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Thursday, October 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Business

Avista seeks Washington regulatory approval for rate increases over two years

UPDATED: Tue., April 30, 2019, 8:36 p.m.

 (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
(Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Avista Corp. filed a request Tuesday with Washington regulators to raise electric and natural gas rates over the next two years.

Avista’s rate proposal, if approved by the Utilities and Transportation Commission, would see rates increased April 1, 2020, and April 1, 2021.

For a typical household using 918 kilowatts per month, the proposal would increase electric bills by 9.8%, resulting in a more than $7 monthly increase , from $81.21 to $89.14. Electric rates would rise another 3.9% in 2021.

Residential natural gas customers using an average of 66 therms per month would to see a 9.9% jump in monthly bills, an increase of more than $4 per month, resulting in a bill change from $46.40 to $51. Natural gas bills would increase an additional 5% in 2021.

The utility said in a statement the rate increases would pay for investment, infrastructure, maintenance and technology costs.

Projects listed in the company’s UTC filing include inspecting and replacing thousands of power poles as well as natural gas pipe, enhancing cybersecurity and upgrading transmission lines, electric turbines and generators in Avista’s century-old Little Falls Dam.

“We’re making significant investments in our infrastructure and systems every year to maintain, upgrade and ensure the safety, reliability and resiliency of the equipment and facilities that serve our customers every day,” Avista President Dennis Vermillion said in the statement. “We’re also investing in digital tools and technology options that make it easier for our customers to interact and do business with us.”

The company said dozens of projects completed since the last rate case was filed with the UTC in 2017 haven’t been included in rates paid by customers.

If the UTC approves the proposed rate increases, Avista wouldn’t file another rate case for two years, providing customers with “some predictability in their expected future energy prices,” according to the company’s statement.

Avista put rate increases on hold while it pursued a sale to Hydro One Ltd., of Toronto. The sale was abandoned by both entities in late January after state regulators determined the sale wasn’t in the best interest of Avista or its customers, citing the province of Ontario’s political influence over Hydro One.

Avista spends more than $400 million annually on capital improvements to its system, and without a recent rate increase, the utility hasn’t recovered those expenditures, Scott Morris, Avista chairman and CEO, told The Spokesman-Review in February.

Hydro One paid Avista $103 million for failing to complete the transaction, but that will be used to reimburse expenses related to the failed merger between the two entities as well as reducing the need for outside financing, said Patrick Ehrbar, director of regulatory affairs for Avista.

Tuesday’s rate request is separate from the Energy Recovery Mechanism adjustment the company filed with the UTC in March, which, if approved, would provide more than $34 million to customers over three years.

Avista serves more than 254,000 electric and 197,000 natural-gas customers in Washington.

The UTC has up to 11 months to review Avista’s request, a time frame that would include opportunity for public comments.

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