Avista has put in for a 13.5% rise in electric rates over the next two years, with 9.8% coming in 2020 and 3.7% in 2021. Gas rates will rise even faster, with a proposed 10.4% climb in 2020 followed by 4.7% in 2021.
Although we don’t yet know what further increases will come beyond 2021, they’ll likely be dramatic despite a brief “stay out period” that will prevent further rises until late 2022. Many other utilities across Washington are kicking up rates as well, and these rises are likely to continue. A recent University of Chicago study finds that when states raise “renewable portfolio standards” — laws that mandate cleaner energy to address the climate crisis — fossil-fueled utilities respond by raising rates steadily above trend by an average of 11% over 7 years, which is significant because Washington’s new 100% clean energy law amounts to a very aggressive renewable portfolio standard. Buckle up.
Although it mandates completely carbon-free electricity in our state by 2045, our new law’s biggest challenge for utilities is that it requires them to get 80% of their power from “nonemitting and renewable resources” by 2030. That means Avista must not only completely eliminate the 14% of its power that comes from coal, but also a third of the 31% that comes from gas, all while abandoning investments and plans for further gas generation (many utilities planned to meet the climate challenge by burning more methane, which we now know to be far dirtier than advertised).
This is a major turn, and Avista is hardly alone. Washington’s largest utility, PSE, generates 59% of its power from gas and coal, and most of it must go. Utah-based Pacificorp, serving much of Southeast Washington, faces even larger challenges as it gets more than 75% of its power from coal and gas.
These utilities owe you thanks when you go solar, as the surplus power you feed into their territories helps them meet the new state mandates. Meanwhile, of course, you can relax knowing that you’ve escaped the skyrocketing utility rates that come from burning dinosaurs!