Truckee residents can keep lights on | SierraSun.com
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Truckee residents can keep lights on

ABHUTCHISON, Sierra Sun

Truckee power customers will not be asked to turn off their Christmas lights or conserve power as a result of the statewide power crunch, but should expect to see rate increases in 2001 as utilities become more expensive to provide throughout the West.

As of Jan. 1, Truckee-Donner Public Utility District electric bills will be increased by 11 percent or approximately $6 per customer per month on average. The last electric rate increase to TDPUD customers was in the mid-1980s.

The district has been enjoying low power costs in the past with its supplier, Idaho Power, said TDPUD General Manager Peter Holzmeister. But as the demand for power becomes greater in the West, prices will continue to rise.

“Those low prices are disappearing,” Holzmeister said, adding that even after the rate increase next year, Truckee-Donner PUD customers will have the third-lowest power rates in California. Currently, the TDPUD has the second-lowest rates in the state.

“The unfortunate effect of the turmoil going on in the West is going to be slowly coming to Truckee. I don’t think we’ll have to tell our customers to turn off any lights, but prices will rise next year.”

Sierra Pacific Power has also been experiencing nominal increases every month due to increasing fuel and operation costs.

Truckee is outside of the California Independent System Operator region, which runs the state’s main power grid.

Both the Truckee-Donner PUD and Sierra Pacific Power are connected to the grid to the east.

“Electrically, we are tied in with Nevada and the grid to our east and that’s really to our benefit right now,” Holzmeister said. “We’re kind of isolated from California’s power. But that’s not to say we’re not going to be affected by what’s going on.”

California has been experiencing an electricity crisis, with electricity supplies dangerously low to rolling blackouts. The power crunch as been blamed on the shutdown of some power generating plants, cold weather in the Northwest, the effects of utility deregulation and the overall increasing demand for power.

“Deregulation would probably be the key factor,” Holzmeister said, adding the situation is very complex and multi-layered. “But that is coupled with the fact that we have a growing demand for electricity. It’s harder and harder to build generation plants … Private investors own power plants and can charge what they want and prices are rising. The market pushes everybody up and that’s affecting the entire Western United States.”

Energy companies held off building new power plants while deregulation was in the planning stages. Deregulation has also forced utilities to sell off their power-generating assets and import electricity from neighboring states in the Western U.S., where power demand is currently high due to cold weather.

Holzmeister said prices are going to continue to rise until new generation plants are brought on-line or a regulating body steps in to establish price control.

In most regions of California, power grid regulators have asked people to turn off lights and computers not in use and wait to turn on their holiday lights until after 7 p.m.

Federal energy regulators are working with California to find power that can be diverted to California during the crunch, which could increase hydroelectric generation out of the state.


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