Rising wholesale power costs are driving the need for an overall 2.5 percent rate adjustment recently approved after thorough study by the board of directors for Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation.
Beginning in October, the typical Blue Ridge Electric residential member will see an additional $2.70 on their monthly electric bill. None of the increase is due to Blue Ridge Electric’s operating costs.
“We are committed to providing the most reliable, lowest cost electricity possible and our agreement with Duke Energy provides the lowest cost wholesale power available in the marketplace,” said Doug Johnson, chief executive officer of Blue Ridge Electric. “However, like other utilities across the country, Duke’s costs are rising due to environmental compliance, replacing older coal plants with cleaner technology power generation, and upgrading aging power systems. Our nation is in a period of rising costs due to these factors and costs are being passed along to all consumers.
“Our goal at Blue Ridge Electric is to do everything we can to protect our members from rising costs,” added Johnson, who cited three key ways the cooperative is working to achieve this goal. “First, we’re one of few co-ops that manage our own wholesale power supply. This has allowed us to negotiate an agreement that is economically favorable for our members,” Johnson said.
Secondly, he said, “Blue Ridge Electric has two subsidiaries that help off-set costs: Blue Ridge Energies, our propane and heating fuels company serving residential and commercial customers; and RidgeLink, which leases excess fiber optic capacity to businesses. Both these companies produce profits that go entirely to help hold down rates for members,” he explained.
Thirdly, said Johnson, employees have joined together in a WorkSmart effort to reduce operational costs, identifying a sustainable $3 million in costs that members did not have to cover. Examples include better utilizing current technology, evaluating ways to avoid replacing retiring positions where possible, and evaluating all expenditures for better efficiencies.
“Electricity prices have been relatively stable since the 1990s, but as a nation, we’re now entering a period where significant, costly factors are coming together: closing coal plants that can’t meet environmental laws and replacing them with new power generation plants, and investing in transmission delivery systems to ensure reliable electricity and compliance with new environmental and security regulations,” he said.
“We’re seeing billions of dollars spent to comply with state and federal environmental laws such as the North Carolina Smokestacks Act and Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard, as well as the Clean Air and Clean Water acts, to protect our environment,” Johnson added.
“It’s never easy to pass along increases to our members and we only implement a rate adjustment when absolutely necessary,” said Johnson.
Members can help offset rising costs by taking energy efficiency steps. Blue Ridge members can get customized energy efficiency tips and savings ideas by taking the home energy audit available at www.BlueRidgeEMC.com. The audit uses information based on each home’s specific usage and produces a helpful report at the end of the short questionnaire a member can fill out online. If a member doesn’t have Internet access, members are invited to call Blue Ridge Electric and ask a member representative to assist with the online energy audit.
Blue Ridge Electric also offers a free electricity monitoring tool at www.MyUsage.com and Energy Savers booklets are available in each Blue Ridge Electric office.
Look for more details on the rate adjustment in the September member newsletter, Membership Matters, inside Carolina Country magazine sent to all members.
Blue Ridge Electric serves some 74,000 member-owners in Caldwell, Watauga, Ashe, and Alleghany counties as well as parts of Avery, Alexander and Wilkes counties.