OPALCO approves rate increase; power bills to rise beginning in March

— Editor's note: information below was submitted by OPALCO in a press release

At its March 15 meeting in Friday Harbor, the board of directors of Orcas Power and Light Cooperative approved an across-the-board rate increase of approximately 3 percent, as well as some changes to the deposits and fees schedule, in order to meet operating expenses of the power cooperative current budget.

The rate increase is effective with March billings. The new tariffs and fees are posted at

A nonprofit, member-owned cooperative, OPALCO delivers electricity at cost to 20 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 at

This rate increase is the first step, in order to meet operating expenses. In addition, the board has commissioned a cost-of-service study that will assist it in examining all tariffs and the overall rate structure as it compares with the billing determinants in our current contract with Bonneville Power Administration. OPALCO conducts cost-of-service studies every four to five years.

OPALCO'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, known as the high-water mark. When power loads grow beyond that high-water mark, BPA will purchase power at market rates to meet the additional demand.

While the recently approved 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 relatively slow electric consumption growth in San Juan County of about 1 percent a year, OPALCO will not be subject to market rates until about 2014.

“As co-op members working together,” Cornelius said, “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 issue in the coming months. Meetings of OPALCO's board of directors are open to the public, and meeting details and agenda are posted online a week in advance of each meeting at

OPALCO is a member-owned cooperative electrical utility serving more than 11,000 members on 20 islands in San Juan County. OPALCO provides electricity that is 95 percent greenhouse-gas free and is predominately generated by hydro-electric plants. OPALCO was founded in 1937 to bring electricity to rural islanders.


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