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Economic and dam related articles

County PUDs Prepare for
Bonneville Rate Increases

by Sean Bassinger
The Chronicle, August 2, 2017

"Bonneville has not recovered the amount of money on their secondary sales,
so that cost is going to have to be added back in,"

Graphic: Mid-Columbia off-peak power prices (2016 and 2017). People's utility districts in Columbia County are getting ready for rate increases in October.

Columbia River PUD and Clatskanie PUD have already made plans to up their own rates after announcements that the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) would increase its power sale prices by 5.4 percent and lower transmission rates 0.7 percent. These across-the-board adjustments would occur in the beginning of October.

On July 25, BPA announced its set rates for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. The 5.4 percent increase results in an average wholesale power rate of $35.57 per megawatt-hour, an increase of 2.7 percent annually.

The rate increases are due to a lower-than-expected demand for power, a declining forecast of surplus power sales revenues due to lower market prices and escalating costs of programs driven by legal requirements, according to BPA's website.

Each district's individual rate impacts are calculated based on the overall load characteristics and the impact that they have on the system, said Libby Calnon, community and public relations supervisor at Columbia River PUD.

As a result, CRPUD rates will increase 4.29 percent, while transmission rates will actually increase 0.37 percent.

"When power market prices are low, Bonneville doesn't generate as much revenue from those sales," Calnon said. "That can cause rates to increases for customers like us."

Meanwhile, CRPUD officials met Tuesday to discuss their own rates going forward. They will present brief updates on where they are on their yearly budget and look into continued actions they want to take.

"We use the best information we have to project what's going to happen in the next five years," Calnon said.

Right now, the customer charge for CRPUD customers is $10, while usage fees are 6.8 cents per kWh for up to 4,999 kilowatts. Their last rate increase happened in October of 2015 when their customer charge went from $8 to $10. The previous usage rate was 6.4 cents per kWh.

CRPUD officials will meet 6 p.m. on Aug. 15 at 64001 Columbia River Highway in Deer Island for a public rate hearing at their regular board meeting.

Clatskanie PUD

Clatskanie PUD also will prepare to increase their own rates in October to account for the BPA rate increases, in addition to other increases across the board needed to help make up for the discontinuation of other subsidies.

Bob Wiggins, Clatskanie PUD Board of Directors President, addressed the issue of lowered resale prices of power this past April.

"Bonneville has not recovered the amount of money on their secondary sales, so that cost is going to have to be added back in," Wiggins told The Chief in Clatskanie.

The current base charge for Clatskanie residential customers sits at $12. Most home and business owners pay 5.11 cents per kilowatt, one of the lowest prices for power in Oregon. The last Clatskanie PUD rate increase of 7.6 percent happened in October of 2015. This meant that the average customer saw an increase of about $5.64 a month if they used 1,566 kWh.

Exact increase amounts will be presented at the Aug. 16 meeting, followed by a rate hearing on Sept. 20 to approve them. Members of the public may attend both sessions.

Sean Bassinger
County PUDs Prepare for Bonneville Rate Increases
The Chronicle, August 2, 2017

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