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UTAH POWER PUTS 12TH RATE CUT INTO EFFECT

The price that many Utahns pay for electricity went down 3.7 percent overall Tuesday, the 12th time in four years that Utah Power's rates have been cut.

Only some small commercial customers will not share in the drop in prices.The $23 million decrease is part of a total 21.5 percent decline in rates - totaling about $140 million - since January 1988, a year before the utility merged with PacifiCorp, based in Portland, Ore.Utah Power President Verl Topham said the merger has benefited consumers, company stockholders and the state's overall economic climate.

The 21.5 percent reduction during that period means typical residential customers in Utah are paying about $100 per year less for electricity than they were five years ago. Top-ham said electricity prices for Utah residential customers are the same in 1992 as they were in 1982.

The $23 million cut in electricity prices effective Tuesday will be applied to various customers as outlined in hearings held in January. Top-ham said the "spread" of rates were structured by the company and utility regulators to more closely reflect what it actually costs the company to provide service.

Under the plan, residential rates drop 4.35 percent, about $20 per year for households using 560 kilowatt-hours per month. Large commercial users will see their rates decrease 5.36 percent and large industrial users get a 3.67 percent cut in costs.

Some small commercial customers will see a 3 percent increase in their rates. As with the decreases, Top-ham said the price hikes are intended to reflect the "true costs" of service as much as possible. He pointed out that the increase is the first that small commercial customers have had since 1984 and that their electricity rates are still 8 percent lower than they were five years ago.

In an interview with the Deseret News editorial board Monday, Topham discussed a variety of topics. Here are some of the points that came out of the session:

- Since February, 1990, when Topham became president, the company has been "quietly" changing its name from Utah Power & Light Co. (UP&L) to simply Utah Power, a shortening that better matches its sister company, Pacific Power. Customer bills now reflect the name change.

- Since the merger with PacifiCorp, Utah Power and Pacific Power have reduced their work force by a combined 1,000 jobs, split about evenly. Of those, 488 have been through early-out incentive programs.

- The company is actually a better "corporate citizen" than it was before the merger, particularly in terms of contributions to the arts and other organizations. "They (PacifiCorp) had a higher level of corporate giving than ours. They pressed us to come up to their level."

- Utah Power has some of the best physical generation resources and is among the lowest-cost producers in the United States. "We have a great system, the challenge is for us to run it well."

- With a dozen price decreases in an era of record earnings for the company, "I hope that means we are doing things right."

- Monopolies, which utilities essentially are, sometimes think they don't have to give good customer service. "Not here. At Utah Power we're working at building an organization attuned to its customers."

- Competition from private and municipal power producers is less than it once was. Utah Power has "crossed the cost curve" where most users of alternate sources pay more for their power than they would on the Utah Power system.

- "I doubt that we will see a major new plant built on our system before the late '90s or 2000."

- Nuclear plants in the system? "Not in my lifetime. I sometimes see myself standing before our board (of directors) recommending a big, new nuclear plant. Then I wake up."

- Former UP&L shareholders have done very well as PacifiCorp shareholders, with gains of 80 percent plus dividends, including three dividend increases.

- Despite being a subsidiary of an out-of-state owner, Utah Power has "a lot of autonomy. There have been some hard spots, in employee reductions, but that has been going on in every business."