Part of Bonneville Power Residential Exchange
by Sean Ellis
Bonneville Power Administration's Residential Exchange Program was created to ensure small-farm and residential customers of investor-owned utilities in the Northwest share in the benefits of the region's federal hydroelectric system.
That it did. But when it was halted for a first time in 30 years last summer because of a federal court decision, those customers saw their power bills rise, in some cases drastically, according to the Idaho Farm Bureau.
Help is on the way for those customers and some of it could arrive as soon as late January. The rest could come in the fall, which is the target date for re-establishing the exchange program on a long-term basis.
The credit was temporarily stopped in June after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with public utilities that Bonneville Power incorrectly calculated the amount of the credit to the detriment of public utility customers.
Public utilities argued that investor-owned utility customers were benefiting from the exchange program at the expense of their customers.
Money for the exchange program is collected from customers of publicly-owned utilities, which already receive the benefits of the hydro system because Bonneville Power sells those utilities power at cost.
Bonneville Power is proposing to make interim payments totaling $322 million to public and investor owned utilities in the Northwest while the agency continues to work with the two sides to determine what the amount of the credit should be long-term.
The two sides have been undergoing intense negotiations since the credit was halted, and Bonneville Power hopes to establish the parameters for a long-term exchange program this fall.
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