.52 monthly.

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that must act on the pending request said granting the increase in the rider would not affect company earnings, and all monies collected under the rider must be used for gas conservation programs for Avista’s 72,300 gas utility customers in the state.

On the electric side, the PUC said the utility also is proposing a rider increase as it anticipates a shortfall of about $600,000 at the end of this year. In both the gas and electricity efficiency programs Avista saw increased savings resulting from the riders last year.

Avista reported a reduction of more than 2 million therms by gas customers last year, exceeding the utility target of 1.6 million therms. “Avista contends that energy efficiency remains the lowest cost resource and that all customers — even those who do not directly participate in the programs — benefit from them,” a PUC spokesperson said.

Avista’s most recent cost-benefit analysis for the gas efficiency efforts estimated a net benefit to customers of more than $8.9 million in 2008, the PUC said.

For its electricity efficiency program results, Avista reported a savings of 82 million kWh in 2009, or a 9.4 average megawatts. That was 143% better than the utility’s target for the year of 57.2 million kWh. The net benefit from the electric rider-supported programs in 2008 was an estimated $39 million, the PUC said.

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