Avista proposes two-year rate hike

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Avista Utilities on Monday announced a two-year electric and natural gas rate increase request to fund capital improvements.

A residential natural gas customer using an average of 61 therms per month could expect to see a $3.90, or 6.6 percent, bill increase for a revised monthly bill of $63.12 in 2016. For 2017, the proposed increase is $1.79 per month, or a 2.8 percent increase, resulting in an overall monthly bill of $64.91.

If Avista's 2016 electric request is approved, a residential customer using an average of 929 kilowatt hours per month could expect to see a bill increase of $5.92 per month, or 6.9 percent, for a revised monthly bill of $91.16. For 2017, the proposed increase is $6.10 per month, or a 6.7 percent increase, resulting in an overall monthly bill of $97.26.

The new rate structure, which was filed with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, would start on Jan. 1, 2016, if approved.

"Our general rate requests continue to be driven by the ongoing need to maintain, replace and invest in the facilities and equipment we use every day to serve our customers," Avista Chairman, President and CEO Scott L. Morris said. "We are making investments to modernize our systems so we can meet our customers' needs and continue to provide the safe, reliable energy our customers expect, now and well into the future.

"This includes ensuring our hydroelectric projects can continue to provide the low-cost energy they have for more than 100 years, systematically replacing aging infrastructure and investing in technology that will enhance reliability."

Avista's request, if approved, is designed to boost electric revenue by $13.2 million and natural gas revenue by $3.2 million in 2016. In 2017, the hike would boost revenue by $13.7 million and $1.7 million respectively.

"We understand that rate increases can be challenging for our customers," Morris said. "While the costs of doing business continue to rise, we maintain a firm focus on managing our costs so that our customers can continue to have energy prices that are among the lowest in the country."

Avista serves more than 127,000 electric and nearly 78,100 natural gas customers in Idaho. The last general rate request filing in Idaho was Oct. 10, 2012. The IPUC has as long as nine months to review Avista's request.

Capital investments included in Avista's request include upgrades and maintenance of the company's generation facilities, transmission and distribution equipment, natural gas pipe and information technology.

"Costs to replace facilities and parts of our system are many times more expensive today than when originally installed," an Avista press release states. "This is the primary reason for the need to increase rates."

Meanwhile, Kootenai Electric Cooperative Spokeswoman Erika Neff said the company has been notified by Bonneville Power Administration, from which KEC buys power, that there will be a wholesale power cost adjustment in electricity in October.

"We're still evaluating how much of that adjustment can be absorbed by our current rates and whether an adjustment is necessary," she said.

KEC's last rate hike was 9.6 percent in October 2013. KEC does not offer natural gas.

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