BPA Price Hike to Up
by Rob Ollikainen
PORT ANGELES -- Utility customers in Clallam County can expect to pay a little more to heat their homes this winter.
Bonneville Power Administration, the primary electrical power supplier for the Clallam County Public Utility District and the city of Port Angeles, announced Tuesday that it will raise wholesale electric prices to public utilities by 7.8 percent Oct. 1.
The Portland, Ore.-based federal power marketing agency said the hike was needed to cover the costs of fixing aging Columbia River dams, fuel purchases and repairs for the Columbia Generating Station nuclear plant, and fish and wildlife conservation.
"Now that we know the exact nature of the BPA rate increase, staff will begin to evaluate its impact on the PUD and our customers," said Clallam County PUD General Manager Doug Nass.
PUD and city officials will develop proposals for an electric rate increase in the coming months, with decisions from the City Council and PUD commissioners expected in the fall.
Both entities will hold public hearings before considering a rate hike.
"In general terms, whatever the increase is on our wholesale cost, we have to pass on half of that as a retail increase," said Port Angeles Deputy Director of Power Systems Larry Dunbar.
Power customers in East Jefferson County will not be afforded by the BPA wholesale rate increase.
Puget Sound Energy generates about 45 percent of its power and buys the rest from sources other than Bonneville.
"Our Jefferson County customers will not be directly affected," PSE spokesman Roger Thompson said.
Clallam County PUD and city utility customers were notified about the impending BPA price hike through mailings and newsletters.
"None of this should be a surprise," said Dunbar, who added: "It's not a pleasant topic."
In November, Bonneville announced that its anticipated 12 percent to 20 percent increase would probably be in the 6 percent to 10 percent range.
The Oregonian of Portland reported this week that the higher increase was avoided by borrowing more from the U.S. Treasury.
Bonneville sells power from 31 federal hydroelectric dams and its nuclear plant to about 140 publicly owned utilities in the region, most of which are consumer-owned.
"The PUD has been improving efficiency during the past few years, but because we are a nonprofit organization, any BPA increase will have a direct impact on our rates," Nass said.
"We were able to delay an increase in 2009 until 2010 but will unfortunately have no choice but to increase rates to cover BPA's rate increase this year."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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