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Bonneville Power to
Up Rates by 7 Percent

by Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News, July 24, 2009

PORT ANGELES -- Bonneville Power Administration will charge its customers an additional 7 percent for power beginning Oct. 1, the Portland company announced Tuesday.

What that means to utility costs on the North Olympic Peninsula ratepayers isn't clear.

Rise likely

Rates are likely to rise, but the extent to which they do -- and when -- has yet to be determined.

"It's unknown at this time," said Jeff Beaman, Clallam County Public Utilities District spokesman.

"The staff needs to develop a recommendation and bring it to the commissioners for their consideration . . . Any kind of specific impact won't be known until fall."

Bonneville Power Administration provides power to Clallam County PUD and the city of Port Angeles.

Making up difference

Clallam County PUD could make up the difference by charging customers more up front or by implementing rate increases in small steps over two years, Beaman said.

Bonneville, which cited rising costs and decreasing surplus revenues as the reasons for its first power rate increase since 2002, will keep the new rates in effect until October 2011.

"This has been going back and forth for a while," Beaman said of the BPA deliberations.

"The fact that it's lower than some of the early numbers cited was good to see. It was significantly higher earlier in the process."

The average rate for wholesale power for Bonneville's priority firm will rise to $28.77 per megawatt hour from $26.90, according to a BPA news release.

Transmission rates will stay the same.

"Nobody wants a rate increase, and we have worked very hard to keep the increase as low as possible," BPA Administrator Steve Wright said.

Whether the new power rates will result in higher utility costs for customers in Port Angeles remains to be seen.

Glenn Cutler, Port Angeles public works and utilities director, said the city needs to determine how much power it will need to buy during the two-year period.

For example, Cutler said, "Nippon has shut down a little more than they have in the past. They are not using as much power, and that's the same thing across the board.

"We need to look at how reductions in revenue will impact us."

PA budget

Port Angeles budgeted $19.37 million in power purchases this year.

Cutler said the Port Angeles Utility Advisory Committee will make a recommendation on rate charges to the City Council in early September.

If rate changes are proposed, the City Council and Clallam County PUD commissioners will hold public hearings before making a decision.

Customers of Puget Sound Energy, which serves Port Townsend and most of East Jefferson County, receive a credit from BPA called the residential and small farm exchange credit program.

This benefit appears on a Puget Sound Energy bill under the line item "credit."

$10 a month

On average, this amounts to about $10 on a monthly bill, said Dorothy Bracken, Puget Sound Energy spokeswoman.

When the new rates take effect, a Puget Sound Energy customer using the annual average 1,000 kilowatt hours per month will pay $92.31 instead of $90.45 -- an increase of $1.86.

Investor-owned Puget Sound Energy serves more than 1 million customers, Bracken said.

It gets its power from a variety of sources, including hydroelectric dams, natural gas, coal and wind.

Rob Ollikainen
Reporter Tom Callis contributed to this report.
Bonneville Power to Up Rates by 7 Percent
Peninsula Daily News, July 24, 2009

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