Utility hikes on the table

Would go into effect May 2009
By: Megan Wood The Press-Tribune
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A community meeting to discuss proposed electric rate increases was held last week by Roseville Electric and the city’s Environmental Utilities department. The increases, if approved by the Public Utilities Commission and Roseville City Council, are scheduled to go into effect in 2009. Environmental Utilities is proposing to implement a 5.2 percent overall rate increase in monthly water, wastewater and refuse bills. According to Edward Kriz, water utility manager for Environmental Utilities, there are currently three tiers of rates, which are based on water consumption. A fourth tier for excessive water consumers is being proposed and customers consuming more than 7,500 cubic feet of water will be charged an additional $1.46 per 100 cubic feet. “We wanted to send a strong price signal to those customers who are using more water and to consider conservation,” Kriz said. “Only about 5 percent of residential users fall into this category.” If approved, a typical residential household using 1,900 cubic feet of water can expect their combined monthly bill to be $73.61 as opposed to their current bill of $69.95. By 2010, Environmental Utilities is planning a cumulative rate increase of 5.3 percent causing the average consumer’s bill to jump $3.88, to $77.49. “We were advised by city council to have smaller incremental rate changes rather than less periodic and higher ones,” Kriz said. “A survey we conducted of our customers reflected that as well.” In addition, Roseville Electric will adjust electric bills to reflect conditions in the hydroelectric market, lower the rate stabilization fund and change the climate change mitigation fee to a consumption-based charge. According to Vonette McCauley, public relations manager for Roseville Electric, a surcharge of 1 to 5 percent will be implemented in dry years when the average precipitation is less than 52 inches of rainfall. In 2006-2007 Roseville received 40 inches of precipitation resulting in a deficit of 52 gigawatt-hours. “When we receive less than 52 inches we have to replace that energy in the marketplace, which increases cost,” McCauley said. “The adjustment allows us to recover that energy to our customers in a timely manner.” According to Roseville Electric a homeowner using 11,400 kilowatt-hours can expect to see their monthly electricity bill increase by 3.7 percent, or $3.80 in years similar to recent ones that have not reached the desired 52 inches of precipitation. In a particularly dry year the surcharge will spike to 5 percent, or $5.20 for 11,400 kilowatt-hours while in wet years customers will receive a credit of 1 to 5 percent based on the estimated precipitation. “The federal government collects the rain totals and then lets us know how much electricity we can expect to receive from our hydro resources,” McCauley said. Roseville Electric is also planning on lowering the rate stabilization fund, the agency’s rainy day reserve fund. In addition to the proposed increases Roseville Electric is considering changing the climate change mitigation fee from a flat $4 for residential and small businesses to a consumption-based fee. “We received feedback from our customers who said it would be more fair to those who are conserving energy if we made this a consumption-based fee so that those who are using less will be rewarded for their efforts,” said Michelle Bertolino, assistant electric utility director. The average home using 800 kwh or less can expect a fee up to $4 while those using 800 or more will have a fee of $4 or more. The average apartment can expect to see its fee decrease by $1.60 a month. “I think the meeting was very informative and helped me to understand the rate changes and what I can do to prepare for the future and what to expect,” said Roger Mathews, a Roseville resident who attended Wednesday’s meeting. “So many people aren’t aware of what’s going on and the things they do can have drastic effects on our rates. We need to be paying attention.” Compared to other local electric companies, Roseville Electric’s rates are lower than PG&E’s rates and comparable to SMUD. Environmental utilities will be presenting these changes to the Public Utilities Commission today. Roseville Electric will present their changes to the PUC Jan.27. Both will present the proposed increases to Roseville City Council in March 2009.