Looming Utility Rate Hikes Could Devastate Treasure Valley Residents
Over 40% of Idaho’s 50+ Struggling to Pay Current Utility Bills as Idaho Power and United Water Press for Rate Hikes
BOISE, Idaho, Aug. 26, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — As if Treasure Valley residents didn’t have enough to worry about when it comes to household budgets – Idaho Power and United Water want to add one more to the mix: higher utility bills. AARP says the hikes could prove devastating to some Treasure Valley residents, particularly the elderly, and is calling on the Idaho Public Utilities (PUC) to deny both companies’ requests.
Idaho Power is pressing for an 8.8% electric rate increase, while United Water is proposing a near 20% hike – both taking effect in 2012 if approved by the PUC. AARP stands in strong opposition to the rate hikes, which are currently under PUC review.
“The rate hikes being requested are a bad idea in a good economy, but in today’s economy, they are a horrible one,” said Jim Wordelman, State Director for AARP. “To many Treasure Valley families already living on the brink financially, higher utility bills could simply push them over the edge.”
To make matters worse, hidden in the 110 page Idaho Power rate hike request is a little known measure that could cost consumers even more – a move making permanent a fixed cost adjustment, also called “decoupling.” The measure leaves customers paying a fixed rate to cover Idaho Power’s revenue while having another charge subject to the company’s energy sales. If energy sales are bad, the customer automatically has to pay more, if sales are good, the customer will pay less, and in either case the company’s revenue is always covered. The proposal shifts any shortcomings in energy profits from shareholders onto customers – penalizing consumers for using less electricity by making them pay more. Decoupling is currently in place temporarily for Idaho Power.
Also tacked onto the Idaho Power request is a $1 increase in the customer service charge.
“Idaho Power and United Water don’t deserve these rate hikes and AARP is urging the PUC to say ‘No Way,” added Wordelman. “AARP hopes to see public hearings scheduled soon on these rate hikes, where the public can make their voices heard loud and clear.”
Over 40% of Idahoans 50+ reported difficulty affording their utility bills this past year according to a recent AARP survey (http://bit.ly/gBePOb). 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.
Utility companies across Idaho are pressing for similar rate increases that would affect most residents’ utility bills, if approved by the PUC. Rocky Mountain Power is requesting a rate hike of 7.2% for electric customers (and an increase of 16% for Time of Use customers- those paying for energy based on the time of day they use it), while Avista is proposing a 3.6% increase for 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).
AARP is calling on the PUC to deny the rate hikes and is urging its members and the public to join the fight to make it happen. The public can get more information on the issue, how to get involved and file comments on the rate hikes by visiting www.aarp.org/ID, and get regular updates by following AARP Idaho on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AARPIdaho.
AARP is Idaho’s largest membership organization with 180,000 members.
SOURCE AARP Idaho