The Idaho Public Utilities Commission increased natural gas and electricity utility rates for customers of Spokane, WA-based Avista Utilities Thursday, and separately announced that it was close to approving a settlement, backed by the agency staff and the utility, on a pending rate hike of 5.2% for Idaho Power Co.

Avista rates will change as the net result of separate cases, the Idaho commission announced: (a) new permanent rate bases for gas and electric customers, and (b) temporary surcharges for both. Overall, a 1.9% increase in electric revenues went into effect Thursday, along with 20.6% increase in gas rates.

The gas rate changes include the first base rate change in 14 years and a 14.2% hike in the utility’s purchased gas cost adjustment mechanism, reflecting the higher wholesale gas costs in the past year.

Avista originally asked for a $35.2 million increase in its revenues for electric service, and subsequently reduced that to $31.1 million, but the PUC approved $24.7 million. The PUC approved a 10.4% return on equity for the electric utility operations; Avista had asked for 10.9%.

The net electric rate increase was a combination of a permanent base rate increase and a reduction in the utility power cost adjustment.

For Idaho Power, a technical conference scheduled for Friday to discuss various outstanding issues, including tax calculations, was cancelled Thursday with the advent of the proposed settlement. The PUC said it would issue an “order on the merits of the proposed settlement” in the next few days.

“We have reviewed the comments concerning the proposed settlement and note that no party that would participate in the technical hearing has opposed it,” the Idaho PUC said in a prepared statement, noting the current record gives the regulators “sufficient basis” to make a decision without any further meetings.

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