The odds got better on Monday that the typical residential customer in Southern Nevada will be paying $30 a month more this summer for electricity.
Nevada Power Co. and others filed an agreement Monday on an energy rate adjustment that is close to the proposed rate adjustment request the utility filed earlier this year.
The utilities commission has not rejected an electric rate case settlement in more than 10 years, making approval seem likely in the energy rate case.
That leaves one major contested matter regarding Nevada Power’s overall rates — the general rate case that sets the amount Nevada Power can collect through rates for administration, maintenance, operations, investments and profits.
The Public Utilities Commission will make the final decision on the utility’s general rate request.
If state regulators do approve the rate case as filed, a typical single-family residential customer will pay $243.98 for 2,000 kilowatt hours during the summer air conditioning months starting June 1. That’s $29.20, or 14 percent, more than previously.
“Thirty bucks a month is significant to someone who doesn’t have much of a margin to work with,” said Deborah Moore, a spokeswoman for AARP Nevada.
“It does affect people on fixed-incomes and people of modest means,” Moore said. “They are really strapped.”
Fixed-income retirees also face higher prices for gasoline, health care and food, leaving them with tough choices to make, she said.
Moore said low-income customers facing emergencies or needing help with home weatherization can call 866-846-2009 for assistance.
The average year-round power bill for a residential customer using 1,250 kilowatts would increase by $19 to $155.49 currently if the utility’s rate requests are approved.
State Consumer Advocate Eric Witkoski hopes the utilities commission cuts the 7.5 percent, $156 million overall rate increase sought by Nevada Power in its general rate case.
Witkoksi’s Bureau of Consumer Protection recommended increasing general rates by 2 percent or about $40 million. MGM Mirage proposed a similar size rate increase, but the PUC staff favors a rate change close to the company’s request.
In contrast to the general rate case, little was in dispute in the energy rate case. The consumer advocate, the staff of the utilities commission and MGM Mirage, a large power user, accepted the proposed settlement that awaits possible commission approval.
Witkoski said he was satisfied that Nevada Power was prudent in its purchases of fuel for use in power generation and of wholesale power.
Regulators and officials from Witkoski’s office meet quarterly to determine whether the company is following a strategy pre-approved by the utilities commission on past fuel and power purchases.
“There’s a lot more oversight (of Nevada Power energy purchases), a lot more interest to see what they are doing,” Witkoski said.
The consumer advocate said he was satisfied with Nevada Power’s purchasing practices.
Nevada Power bought more gas than it needed, Witkoski said, but the utility sold the excess gas at a $16 million profit, reducing the rate burden on customers.
“We’re trying to do the best we can to keep rates down,” Witkoski said.
His office is encouraging the utilities commission to lower the interest rate that Nevada Power earns on uncollected fuel and purchased power expenses. Also, Witkoski hopes the Legislature will enact a law that calls for quarterly fuel and purchased power rate adjustments to reduce the amount of money earning interest and driving rates up.
Nevada Power declined comment on the energy rate case settlement until today.
A small portion of the energy rate case would provide compensation to Nevada Power for conducting a solar energy demonstration program.