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OTEC to raise rates this fall
BAKER CITY — Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative customers will have to reach deeper into their pockets to pay their power bills this fall.
Electric rates will rise starting Oct. 1, according to a press release from OTEC, the Baker City-based cooperative that has about 22,500 customers in Baker, Union, Grant and Harney counties.
The rate hike is due to a 9 percent average wholesale power rate increase along with an 11 percent transmission rate increase announced Wednesday by the Bonneville Power Administration, which supplies OTEC’s power.
BPA operates three-quarters of the high-voltage transmission lines in the Northwest and funds one of the largest wildlife protection and restoration programs in the world. As a nonprofit federal wholesale utility that receives no Congressional appropriations, BPA must recover its costs through its rates.
Werner Buehler, OTEC chief executive officer, sympathized with customers.
“No one likes to hear that their monthly bills are going to increase, especially in this economy,” he stated in the press release. “But when OTEC experiences a major increase in power costs, as a non-profit organization we have to pass those costs along to our members.”
According to BPA officials the wholesale rate increase is needed in order to compensate for reduced revenue forecasts from surplus power sales and to continue funding needed for investments in the Federal Columbia River Power System. BPA officials say the transmission rate increase is mainly due to continued efforts to maintain system reliability and meet increasing demands for transmission in the Pacific Northwest.
The most recent increase for OTEC customers was a 7.1 percent rate hike in the fall of 2011.
That change also was prompted by BPA boosting its wholesale rates.
The customers affected by BPA’s increase include public utility districts, tribal utilities, cooperatives, municipalities and federal entities. OTEC, as a cooperative and customer of BPA, has been expecting this increase and will analyze the overall impact it will have on business operations.
The rate increases are lower than previous estimates by BPA, which sometimes were as much as 21 percent. According to a recent BPA announcement, the agency was able to offset a portion of these increases; BPA has been able to take advantage of unique opportunities that decrease capital-related costs for the upcoming rate period.
Over the next month, OTEC’s board of directors will determine how much the rate increase to members will be. The final number will be announced to the co-op’s members no later than September through local media and the cooperative’s communications channels.