There was a perfect storm of compounding factors that made our power bills very high this month. The power bills in January include power usage during a prolonged cold snap where temperatures dipped into the teens between Christmas and New Years. With home heating systems working hard to keep up with the weather, a couple of things happened: energy usage went up – doubling in many cases –and the demand for power exceeded the normal range resulting in steep demand charges (~$300k) from Bonneville Power Administration (our mainland power supplier). Staff are hosting a workshop via Zoom on February 7th @ 5pm to discuss high bills and answer any questions members have.
The way demand charges appear on your bill is in the Energy Charge Adjustment (ECA) line item, which trues up revenue variances – mostly due to weather – each month. As you can see in the chart below, the ECA appears as a credit on your bill most months. In 2021, the ECA credited a net of $1,293,579 to members. The OPALCO budget on predicted revenue from the sale of energy is conservative, which mostly results in ECA credits. As a cost of service non-profit cooperative, OPALCO wants to end the year without any surplus or shortfall in revenues and the ECA helps accomplish that goal.
Another factor contributing to this month’s high bill is the timing of the 2022 rate increase of 4%, and added an average of $4/mo (based on average residential usage). You can learn more about your household usage in SmartHub with detailed usage charts.
The Member Service Team is available by phone to help with payment plans and there are bill assistance programs available for members who are struggling to pay their bills – this month or anytime. Project PAL provides a grant once each heating season of at least $150 to qualified members and the Energy Assistance Program provides a bill credit based on household size every single month of the year. Apply online at www.opalco.com or at your local family/community resource center.
It’s a good time to get curious about where you could improve the efficiency of your home or business. OPALCO has rebates and on-bill financing available to make your building more comfortable while saving money on your energy spending. The best way to get started is with an energy audit: https://energysavings.opalco.com/energy-savings/measure-your-energy/home-snapshot-assessments/. In 2022, new measures available through Switch it Up, OPALCO’s on-bill financing program, let you get projects done to upgrade your home heating systems, weatherization, appliances – and even adding solar and batteries to offset your energy usage.
These high bills illustrate a flaw in how OPALCO – and most utilities – collect revenue: based on sales of energy (kWh). Currently, the service access charge ($50.35 residential) collects only 43% of fixed operational costs and the Co-op depends on the sale of energy to cover the rest of the cost of the electrical grid. The Board will be discussing how to shift rates to match our needs as we transition to an energy future that encourages efficiency – wise use of electricity, conservation measures and local renewable energy production. Please plug in and share your ideas. The first workshop is scheduled for February 7th at 5pm on Zoom. Register in advance: https://opalco.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEuf-CqpjguGNPhKSc3NYsKBeJFv-j6Z3oi