Utility company asks for distribution rate increase | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Utility company asks for distribution rate increase

The California Public Utilities Commission is holding a public hearing Monday under an administrative judge’s ruling regarding a request for an electric distribution-rate increase by Sierra Pacific Power to its customers in the Golden State.

One of two hearings scheduled, Monday’s meeting is slated from 2 to 7 p.m. in the South Lake Tahoe City Council Chambers at 1900 Lake Tahoe Boulevard.

The power hike would amount to $1.6 million on a Sierra Pacific filing made last July, the CPUC reported Friday.

But this could all be a formality that now amounts to nothing in the pockets of its more than 35,000 Lake Tahoe, Calif., customers.

Sierra Pacific officials said Friday this filing would not amount to overall rates going up for its 44,000 California users, who are currently under an umbrella of a rate freeze that ends March 31, 2002.

What’s changing are the structuring components that make up the overall amount-per-megawatt unit rate.

“None of their rates will change (from this filing),” Sierra Pacific’s regulatory manager Pat Franklin said, steadfastly denying a CPUC public advisory manager’s claim that they would.

Given California’s power crisis that critics contend was spawned by deregulation, Judge Sarah R. Thomas ruled last February that, as a precaution, hearings should be held to notify ratepayers of any type of increase in the rate structure.

As a result of restructuring of the electric utility industry, Sierra Pacific is required to unbundle the total rate it charges retail customers into three tiers: distribution, transmission and generation.

The dissection was prompted by California’s deregulation bill – AB1890 – that allowed consumers to select different providers for the three components.

If the commission grants Sierra Pacific the “restructuring” change, the utility company pledges overall rates will not increase with the rate freeze in effect. When the freeze ends, distribution rates could be higher.

Sierra Pacific would need to file another application to raise overall rates, and it may do so to recover costs incurred from wholesale power expenses, spokesman Karl Walquist indicated.

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