Electricity Rates Expected to Hold Steadyby Allan Brettman
The Oregonian, December 15, 2005
Clark Public Utilities - But high natural gas prices make a midyear increase possible
VANCOUVER -- Electricity rates are not expected to increase under the 2006 Clark Public Utilities budget.
A midyear increase is possible, however, particularly if natural gas prices remain high and the Bonneville Power Administration increases its rates, utility officials said.
Commissioners Tuesday adopted budgets for the utility's electric, water and wastewater systems.
The utility buys about half its electricity from BPA and produces the rest at its River Road Generating Plant, which is fueled by natural gas.
The outlook for stable energy prices is not good.
Natural gas prices have been trading near all-time highs on mercantile markets. One energy analyst told The Associated Press this week the price of natural gas could rise even higher by the middle of January.
The BPA, meanwhile, "expects rates to be stable over the next three to four years," barring unfavorable salmon recovery court decisions, spokesman Mike Hansen said.
The electric system budget would increase from $315 million in 2005 to $342.734 million for 2006.
And, as in previous years, the purchase of power makes up the bulk of the electricity budget. In 2006, power costs are expected to be about $251 million, up 10 percent from $228 million in 2005.
The budget calls for 358 employees for the electric, water and wastewater systems, an increase of six from the current level.
Clark provides electric service to about 172,000 customers in Clark County and water service to nearly 29,000 homes and businesses.
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