July 6, 2011 in Idaho

Avista seeks Idaho rate hikes

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Proposed increases

If the requests are approved by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, a typical residential customer’s monthly bill would rise 3.7 percent, or $3.06 per month, for a total of $86.87. A typical household uses an average of 956 kilowatt hours of electricity each month.

A typical natural gas customer’s bill would increase 3.5 percent, or $2.15 per month, for a total of $62.91. A typical household uses 62 therms of natural gas each month.

Avista Corp. is asking Idaho regulators for permission to raise rates for electricity and natural gas.

The Spokane-based utility says it would use the additional revenue to replace aging electrical equipment and to pay for higher operating costs for its natural gas service.

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has seven months to review Avista’s request and make a decision. The requests would produce about $10.9 million in additional revenue for Avista, which services more than 122,000 electric customers and 74,000 natural gas customers in Idaho. The utility has a similar request pending before Washington regulators.

Debbie Simock, an Avista spokeswoman, said the rate requests are different in different states, based on what state regulators allow for inclusion in rates.

Replacing 40- to 70-year electrical equipment is a major driver behind the request for higher rates, she said. Avista plans to spend about $1.2 billion updating its electrical system over the next five years.

Upgrading two remaining turbines from the 1950s at the company’s Noxon Rapids dam is part of the request, Simock said. So is a $4.7 million upgrade of the 82-year-old spill gates at the utility’s Nine Mile Dam.

Simock said the request also includes the construction of three steel substations in Coeur d’Alene, Kellogg and Deary, Idaho. Substations adjust voltage to levels able to serve customers. The existing wood substations don’t meet current design and construction standards, she said.

Avista’s application for higher rates can be viewed at the Idaho Public Utilities Commission’s homepage www.puc.idaho.gov. The commission will be accepting public comments on the proposal.

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