Power rate hike OK'd for California Tahoe Basin

To pay for maintenance and upgrade costs, Sierra Pacific Power Co. electric customers on the California side of the Lake Tahoe Basin will see rate increases beginning Thursday.

Approximately 45,000 customers are affected by the California Public Utilities Commission's decision to approve an overall 8.8 percent rate increase for residential and commercial customers.

Residential customers' utility costs have been increased by more than 6 1/2 percent since 2002.

"The 8.8 percent increase is the overall increase for residential and medium and large commercial customers," said Faye Anderson, spokesperson for Sierra Pacific. "A 6.7 percent increase is for residential customers only."

Nevada customers can expect to see changes in their electricity prices in June, since Sierra Pacific filed with the Nevada Public Utilities Commission for a general rate adjustment Dec. 1. The Nevada PUC has 180 days before it must rule on a case.

For an average residential customer who uses 650 kilowatt hours of electricity, the increase will be approximately $4.27 per month, according to information provided by Sierra Pacific.

A higher percentage is averaged for small commercial operations that use up to 20 kilowatts; they will get a 10.8 percent increase. According to Anderson, there are about 4,600 companies in this category.

Small commercial companies that use between 20 and 50 kw are getting a decrease of 8.6 percent, but there are only about 100 of these businesses. Medium commercial, which use 50-200 kw, and large commercial, which use more than 200 kw, will have set increases to their monthly charges offset by decreases in their charges per kilowatt, actually lowering their monthly charges.

"It evens out," said Anderson.

Sierra Pacific has a mandatory requirement once every two years to file for cost adjustments to general rates to pay for maintenance and upgrades.

In addition, every year the electric company must file for rate changes to accommodate changes in fuel costs that go up or down over 5 percent.

California's last fuel rate increase was in 2002.

Approximately 80 percent of Sierra Pacific's California customers reside in the Lake Tahoe Basin. It has about 275,000 customers in Northern Nevada.

Jo Rafferty can be reached at 542-8006 or e-mailed at jrafferty@tahoedailytribune.com


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