The Bonneville Power Administration on Tuesday adopted a landmark settlement of the Residential Exchange Program, with the hope it will lead to the end of years of dispute over the way consumers share the benefits of low-cost hydroelectric power from the Columbia River system.
In signing the agreement, BPA Administrator Steve Wright applauded regional utility leaders and others who set aside longstanding litigation and its uncertain effect on power rates to support the settlement.
“I’m grateful for the dedication and determination of all those who have helped us find a better path forward,” Wright said. “Northwest citizens are far better off as a result of the time and patience the parties invested in the negotiations. We all owe them a debt of gratitude for getting us where we are today.”
Wright had personally appealed to the region in 2008 to pursue a settlement that would provide more long-term stability and equity than any agency decision.
The settlement reduces a significant element of uncertainty and risk from BPA’s power rates for the vast majority of utilities in the region. Its main elements include:
-- About $3.3 billion in payments (in real 2010 dollars) to investor-owned utilities over the 17-year term of the settlement, beginning at $182.1 million in fiscal 2012 and increasing to $286.1 million by fiscal 2028.
-- About $612 million in credits to consumer owned utilities, paid at $76.5 million per year from fiscal 2012 to fiscal 2019, compensating for overcharges from a 2000 settlement.
-- A commitment by the parties to the settlement to seek legislation that would affirm the settlement and direct BPA to implement it.
-- Provisions outlining how BPA would set rates for settling parties and the few non-settling parties in the event of further litigation.
The parties supporting the settlement include all six regional investor-owned utilities, three state utility commissions, several consumer-owned utility groups, a retail ratepayer advocacy group and consumer-owned utilities representing 88 percent of those receiving power from BPA. Together supporters of the settlement provide about 93 percent of power consumed in the Pacific Northwest.
Wright also urged those who have not yet endorsed the settlement to reconsider their position. “There is an opportunity here to for all parties of the interconnected Northwest system to move together harmoniously.”