October 2, 2008

Idaho Public Utilities Commission

Case No. GNR-U-08-01, Notice of Public Workshops

Contact: Gene Fadness (208) 334-0339, 890-2712

Website: www.puc.idaho.gov


Commission opens case to address energy affordability


Regulated energy utilities in Idaho are being directed by state regulators to participate in workshops designed to find methods to make energy more affordable for consumers. Customers and representatives of customer groups are also encouraged to participate.


The Idaho Public Utilities Commission is ordering its staff to conduct the workshops later this month and directing Idaho Power Co., Rocky Mountain Power, Avista Utilities and Intermountain Gas to participate in the workshops.


The commission’s order says the following:


“The Commission recognizes that there are a variety of factors contributing to significant upward pressure on electric and natural gas rates in Idaho and energy affordability has become a central issue for many Idaho households and businesses. Utilities are facing the prospect of more customers being unable to pay their energy bills in full and/or on time. Customers who are unemployed, have lower incomes, and/or have fixed incomes that fail to keep pace with inflation are disproportionately affected by rising energy costs, since they must devote an increasingly larger share of their income to paying for natural gas and electricity.”


The commission is hoping that the result of the workshops will be the identification of new programs, policies and/or legislation, procedures and/or resources that could be implemented to make energy more affordable.


Some of the issues that could be addressed at the workshops include 1) bill mitigation (payment plans); 2) bill payment assistance; 3) bill reduction through conservation, weatherization, discounts, reduced rates and tiered rates; 4) reduction in customer costs such as payment transaction costs; 5) removal of barriers to obtaining or retaining service; and 6) case management, such as one-on-one customer assistance.


In addition to utilities, the commission is inviting customers and representatives of customers groups to attend.


The workshops are scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 14, at 10 a.m. and Wednesday, Oct. 22, at 10 a.m. Both will be held in the commission hearing room at 472 W. Washington St. in Boise. Following those workshops, the commission may schedule follow-up workshops throughout the state.


Following the workshops, commission staff will file initial comments on Nov. 14. Customers, utilities and other interested parties may respond to staff’s initial comments by no later than Dec. 8. Commission staff will submit a final report, including recommendations, to the commission by no later than Dec. 30.


Those with questions about the workshops are invited to contact the commission at 334-0300 or 1-800-432-0369.