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AARP Intervenes in Wyoming’s Largest Utility’s Rate Hike Request

Rocky Mountain Power, Wyoming’s largest utility, has asked state regulators to approve what amounts to a $70.9 million rate increase. If approved, residential customers will pay about 14 percent more for electricity.

According to paperwork filed on the case, the residential “class” as a whole would see a 14.35 percent increase. Small commercial users would see the smallest increase (6.73 percent), while large industrial users would face the largest, 19.25 percent more than current rates. AARP is among several intervenors in the rate case before the Wyoming Public Service Commission.

“We are concerned that this proposed rate hike is coming at a time when our members are already struggling to adjust to the abrupt shift in the national economy,” AARP Wyoming Director Tim Summers said. “Many of our members have had to dip deeper into their retirement savings – accounts that have been hurt by the drop in the stock market – to make ends meet.”

Kate Fox, an attorney with Davis & Cannon in Cheyenne, who is representing AARP said, “AARP’s interest in this case is to make sure the residential consumers of electricity in the Rocky Mountain Power service area are represented, so that rates are increased no more than is required and so that any increase is not a disproportionate burden on residential and small business users. Our objective, simply put, is to limit the overall increase as much as possible.”

Other intervenors – so called because they are outside parties to a lawsuit who voluntarily enter into the proceedings because of a direct interest in the subject – include Wyoming Industrial Energy Consumers, the Wyoming Office of Consumer Advocate, Cimarex Energy Co., Interwest Energy Alliance, Questar Gas, Kinder Morgan Interstate Gas, and state Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander.

Jeff Hymas, a spokesman for Rocky Mountain Power, said one of the main drivers behind the utility’s proposal is infrastructure costs associated with serving new and existing customers, which requires new investment in generation, transmission and distribution and an increased share of parent company PacifiCorp’s system-wide resources. PacifiCorp serves five states in addition to Wyoming: Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and California.

In 2000, according to Hymas, Wyoming customers accounted for 14.9 percent of the electricity use across the company’s six-state system. By 2008, Wyoming’s portion of system-wide energy use had increased to 16.7 percent. Based on company forecasts for 2010, Wyoming will soon account for 18 percent of the total energy use by the utility’s customers in all six states.

Rocky Mountain Power estimates that electricity sales for the period covered in the utility’s pending rate case are forecast to be 1.6 percent less than 2008 levels. The company forecasts Wyoming electricity sales for the same period, however, will be 3.9 percent greater than 2008 levels.

If approved by the Wyoming Public Service Commission, Hymas said, the rate increase likely would not go into effect until August 2010. He said the utility has a number of energy efficiency programs available in Wyoming that can help keep costs down, find details online.

The Wyoming Public Service Commission will hold a series of public hearings on the proposed rate increase in coming months. The case docket, hearing dates and more information can be found online