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Blue Ridge Electric to raise rates

By Jesse Campbell (jesse.campbell@mountaintimes.com)



Article Published: Sep. 26, 2013 | Modified: Sep. 26, 2013
Blue Ridge Electric to raise rates


Facts

Energy (and Money) Saving Tips

Taking energy efficient steps is the best way members can lower their usage and energy costs. Start with easy, no-cost or low-cost steps, such as:

• Generally, it’s suggested to set your heat pump to 68 degrees in winter to help save. You may be able to lower the temperature further when away or at night;
• Change HVAC filters monthly or according to your manufacturer’s directions;
• Open drapes and blinds on sunny days to let the sun help warm your home. Close them at night to keep heat from escaping;
• Insulate wall plugs and wall switches with foam pads made for this purpose;
• Check for obvious air leaks and caulk around areas, such as baseboards and plumbing penetrations that come through walls beneath kitchen and bathroom sinks;
• Change traditional light bulbs to energy saving compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs);
• Wash clothes in cold water and run only full loads;
• Take care to use space heaters and dehumidifiers properly: These appliances can consumer a lot of electricity;
• Unplug chargers when not in use;
• Turn off TVs, computers, and other appliances when not in use;
• Turn off exhaust fans in the kitchen and bath when not needed.

Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation customers will see an additional $2.70 on their monthly electric bill beginning in October — an increase of 2.5 percent.

Officials with the electric co-op said rising rates are not related to Blue Ridge Electric’s operational costs, but instead compliance-related upgrades that are being implemented by the company’s wholesale power supplier, Duke Energy.

In keeping pace with environmental regulations, Duke Energy is replacing older coal plants with newer, cleaner technology, and the costs associated with the upgrades are being passed down to the average member, according to a news release.

“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,” Blue Ridge Electric CEO Doug Johnson said in a prepared statement.

Originally, BRE officials were looking at a possible rate increase as high as 8 percent instead of the implemented 2.5 percent, but the co-op’s management team was successful in negotiating a more feasible rate, said Renee Whitener, director of public relations for Blue Ridge Electric.

“It’s never easy to pass along increases to our members, and we only implement a rate adjustment when absolutely necessary,” Johnson said.

The rate increase is reflected for the September usage cycle, which is one of the lower energy consumption months for the average BRE member during the year, Whitener said.

“The October bills reflects September usage, which is what we call a shoulder month,” she said.
BRE officials said certain factors play in such decisions to increase rates.

“Blue Ridge updates its long-range financial model each year, based on projections of wholesale power costs, operating costs and capital investments for our electric system,” Whitener said. “While projections into the future can vary from experience, it’s a good tool for us to manage cost drivers. We have known for some time now that Duke’s wholesale costs are going up — we have seen it in their projections, and we are experiencing it.”

Duke’s projected increases are being driven by environmental regulations and laws, aging infrastructure, such as Duke’s nuclear fleet, grid security, replacement of old generation plants with new, more costly generators and renewable energy requirements, Whitener said.

“If Duke’s projections for future cost increases are accurate, we expect to have small rate increases each year for the next five years,” she said. “The decision by the cooperative’s board of directors regarding rates is based on an annual review of our experienced cost.”

Careful consideration is given to each rate increase.

“Blue Ridge has an ongoing process to help control wholesale power and internal costs but after thorough study, if a rate adjustment is necessary, the cooperative tries to keep it as low as possible and implement it during a shoulder month to help ease the impact on members,” Whitener said.

For energy savings ideas and tips, members can visit http://www.blueridgeemc.com to take a hone energy audit.

Blue Ridge also offers a free electricity monitoring tool at http://www.myusage.com.

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