By Ann McCreary

Members of the Okanogan County Electric Cooperative will receive something of a gift in January from the co-op — a one-time waiver of the base fee on their monthly bill.

Depending on the rate class of the co-op member, base fees range from $36.50 to $120 per month. Irrigation accounts will receive a credit to their accounts for one month of the irrigation base fee.

After reviewing the co-op’s projected year-end margins, the board of directors decided that the co-op could afford to reduce its customers’ bills by eliminating the base fee in January.

“With efficiencies gained over the last few years, a lower rate of increase in power costs than expected, and the recent cold weather which increased members’ usage, the cooperative is projected to have higher margins than forecasted,” said Paul Taylor, president of the co-op board.

“This one-month waiver of the base fee is a way to lower existing members’ bills while also lowering margins. With December being a high-usage month and our members potentially having high power bills, the board felt that every little bit we can reduce power bills helps our members,” Taylor said.

The co-op is a nonprofit cooperative owned by its members. It earns margins that are analogous to profits in a for-profit company, to fund its operations and reduce the need to borrow money, said General Manager David Gottula. Margins are returned to members in the form of capital credits.

The cost of power purchased by the co-op from Bonneville Power Administration increased 8.4 percent in October, so the co-op will see higher costs in 2014. The co-op expects the current rate charged to its electric customers, along with a planned rate change in April, to cover the increased cost, Gottula said.

The rate change in April is the third in a series of three rate changes designed to eliminate the demand charge on most accounts. Members’ bills may increase or decrease based on their individual usage.

Members can see how the rate change will affect them by using a rate calculator designed by board member Ray Peterson that is on the co-op website or at www.mymethow.info/getmybill2013.php. For questions contact Gottula at 996-2228.