Sierra Pacific seeks rate hike |

Sierra Pacific seeks rate hike

Sierra Pacific Power Co. has filed its third electricity rate hike request since last July’s settlement with regulators over how to recoup rising energy costs.

Last week’s filing amounts to 62 cents more a month for the typical northern Nevada consumer – one who uses about 650 kilowatts a month. Coupled with one hike already approved and another pending a Dec. 1 start, the cumulative impact would be $3.32 on Jan. 1, the date the Reno-based company wants the newest hike to take effect.

Household users may take some solace in comparing their rates to businesses. For example, Harrah’s uses 730,000 kw amounting to about $157,000 a month in electrical bills, spokesman John Packer said. The casino paid more than $1 million between January through October.

The proposed rate increase should affect 14,219 Nevada consumers out of the more than 50,000 the South Lake Tahoe office serves, Sierra Pacific spokesman Karl Walquist reported. About two-thirds are located on South Shore.

And if the utility seeks the maximum allowed in monthly rate hikes scheduled through Feb. 1, 2003, a typical customer could be paying $24.99 more a month, Walquist confirmed.

“That’s assuming we’ll file more increases at that time,” he said.

Still, the increases for the typical user are far below the sticker shock experienced by San Diego consumers, who last summer saw power bills jump 300 percent due to electric deregulation.

Deregulation in Nevada was approved by the 1999 Legislature but was postponed last March amid disagreement between utilities and the state Public Utilities Commission.

And even with all the proposed rate hikes, the utility would still only defray half the amount it’s shelling out for fuel costs, Walquist contends. The company, tightening its belt in other areas, plans to recover some of the drain when wholesale energy costs come down as expected and the supplies go up in the next few months.

Across the state line, California Gov. Gray Davis called for limits on the cost of wholesale energy, while testifying this week before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Davis also proposed that federal authorities should order refunds to consumers to cover excess charges. A written decision by FERC is expected next week.

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