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630K Oregon electricity customers could face much larger bills

How much rates actually change will be determined in a Public Utility Commission process running through most of the year, and by a later update in power costs.
Credit: Kittiphan - stock.adobe.com

PORTLAND, Ore. — Increased wildfire risk, rising energy costs and general inflation are driving big rate-increase requests from PacifiCorp for its Pacific Power utility in Oregon.

The company on Tuesday proposed an $82.2 million rate hike — 6.6% overall and 9.1% for residential customers — in 2023 to pay for system investments.

Separately, Berkshire Hathaway-owned PacifiCorp forecast that power costs will rise $70 million, or 5.6%.

For residential rate payers, the double whammy would add up to an average 14.3% increase. The filings showed that residential customers using an average of 900 kilowatt-hours a month would see their monthly bills rise about $13.

For general service, commercial and industrial customers, the increase would be 10.4%.

But how much rates actually change will be determined in a Public Utility Commission process running through most of the year, and by a later update in power costs.

Two years ago, PacifiCorp’s proposed 6% rate increase turned into a 1.6% decrease as regulators trimmed the company’s requested return on equity, disallowed some coal-plant investments and put off dealing with a big batch of coal decommissioning costs.

Ratepayers also benefited then from a big decline in power costs, partly related to inexpensive new wind power backed by federal tax credits. In the end, net average rates fell 5.2%.

But power prices, low for years, have turned around in the last year, in the wholesale market and for natural gas, and the cost of taking on rising wildfire risk is now showing up in a big way.

Read the full story at the Portland Business Journal

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