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Sierra Pacific proposes new rates

Erich Sommer, Sierra Sun

The second-largest electric provider in the Truckee area is proposing a rate increase of as much as 28 percent.

Reno-based Sierra Pacific Power filed Friday with the California Public Utilities Commission for an interim rate increase, a practice used to tide electricity providers over until a general rate increase goes into effect.

Many in the Truckee area receive their power from the Truckee Donner Public Utility District, but an estimated 3,300 homes are Sierra Pacific customers, said Sierra Pacific spokesman Karl Walquist.

“In the Truckee area we serve 960 at Glenshire, and 545 others that are considered in the Truckee area as well but not in Glenshire.”

Sierra Pacific also has 40 customers in the Hobart Mills area, 52 in Rusell Valley, 139 in Floriston and 1,581 customers at Northstar-at-Tahoe.

Sierra Pacific plans to file for a general rate increase in January. It expects this request – which should amount to more than the interim increase – to become effective in March.

While the company’s 44,000 California customers are covered by a rate freeze until March, it still has the legal right to seek a rate increase, CPUC officials said Friday.

“It’s a proposal. It doesn’t mean they can get it,” said Rosalina White, CPUC assistant policy advisor. The CPUC must hold public hearings before approving any rate increase.

The company seeks an emergency rate increase of 2 cents per kilowatt-hour from its customers. This could send a bill for a typical residential customer – defined as one using 650 kilowatt-hours a month – from $47.12 to $60.12.

Like other utilities in the western United States, Sierra Pacific is facing high prices for natural gas to fuel its generation plants. The company buys about half its power from the wholesale market.

“Our wholesale costs have gone through the roof because of the energy crisis in the West,” said Mary Simmons, a Sierra Pacific spokeswoman.

Sierra Pacific Resources, the power company’s parent, posted an $83 million loss last year.

“If we’re not able to obtain the rate relief in California similar to what we’ve gotten in Nevada, the company will take a hit financially,” Sierra Pacific spokesman Karl Walquist said.

The utility has a total of 310,500 electricity customers, of which 44,500 live in California.

Additional reporting

by Susan Wood.


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