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Amid BPA rate increase of 5.4 percent, PUD slated to vote on new rates in August

Columbia River People's Utility District ratepayers are likely to see a rate increase following a 5.4 percent rate hike from the PUD's energy supplier, Bonneville Power Administration.

COLUMBIA RIVER PUD PHOTO - Columbia River PUD crews replace fuse holders at a Scappoose substation. The PUD's board of directors will soon vote on new rates for customers.BPA announced Wednesday it will raise its wholesale energy rates by 5.4 percent to "help support long-term rate stability and maximize the value of the regional federal power and transmission systems."

The PUD's increase from BPA will be about 4.3 percent.

BPA is the sole energy supplier to the PUD, which serves nearly 19,000 customers throughout its service territory in Columbia County.

The PUD's board of directors is set to vote on a rate increase at its next public meeting on Aug. 15, following a meeting of a PUD rate advisory committee Aug. 1.

While the utility district has yet to make a decision on how much to raise rates, if at all, PUD officials say they anticipate the board will implement a rate increase that mirrors what BPA will charge the district.

Melton"The feeling of the board is that we might do a general pass-through [increase]," Director Craig Melton said Wednesday. Melton, who cautioned that he was absent for the last board discussion regarding rates, said he's reluctant to speak for the rest of the board, but expects any increase will be a "direct match" of what BPA charges the PUD.

"When Bonneville does its rate increases, we do our rate increases," Melton noted. The PUD maintains a reserve account, including a rate stabilization fund, but Melton said it's more for "catastrophic incidents."

"The longterm plan is when we pay the debt ratio off in 2020, that relieves us of a $1.2 million debt," Melton said. "If I could steer the board in the future I'd like to use the savings to cover BPA cost increases in the future. It's owned by the people so they should reap the savings from the debt."

Currently, residential customers pay about 7 cents per kilowatt hour, in addition to a flat monthly charge of $10.

Libby Calnon, the PUD's communications and public relations supervisor, said each utility that receives power from BPA is given an individual wholesale cost, based on its size, usage and other logistics.

Before voting on rates, the PUD will complete a study to determine what it should charge its customers based on the cost of providing services.

"Our next step is going to be to plug that data into a model for a cost of service analysis," Calnon said.

New rates, if implemented, will take effect Oct. 1 for all PUD customers.

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