The OPALCO Board of Directors passed the 2021 Co-op budget at their November 24 meeting and approved a zero percent rate increase – that’s NO rate increase – in consideration of the ongoing pandemic and its economic hardships. The approved budget also includes a second (self-funded) community solar project, an aggressive Right-of-Way clearing for fire prevention and a public awareness campaign to help prepare members for the transition to renewable power. The Board also approved capital credit distributions (checks) to people who were members in 1995/96.
Staff have delayed hiring and capital projects and cut as many expenses as possible to get there. Due to the uncertainties of the year, the Board issued a warning that it may require a rate increase later in the year depending on the COVID-19 situation and weather dependent kilowatt hours sales. It also means some catch up in the coming years to build equity for the next submarine replacement project in 2030. Read the full budget report online https://www.opalco.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/2021-Budget-Report-v2-1.pdf.
The key projects that are funded in 2021 are all related to building a healthy and sustainable energy future in the islands. The transition to renewable power is here and that means some major shifts in the region as utilities scramble to meet new legislative mandates to get rid of fossil fuels. It foretells rising energy costs and potential shortages as coal and natural gas plants are retired. It means more pressure on – and competition for – our federal hydro resources to firm up the new solar generators: so there is power when the sun isn’t shining. It means solar microgrid projects going up in our island backyards and a decreased dependency on mainland power resources – although the regional grid will always be critical to meet the County’s energy needs.
“It’s an exciting and challenging time,” said Foster Hildreth, General Manager. “I’m confident in the plan the OPALCO team has developed to secure a reliable and clean power supply for the future. But, our success depends on the membership sticking together and helping each other out: that’s the island way–just like it was in 1937.”
Stay tuned for the full story and lots of opportunities to engage with this big energy transition through OPALCO’s Island Way campaign in 2021. Members will have another chance to participate in community solar in late 2021: a solar + energy storage microgrid project on San Juan Island and, like the Decatur project, it will be funded through government grants and member investment. If you’re interested in the new project, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. And, for those who want to be at the table as OPALCO shapes its energy future, there are three open positions in the 2021 Board of Directors election—learn more at https://www.opalco.com/why-run/.