Power rates soar while energy assistance is cut
Electrical power rates are about to increase by double digits for customers of Pacific Power and to a lesser degree for Portland General Electric just as residents and businesses brace for the higher bills of winter.
For disadvantaged residents, the higher costs come just as local agencies are announcing an anticipated 59-percent reduction of federal energy assistance dollars in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
Six local provider agencies of the LIHEAP funds held a news conference last week outlying the harm such a heating assistance reduction will have on local populations.
“Hard working Oregonians and their families deserve to be in homes that are warm and safe during the coldest time of the year,” said Kimberly Black of Self Enhancement, Inc. Some of the other local providers and nonprofits urging action at the news conference were Impact NW, Human Solutions, the Native American Youth Family Center, Catholic Charities and Neighborhood House.
The loss of energy assistance to low income families can cause people to suffer in cold homes, adding to their health concerns; and create added fire dangers, when heating with such dangerous appliances as electrical space heaters, propane heaters and fireplaces.
The local organizations are asking people to write to Congress to restore LIHEAP funds to $5.1 billion nationally. If federal energy assistance is reduced by 59 percent, the LIHEAP program will dramatically reduce the number of Multnomah County households qualifying for energy assistance this year, officials said.
The rate case decision issued the Oregon Public Utilities Commission on Friday will increase Pacific Power rates in January by 8.4 percent to cover all new expenses for operating the utility. But the total increase will move to 14.5 percent next week when the commission is expected to approve a second rate increase of 6.1 percent for higher power costs. PacifiCorp had requested a 20 percent increase.
“Commission staff and customer groups worked very hard to trim expenses where they could. I also know that the impact of this decision will be difficult for many households and businesses to absorb given our difficult economic times,” Commission Chairman Ray Baum said. “I hope we can avoid the situation in the future where large capital projects and power costs hit customers in the same year. However, these are resources that will serve customers for decades.”
The monthly bill of a typical residential customer of Pacific using 900 kilowatt hours of energy a month will increase by $9.38 from $88.21 to $97.59 or 11.5 percent. $5.38 is due to the general rate case and $4 is for power costs. The increase includes the monthly service charge. The amount will vary for customers using above or below 900 kilowatt hours.
Energy rates for Pacific Power industrial customers will rise by 17 percent and large commercial customers by 17.6 percent.
For Portland General Electric customers, PUC approval an overall price increase of about 3.9 percent, which will climb to 4.2 percent when adjusted with various credits and deferred costs. Under the rate schedule, residents could see their power costs rise between 3.3 to 6.2 percent depending on power demand.