SPOKANE, WA -- (Marketwire) -- 08/15/11 -- Avista (NYSE: AVA) customers could receive a decrease in their electric prices and a slight increase in natural gas prices on Oct. 1 if the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (IPUC) approves two annual price adjustment requests filed today by the company - Residential Exchange Credit and Purchase Gas Cost Adjustment.
Residential and small-farm customers using an average of 956 kilowatt-hours per month could receive a $1.77, or 2.11 percent, decrease in their monthly electric bill due to an increase in benefits to be received from the Bonneville Power Administration's (BPA) Residential Exchange Credit program. The Residential Exchange Credit is paid in its entirety to Avista's approximately 106,000 residential and small-farm electric customers in Idaho and has no impact on company earnings.
The increase in benefits is the result of a recent settlement agreement signed by BPA that resolves a long-standing dispute over how the benefits of low-cost hydroelectric power from the federal Columbia River power system are shared by the region's electric customers. All six investor-owned and nearly all consumer-owned utilities, representing over 95 percent of the region's electric customers, are parties to the settlement.
Under the settlement agreement, Avista residential and small-farm customers in Idaho will receive approximately $4.4 million in benefits, up from the current $1.8 million customers are currently receiving.
Avista also made its annual Purchase Gas Cost Adjustment (PGA) filing today with the IPUC, requesting an overall 1.53 percent increase in natural gas prices. The annual filing is a true-up that balances the cost of wholesale natural gas purchased by Avista to serve customers with the amount already included in customer rates.
The requested increase is the result of a reduction in the refund still being provided to customers from Avista's 2009 PGA filing, which decreased customer rates by about 30 percent. Abundant supplies of natural gas and softening demand for the commodity have continued to keep wholesale natural gas prices at lower levels over the past year. However, the elimination of a portion of that refund results in a slight net increase in overall rates. If the requested increase is approved, natural gas rates for Avista's Idaho customers would remain at levels similar to those in 2004.
If the request is approved by the IPUC, a residential customer using an average 62 therms a month would see a $0.99, or 1.63 percent, increase in their monthly rate for a revised monthly bill of $61.75. Commercial customers could expect increases of 2.05 percent for general service schedule 111, and 1.68 percent for interruptible sales service schedule 131. New rates would become effective Oct. 1, with annual natural gas revenues increasing by approximately $1.1 million. Avista does not mark up the cost of natural gas purchased to meet customer needs, so there is no impact on company earnings. Avista serves over 74,000 natural gas customers in Idaho.
The direct cost of wholesale natural gas makes up about 65 percent of an Avista customer's bill, and these costs fluctuate up and down based on market prices. The remaining 35 percent covers the cost of delivering the natural gas -- the equipment and people needed to provide safe and reliable delivery of service.
Avista's rate applications are proposals, subject to public review and a decision by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission. Copies of the applications are available for public review at the offices of both the IPUC and Avista, as well as the IPUC's homepage at www.puc.idaho.gov. The IPUC will begin a review of Avista's applications and will seek public input on the company's request.
Avista expects to file its annual Purchase Gas Cost Adjustment in September with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission. At the same time, the company plans to request a rate decrease for residential and small farm electric customers in Washington in the Residential Exchange Program.
To help customers proactively manage their energy use, Avista offers a number of energy efficiency programs, including rebates and incentives. Visit www.everylittlebit.com for information on the programs that helped Avista's Idaho and Washington customers save enough energy in 2010 to power over 5,700 homes for a year and to serve over 2,500 homes with natural gas for a year.
Information on energy assistance programs and payment options offered by Avista to help qualifying customers is available at www.avistautilities.com.
Avista Corp. is an energy company involved in the production, transmission and distribution of energy as well as other energy-related businesses. Avista Utilities is our operating division that provides electric service to 357,000 customers and natural gas to 317,000 customers. Our service territory covers 30,000 square miles in eastern Washington, northern Idaho and parts of southern and eastern Oregon, with a population of 1.5 million. Avista's primary, non-regulated subsidiary is Advantage IQ. Our stock is traded under the ticker symbol 'AVA.' For more information about Avista, please visit www.avistacorp.com.
This news release contains forward-looking statements regarding the company's current expectations. Forward-looking statements are all statements other than historical facts. Such statements speak only as of the date of the news release and are subject to a variety of risks and uncertainties, many of which are beyond the company's control, which could cause actual results to differ materially from the expectations. These risks and uncertainties include, in addition to those discussed herein, all of the factors discussed in the company's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended Dec. 31, 2010 and the Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended June 30, 2011.