August 17, 2011

AARP: Idaho Utilities Looking to Sock It to Consumers

From Electricity to Water, Utility Co's Press for BIG Rate Hikes on Cash Strapped Idahoans, AARP Says "Enough is Enough"

BOISE, Idaho, Aug. 17, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Idahoans who don't read every insert in their utility bills may be in for rate shock in the coming year; the inserts hold notices that most utility companies in the state are pressing for some alarming increases to customer's monthly bills. From Idaho Power's request for an 8.83% electric rate hike with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to United Waters' proposed hike of nearly 20%, the increases will mean higher bills for Idahoans already struggling in tough times.

AARP Idaho says enough is enough and is urging the PUC to deny the requests and encouraging the public to get involved to make it happen. The timeline is tight, with settlement conferences for some of the rate hike requests scheduled as soon as this month to reach a tentative deal. AARP is calling on the PUC to hold public hearings on the proposed hikes.

"Dwindling retirement savings, sinking home values and an unpredictable economy have left many Idahoans, in particular those 50 and over, unable to afford their current utility bills, let alone the hikes being proposed," said Jim Wordelman, State Director for AARP in Idaho. "Higher utility bills will force more Idahoans to make harsh choices, in some cases between turning on the AC or heat and filling a prescription - holding public hearings will help add the consumer voice to this critical issue that affects so many Idahoans."

Rate shock - Idaho utility companies' rate hike proposals:

Idaho Power (rate case # IPC-E-11-08): Increase residential electric bills by 8.83% (also hidden in the case is a complex proposal to make permanent the Fixed Cost Adjustment, called decoupling, shifting any shortcomings in energy sales automatically onto consumers while guaranteeing the company fixed revenue to cover operating costs. The company is also hoping to tack on $1 a month service charge increase).

Rocky Mountain Power (rate case # PAC-E-11-12): Rate hike of 7.2% for electric customers (request also includes a proposal to increase rates for Time of Use customers by nearly 16% - those paying for energy based on the time of day they use it).

Avista (rate case # AVU-E-11-01): 3.6% increase on residential electric bills and 3.5% for natural gas customers (this would be on top of a 3.59% rate hike in 2010, a 3.92% hike scheduled to hit consumers Oct. 1st of this year, and a 1.74% hike hitting in 2012 - part of a 3-year 9% rate "deal." Also included is a proposal to increase customers' service charges by $.50 a month).

United Water (rate case # UWI-11-02): 19.9% increase on water bills for residential customers.

Over 40% of Idahoans 50+ reported difficulty affording their utility bills this past year according to a recent AARP survey ( Older individuals spend a much higher percentage of household income on utility bills, for the low income elderly, the bills can account for 24% of their expenditures.

"Idaho's utility companies shouldn't get big rate increases to bolster their bottom lines while many residents are struggling to make ends meet," added Wordelman. "AARP looks forward to working with the PUC to ensure the needs of Idaho consumers are fairly balanced with those of the state's utility companies."

AARP is urging the PUC to hold public hearings on the rate cases and is also encouraging its members and the public to contact the PUC in opposition to the utility rate hikes in their area. The public can file on-line comments for the rate cases at or mail them to: Idaho Public Utilities Commission, P O Box 83720, Boise, Idaho 83720-0074 (comments should reference the specific rate hike case number listed above).

AARP is Idaho's largest membership organization with 180,000 members.
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