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Avista seeking rate hikes for Washington customers in 2017 and 2018

Avista is asking for permission to raise electric and natural gas rates for its Washington customers beginning in 2017, citing rising capital costs, which include a portion of the repairs from last November’s windstorm.

The Spokane-based utility is seeking approval from Washington regulators for two rate increases between Jan. 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018. If approved, the rate increases would add about $10 per month to a typical household’s combined electric and gas bill.

The proposed rate increase would bring in about $54 million in additional revenue for big ticket projects, such as upgrades to Spokane River dams and ongoing replacement of older gas pipelines, said Casey Fielder, an Avista spokeswoman. About $2 million of the proposed increase is related to repairs to Avista’s electric distribution system, which was heavily damaged by the gale-force winds that knocked out power to about 180,000 Avista customers in November.

Avista will reveal more information about the windstorm’s financial impact on the utility next week, when its 2015 annual earnings are released, Fielder said. Avista expects to recover the costs from windstorm damages over a period of years, she said.

The state Utilities and Transportation Commission has 11 months to evaluate and make a decision on Avista’s current request, which was filed Friday. The request includes a rate boost on Jan. 1, 2017, followed by another increase on Jan. 1, 2018.

For residential electric customers, rates would rise by 8.2 percent beginning Jan. 1, which would add $6.83 to a typical household’s monthly bill, for a revised bill of $89.62. That includes an increase in the utility’s monthly basic charge from $8.50 to $9.50.

Avista also wants to raise base electric rates by an additional 3.9 percent on Jan. 1, 2018. However, customers would benefit from a credit related to lower wholesale power costs in the past. The credit would offset the hike for six months.

For residential natural gas customers, rates would increase by 3.5 percent on Jan. 1, adding $2.13 to a typical household’s monthly bill, for a revised bill of $63.50. That includes an increase in the utility’s basic monthly charge from $9 to $9.50.

On Jan. 1, 2018, Avista has proposed a rate increase of 1.2 percent for residential natural gas customers. It would cost a typical household an additional 79 cents per month, for a revised monthly bill of $64.29.

Utility customers will have opportunities to submit public comments during the rate-making process.

During the last rate case, regulators ordered Avista to give customers a slight break on electric rates, but they approved higher natural gas rates. Those rates took effect in early January.


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