Avista appeal for rate increase | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Avista appeal for rate increase

Susan Wood

If Avista Utilities has its way, natural gas rates could be going up soon.

The utility company that supplies fuel for more than 18,000 Lake Tahoe customers applied for a rate hike Friday with the California Public Utilities Commission.

If approved as expected, the average monthly rate hike would amount to $39.05 this winter – a 60 percent increase that may kick in as early as March 21. For the summer, the rates should lower to $12.77 more than previous monthly bills in the same period.

Avista Gas, calling the rate hike a “pass-through increase,” claims the bump in the bills is necessary to defray the soaring wholesale costs the distributor is currently shelling out to its multiple suppliers for the commodity that’s traded on the open market.

“It’s a significant increase, we realize that,” Avista spokeswoman Robin Dunlap said from the corporate headquarters in Spokane, Wash.

Dunlap attributes a number of factors for the rate increase, but the primary reason is a familiar one to those following California’s electricity crisis – limited supply and overwhelming demand.

Avista’s main supplier, a west Canadian company, recently expanded a new pipeline to the American Midwest, therefore increasing the demand further.

“We’re definitely concerned about supply now,” Dunlap said, touching upon the old supply-and-demand theory.

There appears to be no way out of the quagmire within the next few years either.

New wells supplying the utility company aren’t expected to be operational within that period of time.

“It’s something we need to be prepared for over the next few years,” she said.

Dunlap is urging the natural gas customers to conserve as much as possible in these tight times.

“It’s more important than ever that we need to ask our customers to use conservation practices to save on their bills,” she said.

Ways to conserve on energy bills

– Clean or replace furnace filters at least once a month.

– Be sure warm-air registers and baseboard heaters are unobstructed.

– In winter, keep south-facing drapes and blinds open in daytime, closed at night.

– Refrain from heating unoccupied rooms, if the heating system is designed to operate that way.

– Install weather stripping on drafty doors and windows.

– Check for adequate insulation in the attic, walls and crawl spaces.

– Set the hot-water tank at mid-range.

– Take short showers instead of baths.

– Install low-flow shower heads and replace leaky washers in faucets.

– Only run full loads in dish- and clothes washers.

– Choose cold or warm water to wash clothes, not hot.

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