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Avista requests rate hikes in Idaho

Avista Corp. is asking Idaho regulators for permission to raise electric rates and natural gas rates paid by North Idaho customers next year, unwinding rate reductions that just went into effect on Oct. 1.

The requested increases in base rates would add about $4.20 a month to the average customer’s electric bill and boost the average customer’s gas bill by $4.12, according to an Avista news release. After the increases, those bills would be $82.89 and $56.67, respectively.

Avista has about 125,000 electric customers and about 75,000 natural gas customers in North Idaho.

The Spokane-based company says it needs the higher rates to help pay for upgrades to its transmission network. The company spent $240 million on such upgrades in 2011 and expects to spend another $260 million this year, the release said.

The company asked regulators to lower rates earlier this year based on lower wholesale costs of power; that reduction took effect on Oct. 1.

Also on Oct. 1, customers received a credit based on over-collection of a variable rate that utilities are allowed to charge for expenses that change from year to year.

Regulatory commission staff in Idaho had argued that the state should hold off on agreeing to the Oct. 1 credit, to “soften the impact of a potential base rate increase” that Avista had said it would be filing later in the month.

A large commercial customer, however, balked at that and said customers should get the credit immediately, according to the Idaho Public Utilities Commission.

The utilities commission has seven months to rule on the request to raise rates.

Tags: Avista