No electricity rate hikes planned in 2020
People who get their power through the Okanogan County Electric Cooperative (OCEC) will get a financial break to start the new year, since the co-op has waived the base fee for December.
The OCEC board opted to eliminate the base rate as a way of returning capital credits to ratepayers. For most customers, this will mean a savings of $32 or $50. All rates are based on average kilowatt-hour use, not on whether a customer is residential, commercial or industrial, OCEC General Manager David Gottula said. The biggest power users will save $60 or $145, depending on their rate class.
Ratepayers will still pay for each kilowatt-hour used, from 8.1 cents for lower-usage residential customers to 6.78 to 7.57 cents for bigger users.
“While margins this year are at projected levels, the board decided that this one-month waiver of the base fee is a way to lower the existing member’s bills and reduce our margins. Also, with December being a high-usage month … every little bit we can reduce power bills helps our members,” Gottula said.
The extra margin this year — about $137,000 — was close to what was budgeted, but it was high enough that the board decided to reduce it by waiving the base rate. Otherwise, the amount would have gone into each ratepayer account in proportion to their power use, since it wasn’t needed for operations, Gottula said. As a nonprofit cooperative owned by its members, OCEC eventually returns all margins (revenues minus expenses) to members.
Because the co-op tracks each account, all ratepayers receive periodic payments in proportion to what they’ve paid for electricity, generally on a 20-year rotation, Gottula said. OCEC uses capital credits as equity for operations, new equipment and debt repayment.
“We try not to earn too much money. As a nonprofit, we’re required to return all margins to our membership,” he said.
The one-month waiver applies to all service classes except irrigation, second meters and idle accounts.
No rate hike
The OCEC board evaluates annually whether a rate increase is necessary. Although there was a small increase in power costs this year, OCEC was able to absorb it, Gottula said.
The last rate increase — which involved tweaking base rates and kilowatt-hour charges, raising some costs and lowering others — was in 2018.
The Bonneville Power Administration, the co-op’s biggest source of power, will raise rates again in 2022, so there’s a chance OCEC will increase rates accordingly, Gottula said.