Power customers getting 15 percent jolt | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Power customers getting 15 percent jolt

Jeff Munson

Electricity bills for customers on the California side of the Lake Tahoe Basin will go up by more than $9 a month, on average, under a proposal introduced Monday by Sierra Pacific Power Company.

Hoping to recover costs associated with higher fuel prices to run its power generating equipment, the Reno-based company filed with the California Public Utilities Commission to recover $8.3 million in energy production costs.

If approved by the PUC, the nearly 15 percent rate hike would go into effect sometime in the fall.

“Wholesale energy prices have continued to climb over the past year and are forecast to continue their upward spiral for the year ahead,” said Mary Simmons, vice president of rates and regulation for Sierra Pacific. “We do everything we can to get the best prices for our customers, but the raw fuels to make electricity, or even the costs of purchasing power on the wholesale market, are continuing to rise, while supplies are starting to tighten for this next year.”

If approved, the average bill for residential customers using 650 kilowatt hours of electricity would be $9.33 cents, businesses would be charged more, bringing the average rate increase amount to 14.8 percent.

The hike proposal is a dollar-for-dollar pass-through to customers and does not result in a profit to the company, said company spokeswoman Faye I. Andersen. The government allows utilities to recover the costs of fuel and power purchased on behalf of its customers, with no markup or profiteering by the utility.

“It is an energy cost adjustment, there is no markup and this does not result in any profit,” Andersen said.

About 80 percent of Sierra Pacific’s California customers reside in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The company’s California Service area extends from Portola north to Markleeville and Topaz Lake, to Coleville in the south.

The last rate hike was part of a two-step hike that began in July 2002, when rates jumped by an average of $13 a month and again in January of this year by $2.36.

Sierra Pacific’s 275,000 Northern Nevada customers, including those from Stateline, Kingsbury, Glenbrook and Incline Village, are not affected by the rate hike.

In fact, Nevada customers in the basin can expect a 2.7 percent rate decrease beginning June 1, after the utility overcharged for its services last year.

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