Time for Bonneville Power
by Lawrence Cooper and Wes Rainey
Since 2001, power rates throughout the Northwest have gone up by an average of 50 percent. Low cost power, long the cornerstone of the Northwest's economic success, is being threatened. We at the Washington State Grange believe that affordable power rates are critical to the economic stability of Clark County and the entire Northwest. That's why we've joined the Northwest Coalition for Affordable Power's "$27 in '07" campaign to reduce regional power rates.
The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), which provides nearly half of the electricity used in the Northwest, is working to determine its 2007-2009 power rates. Initially, it announced a recommended base power rate of about $30 per megawatt hour.
Prior to the 2001 West Coast energy crisis, BPA's average wholesale rates were less than $23 per megawatt hour. Over the past five years BPA's average power rate has been a record $31.54.
With the effects of the West Coast energy crisis behind us, it seems reasonable to expect BPA to lower rates substantially. Yet BPA's proposed rate for 2007-2009 would keep us on a path of high power costs and take away the regional advantage that the Pacific Northwest has had to attract businesses to our region and keep farming and manufacturing jobs in our communities.
Community feels the pain
Our community feels the brunt of rising power prices. Clark Public Utilities has only raised power prices five times in the last 20 years, yet four of those increases were in the past five years. For community members surviving on limited budgets, rate increases could mean having to choose between purchasing groceries and medicines or keeping the lights on.
It is time for rates to come down. The energy crisis is over. Now is the time to provide energy customers with rate relief.
As a member of the Northwest Coalition for Affordable Power (www.27in07.org), we are joining with businesses and organizations from across the Northwest to encourage BPA to set a rate target of $27 per megawatt hour a 10 percent decrease from the rate BPA proposed.
BPA has been working to achieve the lowest rate possible. The Coalition applauds BPA's recent announcement of a reduction from its initial rate proposal of about $30 per megawatt hour the result of innovative financing tools and program cost savings. After two rounds of discussions with its customers on ways to drive down power costs, BPA is extremely close to reaching the $27 target.
However, BPA still needs to commit to finding $30 million more in cost savings from its more than $2.6 billion budget.
We, along with the Northwest Coalition for Affordable Power, are calling on BPA to make a long-term, commitment to low wholesale power rates through efficiency and program cost savings. The fact is that some years BPA may be able to reach the target of $27 per megawatt hour because of heavy mountain snowpacks resulting in extra water runoff. Heavy snowpacks, however, are hit or miss, and ratepayers deserve stable electricity prices that don't hinge on water levels.
We urge everyone to let BPA know that we need stable and affordable power. You can tell BPA directly at www.bpa.gov/comments. Support the efforts of the "$27 in '07" campaign by joining the Northwest Coalition for Affordable Power. It is time for BPA to make a long-term commitment to lower power rates and put the economic health of our region and our communities first.
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