Meeting for rate hike

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Carson City-area residents will get a chance Monday to voice concerns over a proposed Sierra Pacific Power Co. rate hike.

The Nevada Public Utilities Commission and company managers will entertain consumer questions and objections at 6 p.m. at the utility commission office, 1150 E. William St.

The commission will begin hearings April 8 to determine the legitimacy of the power company's request.

Sierra Pacific anticipates a net increase of 5.2 percent for its residential customers if the rate adjustments applied for in November and February are approved to take effect June 1, said Sierra Pacific spokeswoman Faye Andersen.

Residential customers, she said, would see the lowest increases, while businesses would pay more depending on the type of business. For the proposed general rate, the increases would average approximately 4 percent across all classes of customers. Fuel and purchased power increases would average approximately 10 percent, according to company statistics.

Andersen said the fuel and purchased power portions of customers' bills is money already spent.

"The cost is passed through on a dollar-for-dollar basis," she said. "There is no mark-up for the company."

As far as utility rate increases go, the latest Sierra Pacific request has been among the most controversial, a phenomena Andersen blames on misinformation and overlapping emotion from a tempestuous natural gas market.

"I try to explain to people what has happened with the Western energy crisis," she said of her dealings with unhappy customers. "We have been prudent in our purchases and we do not speculate on power."

In a similar request by Nevada Power, Sierra Pacific's southern counterpart, standing room only crowds have attended several informal information sessions.

In that case, Nevada's Consumer Advocate, Tim Hay, has objected to the rate case, accusing the company of buying more power than it needed when prices were high.

Although for the most part Hay has reserved judgment on the $205 million Sierra Pacific Power request, he has said he anticipates his office will request something "substantially lower."

Consumer backlash has also taken form in a petition drive, headed by Reno businesswoman Wanda Wright. The petition, which requests a "No" vote, will be presented to the commission. The petition, which has circulated throughout Northern Nevada, has nearly 15,000 signatures.

Wright said she will continue gathering signatures through next month, but has requested still-circulating petitions to be turned into her by tomorrow.

Wright will also be gathering signatures at Monday's meeting. She can be reached at 327-4677.



What: Public meeting regarding power rate hike

When: 6 p.m. Monday

Where: Utility Commission meeting room, 1150 E. William St.


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