Northern Nevada utility files for tiny rate hike

Sierra Pacific Power Co. has filed for an electrical power rate hike that would cost its "typical" residential customers in Northern Nevada less than $1 a year.

The Reno-based utility said the request to the state Public Utilities Commission is for an increase of less than one-tenth of 1 percent. For the residential customer using 715 kilowatt hours per month, monthly bills would go up by 6 cents, to $75.15.

In the past, the utility has used the term "average" users, for those who use about 700 kilowatts. But the average is probably more than that, and often these rate hikes are tiered. The first 500 kilowatts is at a certain rate, then the next 500 is higher. Many families in a 2,000 square-foot home that uses 2,500 kilowatts would see a rate increase of much more on their bill.

The proposed rate hike reflects a largely stable energy market compared with a year ago when the utility initially sought a 5.4 percent increase to recoup its costs in 2001, utility officials said.

The PUC sliced Sierra Pacific's $205 million request last May to $139 million, with business customers paying the brunt of the increase.

By law, utilities may file annually to recoup energy costs, as long as they show no profit and prove their expenses were done prudently.

The stable energy markets also prompted regulators last month to cut Sierra Pacific's natural gas rates in the Reno-Sparks area. The result is a savings of nearly $3 a month for the average residential customer.


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