- Category: Top Stories
- Published on Friday, 19 October 2012 01:00
- Written by Nicholas Shannon Kulmac
With Election Day on the horizon, the Vancouver Business Journal asked candidates to respond to a series of business-related questions with an emphasis on specifics. Below, you will find responses from Julia Anderson and Jim Malinowski, candidates for Clark Public Utilities (CPU) commissioner – a county-wide race with a significant impact on business.
Q: Rates are a key focus of CPU commissioners. Major users have benefitted from the practice of rate averaging. With higher costs of power how do you intend to accommodate new or expanding major user of power going forward?
Anderson: As a commissioner of a public voter-owned utility, my job is to seek broad input before making rate decisions. I would ask for recommendations from Clark Public Utilities management staff experts, from the interested public and from existing and potential new employers. Within its regulatory framework, the utility can play an important role in economic development. I would be inclined to support continued equitable distribution of power costs as a way to grow the local economy. My number one goal is to hold down rates for all utility customers.
Malinowski: All options for new power supplies will be far more expensive than BPA energy and more expensive than energy from the River Road natural gas fired plant. I will advocate for expanded conservation programs that allow us to serve more customers without adding new and expensive generation resources. I would rather have us help existing and new commercial and industrial customers use their energy resources more efficiently than to invest in new and expensive supply options that raise our rates more than necessary.
Q: Cost pressures on business – small business in particular – make utility costs a significant expense. What specific policy area are you planning to address if elected that will aid businesses in managing their utility costs?
Anderson: Clark Public Utilities has a good track-record in helping small business customers improve their energy efficiency and cut power costs. As commissioner I would support more conservation programs and incentives for small businesses. In addition, the utility can help improve the general economy by bringing family-wage jobs here. Job growth boosts all small businesses – local restaurant owners, accountants, retail store owners and homebuilders. Conservation offers costs savings while economic development supports business revenue growth.
Malinowski: The PUD needs to do everything in its power to keep rates stable, predictable and affordable. That objective can be achieved by maintaining an adequate Rate Stabilization Fund (RSF) and hedging our natural gas purchases for River Road fuel. The appropriate level of the RSF can be established by probabilistic analysis considering load, water year, natural gas and electric energy market forecast variability. Obtaining and using state of the art forecasting tools will support that effort. The PUD has assembled a very capable staff section that is managing this complex process.
The PUD has hedged most of its 2013 natural gas supply at about $5 per MMBTU (Million Metric British Thermal Units), which is below the 2012 cost of about $6 per MMBTU. That decrease in gas prices should offset expected increases in BPA rates for 2013. BPA energy will continue to be far less expensive than River Road energy or the average cost of purchases from electric energy short term markets.
Check out www.vbjusa.com and next week’s print edition for more Q&As with candidates on the November 6 ballot in business-related races.