PGE seeks 7.4 percent rate increase

PORTLAND — The typical Portland General Electric customer would pay more than $100 per month for electricity if the utility's latest rate request is accepted by the state Public Utility Commission.

PGE asked the commission Tuesday to start reviewing the utility's cost of doing business and approve an overall rate increase of 7.4 percent starting in January 2011. Residential customers would see a jump of 8.8 percent, while the increase for industrial users would vary from 2.2 percent to 9.3 percent.

PGE president and CEO Jim Piro said the utility needs the rate increase to pay for "key infrastructure improvements," and a major investment in renewable energy resources.

"Our customers expect PGE to meet their future energy needs while reducing our environmental footprint," Piro said.

PGE said the additional money would be used to cover the costs of completing the third phase of its Biglow Canyon Wind Farm in Eastern Oregon, relicensing hydropower facilities on the Clackamas River, rising employee health insurance premiums and upgraded information technology systems.

The request starts what is generally a 10-month public review process that will conclude with the commission either accepting or modifying PGE's proposal.

Bob Jenks, executive director of the Citizens' Utility Board, which represents the interests of residential ratepayers, said PGE's request is too much and attempts to shift risks from the company to its 818,000 customers.

"What strikes me more than anything is the overreach of what they're asking for," Jenks said. "The overreach is, quite frankly, staggering."

PGE, the state's largest utility, raised rates by 5.6 percent in January 2009, pushing the monthly bill of a typical customer using 900 kilowatt-hours of electricity to $94 per month.

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