La Plata Electric Association board considering rate changes

Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015 6:56 PM
La Plata Electric Association is considering rate changes for both residential and commercial customers. Residents could see monthly increases and businesses could see declines for their rates.

Local residents could be paying a bit more for electricity in 2016, while businesses might pay less.

The new rate structure that La Plata Electric Association's board is considering would charge customers more for the infrastructure that provides their power, said Dan Harms, manager of rates, technology and energy policy.

The change was triggered by Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association's decision to use a rate structure similar to the one in place prior to 2013. LPEA buys power from Tri-State, and the new rate structure is considered more equitable to all customers.

"We try to balance simplicity, fairness and revenue stability," Harms said.

As a result of the change, average residential LPEA customers could expect to see an increase of $5.25 per month on their electric bills. Commercial and industrial customers in general would see a 4 percent decrease on their bills next year.

Commercial customers would be charged separately for how much electricity they use and for the maximum amount of power they require at one time.

In general, commercial customers are more efficient power users because they consume electricity more consistently through the day.

The rate increase for the use of infrastructure would be built into the kilowatt-hour charge for residents. As a result, the price for a kilowatt-hour of electricity would be going up from 11.9 cents to 12.5 cents.

This change would allow LPEA to expand the off-peak hours of its Time of Use rate when a kilowatt-hour is only 6.5 cents.

As part of the shift, LPEA hopes to do more education about ways residents can save money by changing their electrical usage through electric thermal-storage heaters that release heat slowly and use more electricity during the off-peak hours.

However, it may not be realistic to expect the public to use electricity during off-peak hours, said county resident Kevin Brennan.

"I don't think residents should be penalized," he said.

Diane West, who owns a gallery along Main Avenue, was pleased to see the electrical co-op raising its usage rates rather than its base rates because it gives residents some control. Homeowners can install better insulation and use LED lightbulbs to lower their rates, she said.

LPEA is currently in a 30-day comment period before the board votes on a new rate structure on Dec. 16.

LPEA can be reached at 247-5786.