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Pacific Power, utility commission settlement could lower rates, eliminate coal plants

  • Updated
  • 2 min to read
Towering Toil

A huge crane lowers a piece of equipment down to a wind turbine along Vancycle Ridge in June near the border between Walla Walla and Umatilla counties. Under a proposed settlement between Pacific Power and the Washington Utility and Transportation Commission, green energy initiatives would see a big boost by 2023.

Pacific Power and the Washington State Utility and Transportation Commission are considering a settlement that would lower power rates for customers and freeze rates for two years, as well as implement green energy initiatives.

According to commission staff, rates would decrease by about 0.53% under one of two agreements that will be considered at an Aug. 5 hearing.

Commission Communications Manager Emilie Brown said an average residential customer using 1,200 kilowatt-hours could see a decrease of 55 cents, which would make for a monthly bill of $103.81.

These changes would take place in January 2021 and then remain through 2023.

The settlement proposal follows a rejection from the utility commission. The three-member commission ruled that a December 2019 rate increase request from the company would “injuriously affect the rights and interests of the public.”

The utility company had asked for a revenue increase of $3.1 million beginning in January 2021. Instead, the drafted settlement would see a decrease of $4.15 million, offset by $7 million in tax credits.

Pacific Power CEO and President Stefan Bird said in a news release the “all-party settlement” was filed July 17.

“Pacific Power’s top priority during this uncertain time is to keep prices low while providing customers with safe and reliable electricity and supporting Washington customers’ desire for more renewable generation to power their homes and businesses,” Bird said in the release.

“We’re proud to have worked with our stakeholders in Washington to achieve this proposed settlement that delivers on all those priorities during a time when low-cost and long-term stability is especially important.”

While the company’s revenue could decrease from incoming payments, it will be offset by tax relief still being experienced from tax cuts in 2017. Those benefits are to be partly passed on to consumers under the first agreement.

Staff members said in their announcement that the settlement provides a “significant decrease” in proposed revenue compared to Pacific Power’s initial rate proposal.

The first agreement would also require Pacific Power to use tax credits from using renewable energy facilities to pass refunds to customers through future power rates.

Pacific Power agreed to form an advisory group for its low-income bill assistance program and create a plan to monitor customer disconnections and find ways to help customers avoid losing their service.

The second agreement adjusts depreciation rates for coal facilities and implements guidelines for solar or battery options.

According to Pacific Power, the settlement would also double the amount of wind-generated power to Washington’s customers beginning in January.

Under the settlement, Pacific Power plans to eliminate coal power production for customers in Washington by 2023.

The settlement agreement includes the Public Counsel Unit of the Washington Attorney General’s Office, the Packaging Corporation of America, The Energy Project, and Walmart, Inc.

Commission staff members are asking Pacific Power customers to comment on the two agreements either at the hearing at 6 p.m. Aug. 5, or by contacting commission staff.

The meeting will be conducted online and on a conference call. Those wishing to comment on the proposed settlement to state regulators at the meeting have to sign up ahead of time by contacting the commission at 360-664-1234.

Customers who are unable to attend the public meeting but wish to comment can send correspondence to P.O. Box 47250 Olympia, WA 98504, or email comment@utc.wa.gov, or call toll-free 1-888-333-9882.

Jedidiah Maynes can be reached at jedidiahmaynes@wwub.com or 509-526-8318.

Jedidiah Maynes is the managing editor of Walla Walla Lifestyles magazine. He also writes about business news in the Valley and covers a variety of others topics on occasion. He enjoys making music and puns.