'Idaho Power Requests 15 Percent Rate Hike, Citing Drought’s Effect On Hydro Generation

By Molly Messick

Idaho Power is asking utility regulators to raise electricity rates by as much as 15 percent, on average, for the year starting in June.  That would be the highest cost adjustment to hit customers in more than a decade.  Low rainfall and snowpack are partly to blame.

About 80 percent of electricity generated in Idaho is hydropower. That sets Idaho’s energy mix apart from the nation’s overall – and it’s one reason why Idaho has lower than average electricity costs. But when streamflows are low, says Idaho Power spokeswoman Stephanie McCurdy, that changes things.

"Currently, our hydroelectric generation is forecast to be down 19 percent from last year, so that’s significant. And as a result, coal and gas production costs are forecast to be higher and surplus sales are forecast to be lower. So it’s really a perfect storm of factors…"

The power cost adjustment is an annual process of adjusting electricity rates to account for variable costs. If state utility regulators sign off on the full increase, residential customers could see their monthly bills go up by more than 11 dollars for a one-year period. Idaho Power and its shareholders don’t see any return through the adjustment. The utility says it will not file a general rate case in 2013.

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