Idaho decision on Avista hike not imminent

SUNDAY, JULY 24, 2011

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission will take up to six months to consider Avista Utilities’ request for higher electric and natural gas rates, officials announced last week.

Avista had hoped for a decision by Aug. 5, but the three-member commission said it needed more time for its staff of auditors, engineers and attorneys to thoroughly review the company’s rate request.

Avista is seeking a 3.7 percent rate hike for its electric customers and 2.7 percent rate hike for natural gas customers. If granted, a typical household’s monthly electric bill would jump from $83.81 to $86.87. Monthly gas bills would go up from $60.76 to $62.91. Both bills include a 50-cent increase in customer service charges.

As proposed, the rate increase would add $10.9 million to Avista’s annual revenues. In the application, company officials said the additional revenue would be used to upgrade and replace aging equipment. A public hearing schedule will be announced at a later date.

Spokane-based Avista serves about 125,000 electric customers and 74,200 natural gas customers in Idaho.

Gene Fadness, a PUC spokesman, said Avista customers should be aware that their rates will increase on Oct. 1 through a separate action. Last year, the PUC approved a 9.25 percent hike in electric rates and a 1.9 percent natural gas hike, but spread the increases out over three years to soften the impact on customers.

As part of that phase-in, electric rates will increase by 3.9 percent in October and gas rates by 0.72 percent.

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