The Utah Public Service Commission on Monday said it will reconsider its most recent order that granted the state's largest electric utility a $33.4 million rate increase.
Last month, the commission granted the hike, though the utility had requested more than twice as much. The company received a 2.7 percent rate increase but had asked for a 5.6 percent hike.
Rocky Mountain Power said the increase the commission granted was insufficient to meet the utility's needs to serve its growing customer base and stated that it would petition the commission to reconsider the order.
In July, the company filed an application with the commission requesting a total rate increase of $160.6 million, or 11.2 percent more than the utility was charging customers at that time. Last December, the utility had requested an increase of $161.2 million, but the commission in March issued an order requiring the company to reduce its rate-increase request to $99.8 million. The company reduced its request again in May to $84.5 million and yet again in June to $74.4 million.
In its final order last month, the commission determined that the increase should be $33.4 million. Additionally, the utility still has a second request pending before the commission for $85.2 million above the amount of the first request. The second request is an attempt to eventually gain the $160.6 million overall rate boost.
Earlier this month, following the commission's order, Rocky Mountain Power said it would implement a hiring freeze directed at customer service positions in Utah. In addition, the company said in a news release that it would limit overtime for restoring power to "only when employee or public safety is threatened," eliminate discretionary maintenance, discontinue funding of research associated with renewable and clean-coal technology and discontinue support for economic development activities.
The company said the commission's increase was not enough to meet the utility's needs to serve its growing customer base.
Last week, the company backed off of its plan to cut back service. State leaders, including the governor, met with Rocky Mountain Power officials prior to the company's announcement to rescind its service-cutback plans. Senate Majority Leader Curtis Bramble said then that the utility had not asked for any legislative intervention.
The commission's spokeswoman, Julie Orchard, said Monday that the panel felt as though there were some issues with the calculation of some recoverable costs, such as property tax adjustments, that warranted the reconsideration. She also noted there was no pressure from state officials to grant the petition for reconsideration.
"The commission is an independent agency that makes decisions based on the evidence that is filed on the record," Orchard said. "This time, the commission has decided that perhaps there were some issues that did merit further detailed review."
Orchard there is no timetable for rendering a decision, but the panel would attempt to complete its review "sooner rather than later."She said granting reconsideration in utility rate cases is not unprecedented, though it is not very common. The last time the utility sought reconsideration was 1999 when it was then known as Utah Power, she said. The commission opted to reconsider only a couple of minor issues in that case.