AEL&P: Electric rates to triple

Power line repair may take a month

Posted: Friday, January 16, 2009

Juneau's electric utility said Thursday that residential rates will triple to about 30 cents per kilowatt-hour to cover the cost of diesel, and repairs to the Snettisham power line may be done in a month.

That's a lower rate increase and a shorter repair time than last spring.

The city electrical grid has been powered by backup diesel generators since Monday, when an avalanche took down a tower on the line to the Snettisham Hydroelectric Project. Residents will pay higher electricity rates to cover the cost of diesel burned until the line is repaired, just as they did when the same thing happened last spring.

Alaska Electric Light and Power Co. said repairs may be done in a month, weather permitting.

The company estimates it will need $4.25 million in fuel, based on a fuel price of $2.25 received in a bid this week.

The utility serves 15,600 year-round customers, including 13,600 residential, 1,500 commercial and 500 government users.

The 30-cent rate includes an emergency cost-of-power adjustment, or COPA, of just less than 20 cents, plus the normal winter base rate of 9.6 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Current rates are 10.8 cents, because electric customers are still paying off diesel burned last winter to supplement Snettisham hydro energy.

Last spring, repairs on several avalanche-damaged towers took a month and a half, less time than the company's initial estimate of up to three months. Electric customers then paid a rate of 52 cents per kilowatt-hour for a single month.

Independent financial auditors later reported that customers paid $8.9 million for 2.3 million gallons of diesel, an average price of $3.89 a gallon.

AEL&P will not formally file the emergency rate request until after Feb. 1, the company said. The rates will not apply to any energy consumed before the avalanche.

"We wanted ratepayers to know as soon as possible what to expect for an emergency rate," chief financial officer Connie Hulbert said in a statement. "But the longer we wait to file, the more accurate information we will have as to how much diesel will be consumed during the repair period."

The company urged people to continue conserving electricity.

City officials have had daily meetings with AEL&P this week. No plans were in the works Thursday to help residents pay their bills.

Last spring, the Juneau Assembly set aside $3 million to help residents and businesses pay electric bills that were set to more than quadruple. The final cost was far less: $522,000, including $39,000 in administration costs. The program helped about 2,199 households.

• Contact reporter Kate Golden at 523-2276 or kate.golden@juneauempire.com.

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For complete coverage of the Snettisham avalanches including tips on how to conserve energy, video reactions and links to local resources go online to juneauempire.com/powerline.



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