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OPALCO Board Proposes Rate Increase

At the February 23rd board meeting in Eastsound, the Board will discuss a proposal to raise all electric rates approximately 3% across the board to meet the current budget’s operating expenses. A board vote is scheduled for March 15th in Friday Harbor. The rate increases would go into effect with the March billing cycle.

As a non-profit, member-owned cooperative, OPALCO delivers electricity at cost to twenty islands in the San Juans. OPALCO’s Board is involved in an in-depth review of the Co-op’s rate structure (see It’s Electrifying archives). This proposed increase is the first step, in order to meet operating expenses. In addition, the Board has commissioned a cost of service study that will take place this summer to examine all tariffs and the overall rate structure as it compares to the billing determinates in our current contract with Bonneville Power Adminstration (BPA). OPALCO conducts cost of service studies every 4-5 years.

The Co-op’s current contract with BPA includes a tiered rate structure that guarantees the Co-op a certain amount of (mostly) hydro power up to a measured ceiling of demand (called our high water mark). When our co-op load grows beyond that high-water mark, BPA will purchase power at market rates to meet the additional demand. While this proposed increase is not related to tiered rates, the overall rate structure study will forecast the potential impact of tiered rates going forward.

General Manager Randy Cornelius anticipates that, with our relatively slow growth in San Juan County of about 1%, we will not be subject to market (Tier 2) rates until about 2014. “As co-op members working together,” said Cornelius, “we can forestall market rates by managing our load through energy efficiency and conservation behaviors. If we all pitch in, do what we can to make our homes and businesses more energy efficient, the savings will be significant.”

Stay tuned for more information about rates as the Board works on this important issue in the coming months. OPALCO Board meetings are open to the public. Meeting details and agenda are posted online a week in advance of each meeting at directors/board-meetings.

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