When Co-op members get their power bills in January, the 2017 rate increase will be included. The Board-approved budget included a 5% revenue increase, which will affect the average bill by roughly the same amount. The rate increase will be applied to the energy usage (kWh) portion only of residential and commercial bills with no increase to the facilities charge.
“With this year’s rate structure,” said Foster Hildreth, General Manager, “specifically the Board’s decision to place the increase on energy use and keep the facilities charge the same as last year, members can keep their bills lower by using less electricity.”
The current revenue and rate increase is necessary to meet OPALCO’s cost of service which is primarily driven by the rising cost of power from BPA, OPALCO’s energy savings program and contracted labor expense. Other budgetary drivers include the major capital projects (depreciation) in 2017 such as the installation of the submarine replacement cable for the Lopez-San Juan crossing, 15 miles of underground cable replacement, the completion of fiber build out for the electric distribution system and planning for a 2018 Community Solar project.
The Board pledged to study rate structure options in 2017 and the next cost of service study is planned in 2018. Generally, a cost of service study is performed every two to three years to make sure all members are paying their fair share of the costs to deliver power.
One item that is NOT included in rates this year, is the $3 per month charge that all Co-op members paid in 2015 and 2016 to help fund the start-up costs of OPALCO subsidiary, Rock Island Communications. Members invested $1M in the start-up ($72 each), as part of a $7.5M loan that OPALCO secured for the new company. Rock Island paid back that loan in 2016 and is now financially independent.
OPALCO thanks its membership for their start-up support of Rock Island and encourages members to get the most out their investment by taking advantage of Rock Island Internet and phone services.
“We all own it,” said Hildreth, “and the return on investment is now coming back to the membership through faster than ever Internet services, excellent local customer care and an improved public safety network. In less than a year from now, as much as 90% of San Juan County will have access to robust and redundant Rock Island services – a far cry from the state of affairs in November of 2013 when our County was completely cut off.”