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Higher energy prices looming
By ALLEN MOODY of the East Oregonian
PENDLETON — Postponement of the energy deregulation bill passed by the state Legislature last session is looking to be more and more of a certainty. But that won’t prevent area customers from seeing electricity rate increases soon.
Rep. Bob Jenson of Pendleton said he attended Umatilla Electric Co-op’s annual meeting on Saturday and the news was pretty bleak.
“Umatilla Electric indicated to customers that electricity will go up at least 50 percent and I think you may see the same in Pendleton,” Jenson said during Monday’s video conference with Pendleton city officials.
Debbie Watson of Umatilla Electric Co-op said that General Manager Steve Eldridge predicted prices could increase as much as 50 to 75 percent, depending on the actions of Bonneville Power Administration.
BPA already has indicated its customers are likely to see price increases of 200 to 300 percent, Watson said.
Pacific Power has plans for a 24 percent rate increase it will present to the Oregon Public Utilities Commission for approval on May 15. If approved, the rate increase would begin immediately. Company officials said the rate increase would reflect actual power costs.
Customers would not see the entire 24 percent on their bills immediately.
“What we have proposed was an increase that took effect over three months,” Jan Mitchell of Pacific Power said. “It’s 24 percent applied on a cents per kilowatt-hour basis.”
Mitchell said Pacific Power is proposing that the price increase not take effect until after 300 kilowatt-hours are used each month, which would make the average residential increase closer to 17 percent.
In an effort to help offset the proposed rate increase, the company will also ask the PUC to accept its proposed “20/20 Customer Challenge,” in which customers would receive a 20 percent credit on electricity bills between June and September if there is a 20 percent usage reduction from the previous year.
Jenson said deregulation will likely be postponed for a shorter period than proponents had hoped.
“I would expect to see a maximum of 18 months,” Jenson said. “Senator (Gene) Derfler sees himself as making a huge compromise by doing anything with the deregulation issue.”
Jenson said there is no immediate fix to the problem — it will be at least two to five years before significant progress to handle the region’s energy needs can be addressed.
“Right now we have about half the generating capacity that is needed to get us even,” he said. “We will be looking at significant increases down the road. It’s not a pretty picture, I’m afraid.”
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), May 02, 2001