Sierra Pacific rate increase gets approval |

Sierra Pacific rate increase gets approval

Susan Wood

As expected, electricity rates for more than 50,000 Sierra Pacific Power users around Lake Tahoe are going up Thursday.

This means Sierra Pacific Power’s average residential user, defined as a household using about 750 kilowatt hours a month, will pay an additional $6.37 a month.

The Nevada Public Utilities Commission approved Friday the proposed $300 million rate increase the utility company’s Reno-based parent corporation, Sierra Pacific Resources, filed Jan. 29.

“We’ll be in a much better position to purchase power,” company spokesman Karl Walquist said, referring to recent skyrocketing wholesale power costs.

Shortly after announcing significant fourth-quarter losses in 2000, the company hiked rates with the intention of helping it buy the generated power, not bail it out of debt as in the case of California’s two major utility suppliers – Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison.

Sierra Pacific is not in the hole, but it filed for the increase to balance the financial health of the company, Walquist said.

He anticipates large commercial customers to take a financial hit.

“We just hope the costs come down,” he said.

The company is offering a tiered incentive plan intended to reduce consumption.

For the first 300 kilowatt hours a month used, the consumer will not pay the additional rate.

Between 300 and 550 kwh, the increase amounts to 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour. Above 550 kwh, the average 17 percent hike amounts to 2.6 cents. The increase becomes effective on bills generated after March 1.

The rate hike had been opposed by the state’s consumer advocate for utility customers, but the state PUC called it an urgent necessity to approve unless the board waited to hear it by candlelight, The Associated Press reported.

Tim Hay, the state’s consumer advocate, alluded to seeking a court injunction to block the rate increase, the Associated Press added.

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