Submitted by Orcas Power and Light Cooperative
When Orcas Power and Light Cooperative members open their bills in January, they will be, on average, $3.92 higher. Although rates were projected to increase 5-6 percent each year over the next five years, the Board decided to hold the increase to 3 percent in 2020 in order to give the membership a breather while we prepare for major investments in renewable energy in the coming years to meet the new carbon mandates.
With the high cost of living in the islands, OPALCO remains committed to bill-paying assistance for households with low and fixed income. Project PAL has been restructured and will be administered through the three island resource centers. Energy Assist Credit will once again be adjusted to offset the service access charge increase.
The co-op budget is tightly constrained: one-third for power costs; one-third for labor; and most of the final third in fixed costs such as plant, mortgage, depreciation, interest and operations. There are very few discretionary expenses. In order to minimize rate increases in 2020, the following programs have been reduced: booth at the county fair, canceled; Youth Scholarship Program, scaled back; Education and Outreach, scaled back. Capital projects that could be delayed have been shifted to future years.
Programs like Switch it Up, Community Solar, Energy Efficiency Rebates and Fuel Switching Rebates will help position members and the co-op for sustainability moving forward. The challenge of 2020 is to find ways to demonstrate OPALCO’s vision for the future which balances renewable energy, affordability and daunting changes due to climate change.
If paying your power bill is a financial strain, OPALCO offers a monthly credit through the Energy Assist program. Qualified households can get a bill credit of $31.41 – $61.41 every month. And, if you show your Energy Assist credit (on your bill) to Rock Island, they will give you the same discount on your broadband services. Check out Project PAL and Energy Assist programs at www.opalco.com to learn more.
Learn more about how rates are determined and what trade-offs are considered at www.opalco.com/rates. Read the full budget report at www.opalco.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/2020-Budget-Report.pdf. Rate tariffs were finalized and approved at OPALCO’s Dec. 19 board meeting on San Juan Island.
Orcas Power and Light Cooperative is our member-owned cooperative electric utility, serving more than 11,000 members on 20 islands in San Juan County. OPALCO provides electricity that is 95 percent greenhouse-gas free and is generated predominantly by hydroelectric plants. OPALCO was founded in 1937.