Submitted by OPACLO
When Orcas Power and Light Cooperative members open their bills in January, they will be about $7 higher. Most of the increase is driven by inflation, Bonneville Power Administration rate increases and the 2017 installation of the new $15 million submarine cable named after George Goff.
This change represents a 5 percent increase in rates and will be applied equally between the facility charge and energy usage portion of members’ bills, for a total of around $7 more per month. This is based on the average residential monthly household usage.
“The board continues to study the OPALCO rate structure to deliver its services at a reasonable cost to its members,” said Board President Vince Daciunias. “And, we went through a rate review process in 2017, with Co-op member participation, to make sure we are as lean on expenses as we can be without compromising reliability and safety.”
Each year, the cost of BPA energy steadily increases, and this flows through to members’ electric bill. OPALCO’s investment in local renewable energy will help reduce the dependence on mainland power. Keeping the energy usage rate for electricity lower than fossil fuels like propane and gasoline means members can save more than $1,000 per year on heating and driving costs.
OPALCO works closely with its members to ensure that assistance is available if paying their power bill is a financial strain. The board gave OPALCO’s Energy Assist Program a boost for 2018; qualified households can now get a bill credit of $25 to $55 every month – more than offsetting the rate increase. Check out Project PAL and Energy Assist programs at www.opalco.com to learn more.
In 2018, OPALCO is scheduled to conduct a cost of service study to ensure our rate structure is evenly distributing costs to co-op members. The last cost of service study was in 2014.
The budget forecast for the next five years projects a similar increase for each of those years as well. While the cost of living in San Juan County continues to rise, utility costs (OPALCO included) show a smaller increase than inflation of other necessary household expenses such as housing and groceries. OPALCO’s clean, green mostly-hydro power is still one of the best deals around.
OPALCO does its best to predict energy costs from year to year but weather variations make this a challenge. Members will see a credit on their bill this December since last winter was colder than expected, with higher than expected revenue. As a member-owned non-profit cooperative, OPALCO strives to keep members’ dollars in members’ pockets.