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Avista customers will see bills drop about $5

Electricity bills for Avista’s Eastern Washington customers will fall by 7 percent after state regulators eliminated a monthly surcharge that dated to the 2001 West Coast energy crisis.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission agreed to allow the utility to remove the surcharge, which will save most customers about $5.35 per month. Residential customers who use 1,000 kilowatts a month will see their monthly electric bill drop from $77.14 to $71.79.

In 2001, energy prices soared as a result of two factors: A drought that reduced the Northwest’s hydropower generation, and market manipulation by Enron and other energy traders. Avista and other utilities that bought wholesale electricity on the spot market got stuck with exorbitant price hikes.

To help Avista recover its wholesale energy costs, the WUTC allowed the utility to add a 25 percent surcharge to customers’ monthly electric bills. Part of the surcharge was later rolled into the utility’s base electrical rates, but it never completely went away.

In January, Spokane-based Avista asked the WUTC for permission to eliminate the surcharge.

The commission regulates private utilities in Washington. Its goal is to ensure that companies provide safe and reliable service to customers, while still allowing the utilities to earn a fair profit.

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