Oregon Electricity users could pay 15% more

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Electricity users could pay 15% more

Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell

Right: PacifiCorp lineman Tom Schaefer of Montague, Calif., works to connect power to a new building on Medford’s East Jackson Street Wednesday. PacifiCorp has filed with the state utilities commission to raise electric rates by as much as 21 percent to offset higher-than-expected costs of buying and generating power.

PacifiCorp wants increase effective as of next August

By Shari Downhill

Oregon residents and business owners may see a sizable increase in their electric bills by next fall.

PacifiCorp has filed a request to raise residential and commercial rates by 21 percent, a hike that would take affect in August if approved by the Oregon Public Utility Commission.

The rate case filed with the state regulatory commission early this month requests an overall increase in base electric rates of $160 million, said PacifiCorp spokeswoman Jan Mitchell.

The increase is necessary, the utility maintains, to pay for a higher-than-expected cost of power generation, high demand for electrical resources versus availability, maintenance costs and infrastructure improvements.

Customer bills would actually increase by about 15 percent, the utility says, because of expected credits from the Bonneville Power Administration, a $12 million annual credit from the PacificCorp-Scottish Power merger and $19 million from the sale of the Centralia steam plant in Washington.

PacifiCorp was purchased last year by Scottish Power in a deal that marked the first acquisition of a U.S.-based electric utility by a foreign company. PacifiCorp assured customers no significant changes were expected.

In May, Scottish Power unveiled a cost-cutting plan that sliced the PacifiCorp work force by 20 percent.

Before completing the PacifiCorp purchase in December 1999, Scottish Power indicated it planned to cut costs by $10 million annually. The plan released in May further outlined actions the company said would shave $300 million from 1998 levels by 2004.

Now ratepayers face the probability of significantly higher electric bills with no obvious benefits from the utility’s promised cost-cutting.

Approximately half of PacifiCorp’s proposed rate hike is related to increased net power costs, Mitchell said.

"The whole region has experienced a significant increase in the cost of power," she said. "Although we’re not as affected as some utilities who have to buy virtually all of their power on the market — we have much of our own — we still had to go to the market to fill the need of our customers."

The commission will hold public hearings on PacifiCorp’s rate hike request in the coming months.

Reach reporter Shari Downhill at 776-4463, or e-mail sdownhill@mailtribune.com.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), December 25, 2000

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