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Avista requests rate hikes in Idaho

If approved, new rates would begin Oct. 1

Rising prices for natural gas and increased demand for energy-efficiency rebates have Avista Utilities asking for higher rates in Idaho.

The Spokane-based utility is seeking a 0.9 percent increase in residential electric rates and 7.5 percent hike in residential natural gas rates, beginning Oct. 1. The request was filed Wednesday with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, which must approve any rate changes.

After falling to record lows in 2012, natural gas rates began climbing this year. The natural gas rate request is based on higher wholesale gas prices, which account for about 55 percent of a customer’s bill, said Jessie Wuerst, an Avista spokeswoman.

On the electric side, the utility is asking for an increase in the surcharge that pays for the company’s energy-efficiency rebate program, which encourages customers to install insulation and upgrade to more efficient furnaces and appliances.

The electric rate request also takes into account smaller credits available through the Bonneville Power Administration’s residential exchange program. The program provides a share of the benefits the federal Columbia River hydroelectric generates to customers of investor-owned utilities through a credit on their monthly bill.

The Public Utilities Commission will be reviewing Avista’s request and accepting public comments. In March, the commission approved an increase in electric and gas base rates for Idaho customers, part of which also takes effect Oct. 1.

If the current request is approved, the total increase in the average residential electric customer bill on Oct. 1 would be $3.25 a month, to $81.94. The average residential natural gas customer would see a $4.11 per month increase for a total of $59.48.

Avista has about 124,000 electric and 76,000 natural gas customers in Idaho.

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