By Zach Hagadone
Avista Utilities customers in Idaho can perhaps ease back on worries about winter-time energy bills, as the Spokane-based power company announced Oct. 11 that it has reached a settlement with the state public utilities commission to lower customers’ electric rates.
If approved by regulators, residential electric customers using an average of 900 kilowatt hours per month would see their bills go down by 86 cents per month, or 1%, effective Dec. 1. That’s a reversal from Avista’s initial request, which sought to raise electric revenues by $5.3 million, which would have increased residential bills by 3.5%, or $2.89 per month.
The Idaho Conservation League, which challenged Avista’s original filing, applauded the settlement — in particular, pointing to a new fund of $1.6 million established by Avista under the terms of the agreement that will support energy savings projects for the utility’s 133,000 Idaho customers.
“More efficient use of electricity means less reliance on fossil fuels at Avista’s Colstrip coal-fired power plant,” ICL Sandpoint Conservation Associate Matt Nykiel stated in a news release. “Not only will rates go down for Avista customers in North Idaho, they will have more options to save even more energy.”
As part of the settlement negotiations, ICL pressed Avista to earmark at least $5 million to support energy conservation in Idaho. That money, according to ICL, should come from a $103 million windfall received by Avista in the form of a termination fee from Canadian energy company Hydro One, which paid the fee following the failure of a proposed merger last year. “We’re pleased to pass the benefits of this settlement agreement to our customers during the heating season. This settlement agreement will provide new rates in Idaho that are fair and reasonable for our customers, the company and our shareholders,” Avista President and CEO Dennis Vermillion said in a statement announcing the agreement. “This outcome provides us the opportunity to continue to earn a fair return in Idaho and supports Avista’s efforts to invest in and maintain our infrastructure so we can continue to provide the reliable energy our customers expect.”
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