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IPCo. files for 25 percent rate hike on Ore. irrigators

By TIM HINSHAW Oregon Staff Writer

Idaho Power has filed an application with the Public Utility Commission of Oregon (OPUC) to increase the company’s general rates an average of 17.52 percent for its Oregon customers, including a 25 percent hike for irrigators.

If approved, company revenues would increase $4.4 million annually. IPCo. serves about 18,000 Oregon customers.

The company’s filing also includes a request to increase Oregon customers’ monthly service charges and to introduce summer and non-summer rates.

An Oregon PUC official said an investigation into the proposed rate increases is likely, and that open house-style public meetings will be held in Eastern Oregon before any ruling is made.

IPCo. said that while its Oregon rates have periodically been adjusted to allow for extraordinary power costs incurred in 2001, the company has not filed for a change in its overall rates since 1995. Rates at that time were based upon the company’s costs in 1993. “Since then, Idaho Power has invested more than $850 million in its electrical system including upgrades in the facilities that serve its nearly 18,000 Oregon customers,” the company said in a news release.

In a recent letter to its Oregon customers, Idaho Power vice president of regulatory affairs Ric Gale wrote, “Although our customer base in Oregon is small, we have seen escalating costs over the past 10 years associated with providing service to you as well as to an increased number of customers. We have made considerable investments in our power system, including a new power plant at Mountain Home and additional infrastructure improvements like a major upgrade to lines from Hells Canyon and additonal investments in our distrubution system.

“Other inflationary costs, such as replacing equipoment, tools, vehicle fuel, labor, postage and computers have all contributed to the need to increase your base rates,” Gale wrote.

The company is seeking an overall increase of 17.52 percent to its rates. However, because the cost of providing electricity to various customer groups varies, the overall percentage increase differs between them.

For residential, small general service and industrial customers the proposed increase is 17.52 percent. Irrigation and large general service customers would see increases of 25 percent and 15.88 percent, respectively.

The proposal would increase the average Oregon residential customer’s monthly bill from $62.51 to $77.06 during the summer and to $71.22 during the rest of the year.

Gale said the filing reflects recently approved changes for Idaho Power customers in Idaho.

OPUC’s Bob Valdez said OPUC will consider the request at its next meeting on Oct. 19.

“Staff will recommend the request be suspended, and will ask for an investigation,” said Valdez, public information officer for OPUC, adding that the investigation could take about nine months.

Valdez said OPUC has planned open house sessions in Ontario in November and again in January to invite public comment on the proposed rate hike.

The company has requested a change in rates to reflect how the time of year impacts electricity costs. June through August normally is the period of highest demand for electricity as air conditioning and irrigation loads coincide.

If approved, prices for electricity during the summer months would reflect the company’s seasonably higher costs of producing or purchasing power, resulting in the establishment of summer and non-summer rates.

For residential customers the proposed summer rate for electricity use over 300 kilowatt-hours (kWh) would be 12 percent greater than during non-summer months.

Included in the filing is a proposal to increase the monthly service charge, currently called the customer charge.

The service charge is designed to recover a portion of the costs associated with providing metering and billing services.

These are service-related expenses that do not vary with the amount of electricity used by a customer; however, those expenses do vary by customer group.

For residential customers the proposed change would increase the monthly charge from $4 to $5.25.

Copies of the filing are available on Idaho Power’s website (www.idahopower.com) or at the OPUC offices, 550 Capitol St. NE #215, P.O. Box 2148, Salem, Ore., 97308-2148. Copies also are available at Idaho Power’s corporate headquarters, 1221 W. Idaho St., Boise, or at Idaho Power’s Payette Operations Center, 1550 South Main Street, Payette, Idaho.

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