Avista ‘Decoupling’ and Rate Proposals Await Winter Ruling

Sep 30, 2014

Avista Utilities has made its final yearly proposals to the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, UTC. Beside normal rate adjustments, another request will give customers rebates some years, and surcharges in others.

The UTC has until January 1st to review Avista’s requests, and meanwhile citizens can submit public comments. Earlier this month (September) Avista outlined proposals in Washington for a one-point-three percent decrease on electric, and one-point-three percent increase for natural gas. The more contentious request is for a five-year decoupling mechanism. It unlinks usage from the price of electricity and natural gas, and instead links the number of customers to the price. Pat Ehrbar is an Avista rate manager.

Ehrbar: “It makes the company indifferent to energy efficiency. So right now when customers do energy efficiency, so right now when customers do energy efficiency we don’t recover our cost because they’re not using a certain level of volumes. With decoupling, now if they reduce their usage we’re still whole, we get to track that difference and recover it at a later time.”

Though indifference may sound like a deterrent to energy efficiency, he insists the change would promote conservation. Ehrbar further explains that if the company earns more money than expected for a year, all customers get rebates, but if earnings were low all customers must pay a surcharge.

The rates and decoupling proposal have been agreed upon by UTC staff under a settlement agreement in August, but they still must be approved by the three person commission. Comments can be emailed to comment@utc.wa.gov.

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