UEC Holds the Line on Electric Rates

Umatilla Electric customers received some good news as the cooperative announced it would not be raising rates for the second consecutive year. (Photo: File)

Umatilla Electric will absorb rising costs from its wholesale power supplier without the need for an overall revenue increase from its Cooperative membership.

UEC’s adjusted rates, effective Jan. 1, will represent the second straight year with no overall revenue increase needed from UEC membership. UEC last implemented a rate adjustment in early 2016.

On Oct. 1, Bonneville Power Administration had increased the amount it charges its wholesale electricity customers by an average of 5.4 percent for the years 2018 and 2019. UEC’s wholesale power costs comprise about 70 percent of its total operating expenses.

“Considering how this would affect our members, UEC’s Board challenged staff to find ways to limit the impact to our members,” said Robert Echenrode, UEC General Manager and CEO. “Staff spent considerable time and effort to identify solutions, presenting options to the Board over the past few months.”

UEC commissioned an analysis by an independent consultant to help determine whether it needed to adjust the costs of providing service to various rate classes. The analysis is based on a principle that each customer class pays the costs needed to serve them, and that one customer class does not subsidize another.

UEC’s average residential rate of 8.62 cents per kilowatt-hour is 21 percent below the state average and 35 percent below the national average, based on rates published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Although there will be no need for an overall revenue increase, UEC will adjust electric rates among classes of service. Here are the highlights of the new rates:

·        About 97 percent of residential members will see no change in their basic or energy charges. The remainder, residential members with larger service requirements, will see a $2 increase in the basic charge.

·        UEC’s current “General Service” rate class will become a “Seasonal” rate class, for those residential accounts with low and occasional usage.

·        Some members in the old General Service class will be moved into commercial or irrigation classes. To ease the transition, small single-phase commercial and irrigation accounts will see no charge for the first 15 kilowatts of demand.

·        Medium-sized irrigation accounts will see an average rate increase of 1.68 percent, and large-irrigation accounts will rise by an average 2.74 percent.

·        Schedule 5 industrial accounts will see a reduction in the basic charge and energy charges, for an average decrease of 2.09 percent.

Echenrode reminds members they can schedule an energy audit or stop by the UEC offices to find ways to help manage energy costs. UEC also works with area agencies to assist low-income families with the cost of energy.

Based in Hermiston, UEC is a not-for-profit corporation owned by the 10,000 members it serves in Morrow, Umatilla and Union counties.