In case you missed the notice, the price of power is going up next year. As of January 1, the average residential user can expect the electric bill to rise by almost 5 percent. But with an energy audit of your property or by cashing in on one of the local energy cooperative’s rebate opportunities you can ease the pain of an increase.
Gunnison County Electric Association CEO Mike McBride says the increase is due to a change in Tri-State’s rate structure and a rise in the cost of providing power to GCEA’s members. The rate increase will generate the $614,000 needed for GCEA to continue providing the same reliable service as always. Of that revenue, $474,000 will go to GCEA’s general operating expenses and the remaining $140,000 will pay for higher costs from the cooperative’s power supplier, Tri-State Generation and Transmission. As a cooperative, Gunnison County Electric Association is not in business to make a profit. The association operates with very slim margins considering it has to maintain a utility infrastructure worth more than $40 million to provide safe, reliable, efficient power to its membership. McBride says he and his staff understand this is a tough time to raise utility rates, but they believe the investment is necessary to maintain the stream of reliable, relatively inexpensive power Gunnison County residents have enjoyed since the power lines got their first charge in 1941. Over time the cooperative and its energy supplier have made strides to improve energy efficiency and have invested in some renewable-types of energy. However, when it comes to the rates that GCEA must charge members, those rates are heavily influenced by the power supplier’s rate structure as well as costs. For residences, which make up about 60 percent of GCEA’s connections, the current rate of $0.11500 per kWh will rise to $0.11851, or an increase of only about one-third of a cent per kilowatt hour, with the connection fee - called a service availability charge on your bill - going up $2.50, to $25 a month. Tri-State’s changed rate structure will significantly impact the Time of Use (TOU) rate which GCEA offers residential members. There will be fewer off-peak hours and the differential between the less expensive off-peak and more expensive on-peak rate will be narrower. Due to the investment that GCEA’s existing TOU members made to take advantage of the TOU rate, GCEA’s board opted to grandfather in those existing TOU customers. Moving forward, members interested in the TOU rate will still have an option to participate in the program, but the rates and hours will be in line with Tri-State’s new rate structure. In general GCEA members are very interested in using energy wisely. In Gunnison County, the average residence uses about 685 kWh per month, which is the fourth lowest of the 22 electric cooperatives in Colorado. Whenever possible, GCEA suggests ways to conserve energy. GCEA energy use and communications specialist Vicki Spencer doesn’t personally do the audits but she hears a lot of praise of the people who do. “I do see the evaluations that come back and we’ve had nothing but positive feedback from people who have found the energy audits to be really helpful in saving them some money on their energy bill.” McBride encourages utility users to make improvements to the way they use power, especially in the winter months, making sure your home is sealed against the cold air outside and improving the efficiency of lighting fixtures inside, which can account for a quarter of a home’s energy use. Changing the way you use power and investing in efficiency might be the best way to offset the rate changes going into effect for GCEA customers on January 1. To help, the GCEA is hosting an energy fair at their Gunnison Office starting in the afternoon and lasting into the evening of February 13. There will be a lighting display to show people how a switch to more efficient bulbs and fixtures can impact your energy bill, as well as information on how you can get an energy audit. Anyone with questions or comments about the proposed rate changes can send them to GCEA at P.O. Box 180, Gunnison, Colorado 81230-0180 or call (970) 641-3520.