Additional Spill Costs Hit Public Utilities, Including UEC

May 21, 2018

As expected, the Bonneville Power Administration has proposed a surcharge to its wholesale power rates to recover costs associated with increased water spill at eight Northwest dams.

As a wholesale power customer of BPA, Umatilla Electric Cooperative anticipates a total charge exceeding $200,000 for the additional spill.

UEC will absorb the surcharge without affecting the rates currently charged to its members.

BPA originally estimated the total cost to Northwest ratepayers would be about $40 million. In working with affected wholesale customers to identify cost savings, and in identifying secondary revenues, the total surcharge was reduced to about $10 million.

BPA proposed that these costs be recouped across utilities in wholesale bills from June to September. Utilities may comment on the proposal through June 7, and BPA will issue a final decision on June 21.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ordered more water to be spilled over the region’s dams to help young salmon migrating to the ocean. The additional spill over the lower Snake and lower Columbia River dams began April 2.

By moving water over spillways rather than through the turbines, water spilled over the dams cannot be used to produce electricity, thereby increasing the rates of Northwest ratepayers.

Northwest RiverPartners, whose membership includes UEC and a multitude of Northwest utilities and industry associations, said the plan will do little to help salmon while raising electric rates for the region’s utility customers.

“Spill costs money, and the ones who pay are Northwest families and businesses,” RiverPartners said in a news release. “This is a massive misuse of people’s hard-earned dollars that will do little to nothing to help endangered salmon.”