The same day that Avista Corp.’s utility affiliate filed arequest for a natural gas price adjustment with the Oregon PublicUtility Commission, the state’s largest provider, Portland GeneralElectric, rescinded its own request last week for a 17.1% rate hikethat would have taken effect next month.
On Wednesday, Avista Utilities requested a Purchase Gas CostAdjustment (PGA) from OPUC, reflecting increases from the company’ssuppliers in the cost of gas purchased for use by its customers. Asa natural gas distribution company, Avista said it needs to passalong the higher costs of acquiring gas from suppliers for itscustomers, a problem facing many utilities along the Pacific Coast.
PGA filings normally are made once a year to reflect eitherincreases or decreases in the gas supplies, said Avista, but marketconditions have been “far from normal,” and recent increases inmarket prices “made the filing necessary.”
Avista’s filing, which proposes an effective date of Jan. 19,2001, requests an overall increase of 35%, or $22.5 million inrevenues, to reflect changes in the cost of gas it has purchased.Avista Utilities serves about 79,000 natural gas customers inOregon.
If approved by Oregon regulators, a residential customer usingan average 60 therms of natural gas a month would see an increaseof $15.90, with a total bill of about $61.30. Larger-use commercialand industrial customers in the state would see a higher percentageincrease because of lower base rates.
In what would be good news in the short term for the state’sconsumers, Oregon’s largest utility, PGE, said it would not needits 17.1% increase in residential rates starting Jan. 1, 2001, andasked the OPUC to rescind the request. PGE customers still couldface increased rates if wholesale electricity prices remain high,however. PGE replaced its previous rate request, first filed inNovember, with a proposal to shift the risk of buying and sellingwholesale power to consumers.
PGE said it decided to cancel the November request afterperforming a computer analysis Dec. 15-18. PGE found that it wouldhave a surplus of energy this winter if “normal” weather conditionscontinue. The surplus could be sold to California utilities, andthose profits would eliminate the need for a rate hike. PGE’ssurplus came from purchases it made about a year ago when wholesaleprices were low. PGE expects to sell its surplus for around $.30kWh after buying it for $.04 to $.06.
OPUC rescinded PGE’s previous rate request, but will not rule onthe amended request or Avista’s request for two weeks.
Carolyn Davis, Houston
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