OLYMPIA, Wash. - Customers of Avista Utilities will pay a little less for electricity and a little more for natural gas after three actions taken today by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC). New rates take effect Nov. 1.
The commission decision made on Avista's rate requests are separate from the general rate case filed by the company in May. The UTC is expected to make a final decision in that proceeding this winter.
Avista's electricity customers will see a decrease in their monthly bills due to an increase in federal power benefits passed through to the company's residential and small farm customers under the Bonneville Power Administration's (BPA) Residential Exchange Program. As a result, average residential customers using almost 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month will see their bills go down by more than 2.6 percent, or $2.08.
BPA, Avista and other private and public utilities recently settled a longstanding dispute over how the benefits are allocated. Under the settlement, Avista's residential and small-farm customers in Washington will receive about $9.2 million in benefits, up from the $3.9 million customers are currently receiving. The company makes no profit from changes to the BPA residential exchange.
The UTC approved Avista's request to pass through the natural gas costs that will result in a slight increase in gas rates. The commission also agreed to a 17 cent-a-month decrease in natural gas rates due to load reductions from Avista's conservation program. The combined result to natural gas customers is a 55 cent-a-month increase for residential customers using 67 therms a month.
Natural gas companies are required to adjust rates periodically to reflect changes in wholesale prices. About two-thirds of an Avista customer's monthly bill is attributable to the cost of natural gas on which the company is not allowed to collect a profit.
The utility distributes natural gas to customers but does not produce its own fuel. About half of Washington's natural gas supplies come from the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia and the other half from Rocky Mountain production sites such as Wyoming.
Spokane-based Avista serves more than 234,000 electric and 147,000 natural gas customers, primarily in Eastern Washington.
The three-member commission is the state agency in charge of regulating the private, investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities in Washington. It is the commission's responsibility to ensure regulated companies provide safe and reliable service to customers at reasonable rates, while allowing them the opportunity to earn a fair profit.