Despite a second rate hike in nine months, Hermiston Energy Service (HES) customers are still paying among the lowest electric rates in the state, according to the utility’s general manager.
Nate Rivera gave the Hermiston City Council an update Monday night on impacts of the two recent rate adjustments – 6.98 percent in January and 6.9 percent at the start of this month.
Rivera said with the latest rate increase, the average HES residential customer is paying about $124 per month. In comparison, the state average is $176 and the national average is $186. Regionally, only Umatilla Electric Cooperative customers ($118) and those in Milton-Freewater ($115) pay less on average.
Rivera told the council that prior to the past two increases, HES was operating at a $1 million deficit and was forced to dip into its reserve fund. By the time October is over, HES will be breaking even, and by the end of November will no longer be using its reserves.
“In terms of the decisions you made and that we implemented, they’re tracking pretty much as we anticipated,” said Rivera.
That’s the good news. Rivera said HES is still not in a position to fund needed capital improvement projects and remains vulnerable to BPA rate hikes among other rate pressures.
“We understand the pressure these adjustments are putting on our customers, but as a council, you guys need to understand that the actions we’ve taken just get us to a break-even point,” he said.
When asked by Mayor Dave Drotzmann and Councilor Jackie Myers if there were additional rate hikes planned in the near future, Rivera said he could only promise no additional hikes before the end of the current fiscal year. He suggested that future rate increases might be made annually but on a smaller, bite-sized basis.
Rivera also reminded customers of the steps they can take to reduce their electric bill such as contacting HES for an energy audit, using the SmartHub app to monitor usage, and taking small, affordable actions such as weather stripping to close any gaps in windows and doors.
For more information, call HES at 541-289-2000.