OPALCO Rate Increase
OPALCO Board Approves 2016 Budget and Rates – Expect a 5% increase in your power bill
OPALCO’s Board of Directors has approved the 2016 budget with measures in place to keep our Co-op financially healthy, following two years of declining energy sales. Members’ bills will go up by an average of 5% beginning in January and a new Energy Assistance Program will provide a monthly discount to qualified households. The full budget report and presentation are available online.
At the November 19th budget work session, the Board reviewed the results of the 2015 member survey and heard the voice of the membership say: do your best to minimize rate increases, use voluntary donations not rate increases to fund rebate and renewable energy programs, and place a high priority on rate relief for qualified seniors and low-income households. The full survey report is available online.
The Board spent a day discussing budget measures and alternate billing and rate structures in detail before approving the budget at a regular board meeting on Friday, November 20th in Friday Harbor. Both meetings were attended by a handful of co-op members. To read the full story, go to www.opalco.com/news. In brief, the 2016 budget includes:
- Billing increase of 5% spread equally over energy and facility charges
- New Energy Assistance Program for qualifying fixed and low-income members
- Temporary adjustment in member Capital Credit distribution
- Temporary Revenue Recovery Add-on line item ends in December 2015
- Energy efficiency and conservation rebates available through the summer with a focus on residential members
- Analysis about the benefits of fuel switching from gas and propane to electricity
- Analysis of OPALCO expenses versus mainland electric Co-ops
- Planning for a pilot Community Solar project
OPALCO’s wholly-owned subsidiary Rock Island Communications came in on target for fiber to the home deployment in 2015, but was behind schedule and over budget on LTE Wireless deployment because of a midstream change in the core equipment necessary to serve the challenging terrain of San Juan County. In 2016, with a new approach to LTE service, Rock Island expects to catch up on its service offerings and reach its financial targets.
OPALCO’s budget is built to meet the cost of service, which is higher than most other utilities given our remote island communities connected to the mainland by submarine cables. During the past two years of revenue shortfalls, we’ve tightened the belt along the way and delayed projects and hiring to meet the need. In 2016, we project a stable revenue year as the adjustments we’ve made for changing energy usage and weather patterns are built in to budget assumptions. It’s been a bit of a bumpy ride for all utilities in the region, but OPALCO projects smoother sailing ahead as we adjust to the new weather norms, get through the final two years of our submarine cable replacement project, major upgrades to our communications infrastructure, Rock Island’s start-up operations begin to level out and we begin to add new electrical load through fuel switching. Thank you for your patience and cooperation during the bumps!
Orcas Power & Light Cooperative (OPALCO) is a non-profit electrical utility serving about 11,200 co-op member-owners on 20 islands in San Juan County. OPALCO provides electricity that is 95% greenhouse-gas free, predominately generated by hydro-electric plants. OPALCO was founded in 1937 to deliver electricity and improve the quality of life in the San Juan Islands.