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Economic and dam related articles

Northwest Co-ops Face
7.1 Percent Power Rate Hike

by Steven Johnson
Electric Co-op Today, July 27, 2015

Lower Granite Dam in SE Washington State inundates reservoir water some forty miles to the Idaho border. Bonneville Power Administration announced July 23 that it will boost wholesale power rates by 7.1 percent and transmission rates by 4.4 percent for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, effective Oct. 1.

The rate hike follows a 9 percent jump in wholesale power that the agency implemented for fiscal 2014 and 2015. BPA provides wholesale power to 54 electric cooperatives among its more than 140 customers and is the largest electricity supplier in the Northwest.

The agency attributed the increases to the end of debt management actions that have reduced capital costs and increases in the cost of operating the federal hydroelectric system in the Northwest.

"BPA has spent the past two years working with our customers and other regional partners to meet the collective needs of the Northwest in the most reliable, cost-effective and environmentally sustainable way possible," said Administrator and CEO Elliot Mainzer.

Individual utilities will each determine how to address the effect of this increase, but it is certain to be felt in some way, said Scott Corwin, executive director of the Public Power Council. The Portland, Ore.-based council represents consumer-owned utilities on issues related to the Federal Columbia River Power System.

"This is a significant increase in wholesale power rates on top of large increases in the prior three rate periods," Corwin said. "Seeing this increase in costs every other year is a notable hit to utilities and the consumers they serve in the region."

BPA initially proposed a 6.7 percent increase for fiscal 2016-2017, but upped that after reviewing its workload for the next two years.

The agency said that its fish and wildlife programs, mostly to protect endangered salmon and steelhead species, conributed to the rate hike. Those expenditures reached $782.3 million in 2014.

"In light of the recent rate trajectory, addressing the competitiveness of the agency's power and transmission rates in the near and long term will be crucial for the stability of BPA and the economic well-being of the region," Corwin said.

Steven Johnson
Northwest Co-ops Face 7.1 Percent Power Rate Hike
Electric Co-op Today, July 27, 2015

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