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Pacific Power: ‘Green’ energy move will trim 2021 rate hike

Pacific Power smart meter
KTVZ file

Says 1.6% average increase is sought in first such request in seven years

PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Pacific Power on Friday asked state energy regulators for a 2021 rate hike, expected to raise the average homeowner's bill by 1.6%, or $4.03 monthly. But it said a recent major shift toward renewable energy sources trimmed the potential rate increase considerably.

Pacific Power spokesman Spencer Hall told NewsChannel 21 the utility has committed to a renewable energy portfolio, “and there’s zero fuel costs” connected to solar and wind power, unlike its natural gas-fired (or in the past, coal-fired) power plants.

Hall also noted the innovation in recent years of the Western energy grid, creating “a marketplace of Western utilities. When the sun is shining in California, we can get solar there, or the wind in Wyoming.” The “share and trade” effort is “creating value upward of $300 million,” he said.

Here's the full news release announcement by the utility of the proposed rates and the changes it's made:

Pacific Power rate filings reflect low-cost, clean energy transformation

Company’s first general rate filing in seven years and 2021 power costs forecast propose a 1.6 percent overall increase along with noteworthy investments in renewables, grid reliability,
and customer service enhancements

PORTLAND, Ore. -- How the West generates, delivers and consumes electricity is undergoing a rapid change with customer preferences at its center. Today Pacific Power filed requests with the Public Utility Commission of Oregon that updates its costs and represents a major rethinking of how the company produces, transports and delivers electricity to power Oregon’s future.

After seven years of investment without raising prices, the new proposals include a 1.6 percent average increase reflecting the implementation of Pacific Power’s Energy Vision 2020 renewable energy and transmission initiative, multiple customer service enhancements, investments in wildfire mitigation, cyber security, and innovative rate design proposals to increase transparency and opportunity for customers to better manage their energy use.

The company has also focused on expanding its renewable resources and improving how customers receive information through improved outage notification, online tools and apps, and advanced energy-management capabilities.

Innovative and efficient improvements for Pacific Power customers over the last seven years have resulted in lowering the company’s fixed operating costs by more than $60 million. The rate case also reflects additional operational savings associated with the early retirement of Cholla 4, a 395 MW coal unit located in Arizona. By pioneering a new western energy market that is simultaneously decarbonizing the grid, customers are receiving more than $60 million per year in savings.

In the last three years, the company has made historic multi-billion dollar investments in renewable energy and grid upgrades that nearly double the amount of renewable energy capacity available to serve customers. These long-term investments are also projected to save customers several hundred million dollars.

“Pacific Power’s top priority is to deliver affordable, safe, reliable and increasingly clean electricity to our customers and communities so they can thrive,” said Stefan Bird, president and CEO of Pacific Power. “These filings reflect significant progress to date, and we are committed to continue to innovate and provide our customers with industry-leading, sustainable energy solutions.”

The requests include new rate designs for customers that will more fairly reflect costs across different usage levels and remove disincentives for customers who choose an electric vehicle. A new time-of-use pilot will help customers save money when they adjust their usage times and a bill credit will be available for all customers who choose paperless billing.

Bill impacts from Pacific Power’s proposed increase would vary for different customers depending upon their particular situation and energy usage preferences. Even with the proposed changes, Pacific Power’s energy price changes since 2014 are well below inflation and rates will continue to be well below the national average.

What’s next?

The Oregon Commission will examine Pacific Power’s requests and will determine whether the schedule should be accepted as filed, modified, or rejected. If accepted as filed, the rate change would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021. The Commission has the authority to set final rates that may be lower or higher than the company’s request, depending on the outcome of its examination.

How it works

The requested rate change would be an increase of $21.6 million, or 1.6 percent, effective on January 1, 2021. The impact on an average residential customer using 900 kWh per month would be $4.03, if the filings are approved by the Public Utility Commission of Oregon. This represents the combination of two filings for Pacific Power customers, the first of which requested an overall rate change of $70.8 million, or 5.4 percent, to become effective on January 1, 2021. The expected impact of this filing by itself on an average residential customer using 900 kWh per month would be $6.98 per month. However, along with the overall rate change request, Pacific Power also filed its annual power cost adjustment on February 14, 2020, forecasting a reduction of $49.2 million in costs for 2021.

About Pacific Power

Pacific Power provides electric service to customers in Oregon, Washington and California. It is part of PacifiCorp, one of the lowest-cost electricity producers in the United States, providing more than 1.9 million customers with value for their energy dollar and safe, reliable electricity. For more information, visit www.pacificpower.net.

Money / News / Oregon-Northwest

Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.

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