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Lower fuel costs keep electric rates stable for now, GVEA says

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Posted: Monday, October 29, 2012 10:20 pm | Updated: 11:52 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — The Golden Valley Electric Association says that higher maintenance and operating costs are the main reasons for a proposed across-the-board rate hike that would lead to a 2.34 percent average increase in residential bills as of Jan. 1.

But the cost of fuel, which is a separate part of the bill and changes once every three months, is expected to decline somewhat in December, so rates are expected to stay about the same, GVEA said.

The fuel costs should be lower because GVEA has recently signed a deal to get more power shipped to Fairbanks over the intertie from the Chugach Electric Association. Plus, high waters levels in Southcentral have meant more hydro power from the Bradley Lake project delivered by the intertie.

The power to be purchased from Chugach is generated by natural gas, so it should mean lower fuel costs. Natural gas is cheap compared to oil, which is the fuel used by the GVEA North Pole plant.

The details about the part of the bill that will show an increase are contained in the so-called “simplified rate filing” submitted to the Regulatory Commission of Alaska Thursday, following approval by the GVEA board last Monday.

“Maintenance cost for GVEA’s generating plants is the major driver for this SRF rate adjustment,” the utility told the RCA.

The increase applies to the portion of the electric bill called the “utility, demand and transmission” rates. It does not apply to the portion of the bill traced to fuel costs, which varies every quarter.

The utility charge increase is about 6.6 percent.

The fuel adjustment consists of two elements — one based on fuel use the past three months and one based on a projection for the next three months.

“So what has happened over the past couple months is that we’ve been getting economy energy from Anchorage due mainly to the high waters from the fall storms and therefore more Bradley Lake Hydro power over the intertie,” said GVEA spokeswoman Corrine Bradish.

The fuel component of the bill represents about 60 percent of the cost for an average residential customer.

•••

GOOGLE DOODLE: Internet users who signed onto Google Monday saw a “Google Doodle” of the late Bob Ross, the painter and television host who once lived in the Fairbanks area.

Ross, who died in 1995, would have been 70 Monday. He was best known as the host of “The Joy of Painting,” a relaxing program that he hosted for many years on public television.

The “Google Doodle” is a graphic that appears on the Google home page celebrating an individual or a special occasion. The Ross image showed him in front of a landscape painting, with a brush in hand, a familiar pose.

It was while he was stationed at Eielson Air Force Base as a sergeant that Ross first began to develop his painting skills, impressed by snow and mountains, both of which became important themes in his artwork. He began selling his artwork in the Fairbanks area and later made a name for himself.

“In a voice so soothing that its effect was once compared to Demerol, Mr. Ross encouraged viewers to paint ‘happy little clouds’ and ‘pretty little mountains.’ He contended that given half an hour (the length of his show), anyone could paint a landscape by following his instructions. Most of his audience, however, watched just to hear him speak. Mr. Ross’s folksy demeanor eventually came to be interpreted as a kind of reverse chic. MTV hired him to star in a series of promotional spots,” the New York Times said in his obituary.

Dermot Cole can be reached at cole@newsminer.com or 459-7530.

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