At the March 15th board meeting in Friday Harbor, the Board approved a rate increase of approximately 3% across the board, as well as some changes to the deposits and fees schedule, in order to meet the current budget’s operating expenses. The rate increase is effective with the March billing. The new tariffs and fees are posted online – click here.

As a nonprofit, member-owned cooperative, OPALCO delivers electricity at cost to twenty islands in the San Juans. OPALCO’s Board is involved in an in-depth review of the Co-op’s rate structure. This rate increase is the first step, in order to meet operating expenses. In addition, the Board has commissioned a cost-of-service study that will assist the Board in examining all tariffs and the overall rate structure as it compares with the billing determinants in our current contract with Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). OPALCO conducts cost-of-service studies every 4—5 years.

The Co-op’s current contract with BPA includes a tiered rate structure that guarantees the Co-op a certain amount of (mostly) hydro power up to a measured ceiling of demand (called our high-water mark). When our co-op load grows beyond that high-water mark, BPA will purchase power at market rates to meet the additional demand. While this increase is not related to tiered rates, the overall rate structure study will forecast the potential impact of tiered rates going forward.

General Manager Randy Cornelius anticipates that, with our relatively slow electric consumption growth in San Juan County of about 1% per year, we will not be subject to market (Tier 2) rates until about 2014. “As co-op members working together,” said Cornelius, “we can forestall market rates by managing our load through energy efficiency and conservation behaviors. If we all pitch in, do what we can to make our homes and businesses more energy efficient, the savings will be significant.”

Stay tuned for more information about rates as the Board works on this important issue in the coming months. OPALCO Board meetings are open to the public. Meeting details and agenda are posted online a week in advance of each meeting.