News Release – 11/17/09

Clark Public Utilities commissioners consider 2010 budget proposals

November 17, 2009

Electric rates could remain unchanged under proposed Clark Public Utilities budgets for 2010, CEO/General Manager Wayne Nelson told the utility’s board of commissioners today.

Nelson said with the current economic conditions, it was essential to keep expenditures as low as possible without reducing the service provided to customers. “As the economy worsened earlier this year, we took several major steps to reduce staffing and spending.”

In reviewing budget details, Director of Finance Rick Dyer told commissioners the budgets were developed using the utility’s basic principles of providing customers with outstanding service, high reliability and doing so while controlling costs.

Budgets for the utility’s Electric and Water systems assume a continuation of sluggish economic conditions, with growth levels just slightly higher than this year’s anemic levels.  Electric System customer growth is anticipated to be about 0.7 percent, with the number of new water customers to be up just 0.3 percent.

Electric System expenses are expected to be about $388 million. That’s down from $413 million planned for 2009, but that number is expected to end up about $379 million after the cuts made earlier this year. As has been the case historically, about 70 percent of the budget is the cost of power the utility generates or purchases for sale to its customers.

Reduced costs for natural gas used to produce electricity at the River Road Generating Plant are offset by higher costs of power purchased from the Bonneville Power Administration, the purchase of wind energy and added spending on energy conservation programs.

Investments in energy conservation are expected to grow in 2010 with new and expanded programs. The proposed budget includes a net cost of $3.8 million for weatherization and conservation investments, up from about $2.1 million in 2009.

The wind energy and conservation spending is required by Initiative 937, which was passed by voters in 2006.

The proposed Electric System budget also uses $4.7 million from the utility’s rate stabilization fund to keep rates at today’s levels.

The budget also includes about $1.3 million for business information improvements, which will provide more efficient operations in many areas of the utility. That’s down from $2.8 million budgeted in 2009.

Spending on construction projects will fall to $26.2 million, a drop of about $6.9 million from 2009. A portion of that reflects reduced spending on an expansion of the utility’s Ed Fischer Operations Center, much of which will be completed this year. It also includes reduced spending on substations, meters, and streetlights.

Water System expenses are expected to be about $13.4 million next year, down from $13.7 million this year.

Construction spending would drop to about $4.3 million from $12.1 million in 2010, reflecting completion of initial work at the South Lake Well Field.

Utility commissioners will hold a public hearing on the proposed 2010 budgets on Tuesday, November 24. The meeting will be held in the utility’s Electric Center, 1200 Fort Vancouver Way, beginning at 9 a.m. The commission is scheduled to consider budget approval at its December 8 meeting.

Clark Public Utilities is a customer-owned public utility district that provides electric service to more than 182,000 customers throughout Clark County.  The utility also provides water service to about 30,000 homes and businesses in the Hazel Dell, Salmon Creek, Lakeshore, Hockinson, Brush Prairie, La Center, Meadow Glade, Amboy and Yacolt areas.

Clark Public Utilities was ranked highest in customer satisfaction among midsize utilities in the west by J.D. Power and Associates in 2008 and 2009.

For more information:
Mick Shutt, 360-992-3238