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Cost of Hydropower Electricity Going Up

The cost of electricity generated by Bonneville Power Administration's sprawling network of dams is going up.BPA's new rate schedule for 2016-17 will hike the cost of power about 7.1 percent on average, and the cost of transmitting that power nearly 4.5 percent.

Most of the federally-owned agency's customers are wholesale - cities, public utility districts and utility companies. Their retail customers will in turn feel the impact of the higher costs.

BPA managers blamed some of the rate increases on higher expenses for hydro system operations and maintenance, and cost increases for fish and wildlife programs in the Columbia and Snake River basins.

Additionally, one of BPA's major customers - Alcoa - has cut back on the amount of hydro-electric power it buys to run two big aluminum smelters in Washington State.

BPA is also struggling this year with power production cutbacks on the big river systems caused by almost nonexistent snowpacks and drought conditions. The agency's 23 dams in the Columbia River system have produced under 6 million megawatts of power this year, compared with more than 8.5 million megawatts last year.

The new higher power rates will take effect on October 1st, 2015.

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