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Avista seeks higher gas, electric rates

Mon., Sept. 16, 2013, 9:56 a.m.

Higher wholesale prices for natural gas has Avista Utilities asking for a 9.4 percent increase in gas rates for its residential customers in Washington by Nov. 1.

The Spokane-based utility said natural gas prices are rising this year after falling to record lows in 2012. A late, cold winter increased demand nationally during the last heating season, using up the excess supply and drawing down reserves.

If state regulators approve Avista’s request, a residential customer using an average of 68 therms of natural gas monthly would see a $5.44 increase in their monthly bill, which would rise to $63.07.

The wholesale cost of natural gas makes up about 55 percent of a customer’s bill. Avista is asking for the higher wholesale costs to be passed along to customers and would not get additional profits if the 9.4 percent rate increase is approved, company officials said.

Avista is also asking for a 2.1 percent increase in electric rates for residential and small farm customers.

Officials said the electric rate request is prompted by smaller credits available this year through the Bonneville Power Administration’s residential exchange program. The program provides a share of the benefits from the federal Columbia River hydroelectric system to customers of investor-owned utilities, which appears as a credit on their monthly bill.

If the electric rate request is approved by state regulators, customers using an average of 989 kilowatt hours per month would see their bills increase by $1.67 monthly, to $81.35.

Avista has asked for similar rate hikes for its Idaho customers, and that request is still pending.

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