Electric rates to rise next month

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Due to an increase in wholesale power rates, Barry Electric Cooperative's electricity usage rates will increase around 12 percent in April. The average member can expect to pay $12 more per month for services.

"The wholesale power cost is being increased to support a 12.5 percent increase in fuel costs for coal and natural gas," said Bill Shiveley, Barry Electric general manager and chief executive officer. "The increase will also cover transportation costs for coal, which is transported by railroad."

Around 70 percent of the energy produced by Associated Electric Cooperative Inc. (AECI), which is Barry Electric's power supplier, is generated from coal that is shipped from Moberly, New Madrid and portions of Wyoming.

In addition to fuel and transportation cost increases, AECI must fund changes that are required by new laws for emissions and the Clean Air Interstate Rules (CAIR). The changes include the addition of catalytic converters and scrubbers at power plants.

"We have decided to change our rate philosophy," said Shiveley. "We are moving away from the declining block tier rates."

In the past, Barry Electric has charged members a standard price for the first 100 kilowatts of electricity used. Members were then charged a cheaper rate for the second 900 kilowatts of power used.

"The rates were cheaper as the member used more, but our fuel costs were as much for the first 100 kilowatts as they were for the last," said Shiveley. "To encourage energy efficiency and energy conservation, we felt like we really needed to charge members a flat rate."

Barry Electric will also increase the service availability charge, which is the cost to have a meter at a residence. The fee will increase from $15 to $20 per month.

"We did a study three years ago, and our service availability costs then were over $25," said Shiveley. "We were charging $6. At that time, we raised the cost to $10. Last year, we increased it to $15, and this year, we will increase it to $20, which is still not at cost."

Members who use 1,000 kilowatts of electricity per month are currently paying around $88. When the rates increase next month, those members will be paying around $97.20 per month.

"This is an 11 or 12 percent increase," said Shiveley. "Since 2005, AECI has increased its power rates by around 28.9 percent, and we have increased our member rates 28.1 percent. We have eaten a portion of the power rate increase and are still providing the same service."

Barry Electric's operating costs have also increased significantly over the last few years.

"If fuel costs had not gone down during the last quarter of 2008, our operational costs would have been double for the year and we didn't drive any more miles," said Shiveley. "The cost of material has also increased. Pole costs have gone up around 50 percent, and the costs for other materials are up around 30 percent."

Barry Electric encourages all members to make small changes to become more energy efficient. Several ideas are located on the cooperative's website at www.barryelectric.com.

"The best thing that a member can do is be aware of the amount of electricity they are using," said Shiveley. "Members can look for ways to control their heating and cooling costs by installing energy efficient windows and sealing windows and doors.

"We offer some rebates for energy efficient heating and cooling systems," said Shiveley. "Members should also know that each CFL does not only save the member money but it saves energy."

Flat screen televisions and other appliances often use energy even when they are not in use, said Shiveley.

"A good way to see what appliances are using energy is to turn off the lights in your home and look for the green and red lights," said Shiveley. "Things like cell phone chargers use energy whether they are on or not."

In addition to increasing the service availability charge, Barry Electric's upcoming rate changes will set the cooperatives electricity rate at $.0772 per kilowatt hour for residential consumers.

Security light costs will also increase next month. Those new monthly rates will be as follows: 175-watt mercury vapor and 100-watt high pressure sodium, $6.65; 400 watt mercury vapor, $9.55; and 400-watt high pressure sodium, $10.95.

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