Utility Won't Boost Rates
by Erik Robinson, Staff Writer
Clark County electricity ratepayers, stung by a series of rate hikes three years ago, won't see any new increases under the budget previewed by Clark Public Utilities commissioners on Tuesday.
But they won't get any rate relief, either.
Commissioners previewed a 2005 budget that estimates electric system expenditures of almost $315 million, with power costs eating up 72 percent of those expenditures.
The utility buys about half its electricity from the Bonneville Power Administration, with the rest coming from its own natural gas-fired River Road Generating Plant or the open market.
Skyrocketing market prices forced Clark to raise rates three years ago.
Beginning in early 2001, the utility raised its rates three times to 7.36 cents per kilowatt-hour, a 45 percent increase in three years.
Clark fell victim to an energy crunch in which wholesale electricity prices shot sky-high in the face of market manipulation and energy shortfalls stemming from California's chaotic attempt to deregulate energy markets. The BPA, a federal agency that markets about 45 percent of the electricity consumed in the Northwest, raised its average wholesale rate by 46 percent in October of 2001.
Rates have remained elevated since then.
Not only is Clark paying more for electricity from Bonneville, the utility expects to absorb continued increases in the cost of the natural gas that fuels its generating plant in the Vancouver Lake lowlands.
Utility officials anticipate power supply costs of $228 million next year, a 10 percent increase from this year.
The utility serves about 160,000 electricity customers in Clark County.
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