News Release – 12/8/09

Clark Public Utilities electric and water rates to remain unchanged

December 8, 2009

Electric and water rates will not change under budgets approved today by the Clark Public Utilities board of commissioners.

Carol Curtis, president of the utility’s board, said 2009 was a difficult year. “We faced difficult economic conditions, which resulted in lower-than-expected sales of electricity and water.”

She said the utility expects sluggish economic conditions to continue in 2010. “Our challenge was to keep spending as low as possible without reducing the service we provide to our customer-owners,” Curtis said.

Commissioners voted to use $4.7 million from the utility’s rate stabilization fund to balance the budget.

The budgets assume 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 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 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 by the Water System will drop to about $4.3 million from $12.1 million in 2010, reflecting completion of initial work at the South Lake Well Field.

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