Utah Power asks for $111 million rate increase

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    By Jason Stapley

    Electricity bills for consumers in Provo should not be affected by Utah Power”s request for a $111 million rate increase.

    The state”s largest electric utility asked the Utah Public Service Commission Wednesday to sign off on a rate hike of 9.6 percent. The average household electric bill would increase by about $4.75 each month if the request is approved.

    Rich Walje, executive vice president of Utah Power, said the rate hike is not an impulse decision.

    “We never approach a rate increase request lightly,” Walje stated in a news release. “However, the growth in customer demand for electricity takes investment to expand the system to ensure safe, reliable service, and we take that responsibility very seriously.”

    However, Provo residents should not be alarmed at the Utah Power proposal. Provo City has its own electric utility, which is not dependent upon power provided by Utah Power.

    “We have a diverse portfolio of resources,” said Mary DeLaMare Schaefer, marketing services and customer relations manager at Provo Power. “It doesn”t affect Provo.”

    Shaefer said Provo has contracts with PacifiCorp, Utah Power”s parent company, but they are long-term contracts negotiated independent of state regulation or Utah Power retail rates.

    Municipal utility providers are not subject to the authority of the Public Service Commission. Only commercial providers are subject to the commission”s supervision.

    Increased customer demand is due not only to the rapid population increase, but also to the proliferation of central air conditioning. According to Cinergy, an Ohio energy provider, heating and cooling accounts for 44 percent of household energy usage. Central air conditioners use more power than any other household appliance and four times more electricity than swamp coolers.

    Shaefer said Provo has not been affected by increased usage.

    “Our customers seem to be doing some conservation,” she said.

    One of the reasons Utah Power wants to raise rates is to build a better energy production infrastructure. It is building two expensive power plants to keep up with demand.

    Provo does not have the same problem. Provo Power is a part of the Utah Municipal Power Agency, a co-operative venture with a number of other cities in the valley.

    Leon Pexton, general manager of the Utah Municipal Power Agency, said the agency is prepared for an increased demand for electricity for years to come.

    “We have a carefully crafted resource procurement program,” Pexton said. “We have enough power and resource to take this out for several more years before we have to look for more resources.”

    Pexton said the agency has seen a 4 percent increase in demand over last year, which is only slightly above normal. He said energy usage increases by 3 to 4 percent annually.

    “We own a lot of our resources and we”re in pretty good shape resource-wise,” Pexton said.

    Each municipal utility that is part of the agency sets its own utility rates. Pexton was not aware of any rate increases.

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