Sierra Pacific to raise rates 4.4 percent

After another year of high wholesale electricity costs, Northern Nevadans are about to be hit with a 4.4 percent hike in their monthly energy bills.

The Nevada Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday approved the rate increase requested by Sierra Pacific Power Co. The increase will raise the average residential user's bill about $3.76, from $82.77 to $86.44.

The increase is meant to help Sierra Pacific recoup rate hikes it absored buying power in an unstable market over the past year- and to bring residential charges in line with what analysts gauge the energy market will be like this summer, said PUC spokeswoman Rebecca Wagner.

The rate hike will take effect June 1.

The company's last rate increase was about a year ago, and, like the one approved Tuesday, was a dollar-for-dollar match of Sierra Pacific's extra costs, said company spokeswoman Faye Anderson.

Rising energy costs have been largely the result of the volatile natural gas market, since much of the West's power comes fron gas-fired power plants.

The price of natural gas from the well head has nearly tripled over the last six years, while its cost to the average consumer has nearly doubled, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency.

Southwest Gas Co. is also asking state utility officials to allow an increase in natural gas rates. The requested increase would hike the average monthly bill by a couple dollars on Southern Nevada, but it would mean a difference of about a penny to the average residential user in Northern Nevada.

How stable or chaotic the power industry becomes during the peak summer months this year may determine whether more increases are needed any time soon to catch up with the wholesale power market.

"It's hard to say," Anderson said. "It's all up to the market."

n Contact reporter Cory McConnell at or 881-1217.


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