Confusion has its costs; co-op can do better | Editorial

If you’re having trouble making sense of the many facts, figures, moving parts and the overall financial state of the union at Orcas Power & Light Cooperative, you’re not alone.

We’re right there with you.

The numbers by themselves are enough to make one’s head spin: $15 million submarine cable replacement, $1.4 million revenue shortfall, $11 monthly facility charge (rounded up) for starters, $7.5 million loan to “acquire” and partner with a for-profit local internet service provider (intended to be a money maker), 9-percent rate hike, 12-percent revenue increase for 2015 and projected revenue increase of $28 million by 2019. That’s a lot of dollar signs to keep track of.

And then, trying to weigh the analyses and wildly conflicting conclusions by folks that know much more than we do about benefits and costs associated with the delivery of electricity, fiber-optics and broadband, and about what all these investments and strategies portend for the future, is enough to give one whiplash (get a taste of how divergent many of these analyses and opinions are at the Journal website, click on “Letters” and/or “Opinion“).

Two positions are up for election on the OPALCO board of directors. Four candidates are vying for those two spots. The board sets policies and rates for the power co-op. Late last year it approved a $728,000 payout to co-op members of 25 years or longer, known as “capital credits,” presumably because the co-op’s financial condition is just fine.

We encourage the powers that be at OPALCO to do whatever possible, and quickly, to set up a forum led by the general manager and board of directors so that members of the power cooperative can ask and have questions answered.

We’d also encourage readers to take a close look at the OPALCO’s recent explanation about rates and revenue, if you haven’t already. (it’s a paid advertisement, you’ll find it on page 12 of the April 8 edition). Credit OPALCO for offering it up. It says that the increase is necessary due to the following: warming temperatures, expensive submarine cables projects, shifting energy-usage patterns and grid control backbone expansion to meet near future needs.

The co-op acknowledges in that piece that its new rate structure is likely to create “real hardship” and that it’s the “right thing” to do. It also says, with regard to questions and concerns form members, that it’s listening.

There’s nothing wrong with listening, but we’ll suggest a bit more dialogue would prove beneficial for all.