Meeting will examine impact of drought on electricity rates

State regulators will hold a meeting next week to hear the three private electric companies discuss the outlook of the drought on electricity rates for Washington customers.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) has scheduled the meeting from 3 to 5 p.m. Monday, April 25 in the second-floor hearing room of the commission’s headquarters, 1300 Evergreen Park Dr. S.W., Olympia.

All Northwest utilities rely on hydropower for some portion of their electricity supply. The utilities will describe how they expect the drought conditions to affect the availability and cost of power to serve customers, as well as what plans they have in place to ensure adequate power supplies, encourage conservation, and mitigate any cost increases.

Gov. Christine Gregoire declared a statewide drought emergency on March 10. This decision was based on the extremely low snow pack in the mountains and the dry weather has left many of the state’s rivers quite low. Despite the rainy spring, river-flow forecasters say that it is unlikely the hydropower system can recover to average levels.

The three private-electric companies in Washington serving more than 1.3 million customers are: Puget Sound Energy, Avista and PacifiCorp. Bellevue-based Puget Sound Energy, the state’s largest electric utility company, provides service to more than 1 million customers in eight counties in Western Washington: King, Skagit, Island, Kitsap, Pierce, Jefferson, Thurston and Whatcom. PSE also serves Kittitas County in Eastern Washington.

Avista, formerly known as Washington Water Power, is headquartered in Spokane and provides electricity to 220,000 customers in nine Eastern Washington counties: Spokane, Adams, Asotin, Ferry, Franklin, Garfield, Lincoln, Stevens and Whitman.

PacifiCorp provides electric service in six states: Utah, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, California and Washington. The Portland-based PacifiCorp, owns Pacific Power & Light. The company provides electric service to 120,825 customers in five Eastern Washington counties, Kittitas, Columbia, Garfield, Walla Walla and Yakima. The utility serves cities including Yakima, Toppenish, Sunnyside, Walla Walla and Dayton.

The UTC is the state agency in charge of regulating the private, investor-owned electric companies operating in Washington. It is the commission’s responsibility to ensure monopoly companies provide safe and reliable service to customers at reasonable rates, while allowing the regulated businesses the opportunity to earn a fair profit.