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Pacific Power seeks 2023 rate increase

Customers can make comments to state regulators at May 24 online hearing

Citing increased costs ranging from inflation to clean energy and wildfire mitigation initiatives, Pacific Power’s parent company is asking state regulators to raise its rates starting next year.

PacifiCorp is asking the Oregon Public Utility Commission for a 6.8% increase to its general rates starting Jan. 1, 2023, according to a news release issued Thursday from the Oregon Public Utility Commission. The rate increase would vary depending on the type of customer and their power usage, but could potentially increase residents’ power bills as much as 14%.

A residential customer in a standard home who uses approximately 900 kilowatt hours per month would see an increase of 14.16%, or $13.01, according to the PUC release, and a residential power customer living in an apartment or condominium who uses an average of 600 kilowatt hours per month would see an 11% rate increase, or approximately $6.97 per month extra.

Oregonians affected by the potential rate increase can make comments at an online public hearing scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 24. To participate in the meeting, provide Zoom meeting ID No. 823-8399-1218 and pass code 4884093995, or call into the meeting by dialing 971-247-1195

The nonprofit Oregon Citizens Utility Board of Portland encouraged Southern Oregonians to comment at the public meeting and make their voice heard, calling PacifiCorp’s proposal, if passed, “the utility’s largest residential increase in 20 years.”

The Oregon PUC states that the general rate change request is undergoing a nearly year-long review, which will conclude with commissioners ruling on the request in December. If approved, the rates would go into effect Jan. 1, 2023

In an interview with the Mail Tribune last week, Pacific Power CEO Stefan Bird described the utility as one of the country’s lowest-cost electricity producers thanks to a diversity of energy sources across PacifiCorp’s 10-state power grid and its participation in the Western Energy Imbalance Market, where the company sells excess capacity at low-demand times.

The company estimates Oregon customers saved a combined $30 million because of the program in 2021, but it couldn’t entirely offset added costs last year, including a statewide heat wave in June that forced the company to buy electricity on the margin, and drought conditions that reduced its hydroelectricity capacity.

“For Pacific Power customers, that impact is muted because we’re able to leverage that much wider area versus a smaller utility that’s stuck with a narrower set of options,” Bird said.

Other factors for the rate increase cited by the PUC include the power company’s plans to close coal plants — Bird claims Oregon will be “100% out” of coal power by 2029 — and expansion of its wildfire mitigation and increased costs of its vegetation management programs.

The power company says it’s separately planning to roll out discounts for low-income Oregonians starting Aug. 1.

The 25% discount would be available for households with incomes of up to 60% of Oregon’s median income, with adjustments for household size.

Pacific Power’s plan for the program includes partnerships with community organizations and low barriers to enroll, “including auto-enrollment and self-attestation,” according to slides at a public meeting on the program earlier this week.

The discount program would, however, exclude customers who’ve received energy assistance over the past 12 months, according to Pacific Power’s May 18 presentation.

For the latest on the proposed program, see pacificpower.net/discount.

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.