Power Rates Sets to Spike in WA

By Tom Bacon

The cost of electricity generated from the vast hydropower system in the Columbia River system is about to go up. And the cost of sending the power through transmission lines will jump even more sharply.

The Bonneville Power Administration is serving notice that wholesale power rates are going up an average of nine percent. And transmission rates are going up 11 percent. That's the first requested transmission rate increase in six years. The federal  agency said the power rate increase rises out of higher costs to run and maintain the huge system of dams, from higher costs for fish and wildlife mitigation programs, and because the market for surplus power has been so anemic.

Agency managers said the double-digit transmission increase is needed to pay for repair and replacement of lines, towers and power substations that are growing old, and for new tighter security requirements. BPA will use about 20-million dollars a year of its cash reserves to absorb a small part of the rate increase.

BPA sells power directly to 127 public power utilities in the region including some big ones - Seattle City Light, Tacoma Power and several county-wide public utility districts.

It also has a rebate program for private utilities such as Avista. And it sells power direct to three surviving aluminum plants in the region. The rate hike request goes to the Federal Energy Regulatory commission at the end of this month for a 60-day review process.
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