Utah's Rocky Mountain Power to ask for electric rate hike
Rocky Mountain Power is getting ready to ask for another big rate increase.
The state's largest electric utility, which was granted permission in September to raise the amount it charges a typical customer by about $42 a year, has notified Utah regulators at the Public Service Commission that it intends to file a new rate case in mid-February.
"We've been saying for the past several years that we will be filing rate cases on a fairly regular basis as long as we are in a building mode and need to construct new facilities to serve our Utah customers," said spokesman Dave Eskelsen.
Although the company isn't ready to reveal how large of an increase it will seek, Eskelsen said the request probably will be substantial and in line with the utility's most recent petitions.
Since December 2007, Rocky Mountain Power has asked to raise its rates four times, with requests ranging from $67 million to $232 million, for a combined total of $620.6 million.
The company, however, typically gets only a portion of its requested increases. Since 2007, state regulators have granted Rocky Mountain Power permission to increase its rates by a combined $230.6 million, or around 37 percent of the company's requested amount.
Despite those increases, Utahns still pay some of the lowest prices for electricity in the country.
The federal Energy Information Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy, reported that in early 2011 Utahns were paying about 8 cents per kilowatt hour for their power, or the ninth-lowest rate in the country.
Michele Beck oversees the Committee of Consumer Services, which serves as the voice for residential and small-business owners in utility rate cases. She said that the consumer advocacy agency already is preparing for the upcoming rate case.
"We knew it was coming and have been keeping a pretty close eye on what issues have been emerging in the rate cases in other states where [Rocky Mountain Power] operates," she said. "And we have our experts ready to go."
She explained that as part of a $117 million settlement agreement with the utility in its latest rate case last fall which resulted in the typical Utah customer's monthly electricity bill increasing by $3.50 Rocky Mountain Power agreed to hold off on filing another request until mid-February. That means the next increase customers will see won't take place until much later this year.
Rocky Mountain Power customers aren't the only residential electricity users in the state who have been facing rising power bills. Many of the state's municipally owned utilities have also raised their rates in the past year.
Logan City Light & Power was granted an 8 percent increase in July 2011, although that hike was the first since 2005. Bountiful City Light & Power raised its rates 5 percent in December 2010, while Murray City Power increased its rates by 3 percent last October.
"We're all facing the same challenges rising demand, higher costs and increased environmental and regulatory expenses," said Allen Johnson, director of Bountiful City Light & Power.
Recent Rocky Mountain Power rate increases
Requested increase Approved increase Effective date Percentage
$161.2 million $36.2 million August 2008 2.7%
$160.6 million $45 million May 2009 2.3%
$66.8 million $32.4 million February 2010 2.2%
$232 million $117 million September 2011 6.7%
Source: Utah Public Service Commission