Washington must act on energy deregulation or risk losing the lowest rates in the country, Washington Water Power Co. officials said Wednesday.
Although legislation may not pass this year, they said, the issue deserves consideration so the state will be ready when Congress enacts a national deregulation bill.
“Deregulation is going to happen,” said Chairman Paul Redmond. “Doing nothing is not an option.”
WWP and other utilities, as well as major industrial customers, conservationists and other interest groups, want legislators to approve a bill that would give consumers the choice of selecting from a menu of rate plans offered by their local utility.
Called the “portfolio model,” the plan would allow customers to stick with the traditional rate or experiment with rates set in the wholesale market, where prices right now are lower.
“Green power” from windmills or other sources also would be an option.
Redmond said the plan, which WWP will test in Deer Park, introduces deregulation without compromising the security provided by regulated rates.
Tom Dukich, rates manager for WWP, said the plan lets customers make decisions utility managers have always made for them - what resources to buy, and at what price.
“You simply give customers access to your portfolio,” he said.
Redmond said legislative leaders are reluctant to introduce the plan in an election year because a laborled coalition has run ads saying deregulation supporters want electricity rates hiked.
But some action should be taken this year or next to assure whatever plan lawmakers adopt is grandfathered when a federal bill is passed, he said.
Dukich noted that the states with the largest congressional delegations also have the highest utility rates.
State action now will provide more security later, he said.
“We don’t have much to win, but we have a lot to lose if it goes wrong,” Redmond added.
He said the bill will also help the struggling Bonneville Power Administration meet its financial, environmental and social obligations.