July 12, 2001 11:00 pm

By The Observer

As expected, the cost of electricity will go up in October for Union County consumers, but the increase may not be as much as feared.

Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative expects to increase rates by about 25 percent Oct. 1, but they have not been definitely set. A news release from OTEC states, Final rates will be announced later this fall.

We certainly wish we didnt have to raise electric rates at all, said Cliff Stewart, OTEC general manager. However, in light of what weve read and heard over the past several months, this rate increase is better news than what we expected.

OTEC officials said consumer conservation is a factor in the decision. Consumers helped lower the projected BPA (Bonneville Power Administration) rate increase by doing their part in energy conservation, said Steve Schauer, member services manager, in a press release.

Substation meters have noted a 3 percent reduction in power use recently, Schauer said.

BPA announced several months ago that wholesale rates could rise by as much as 200 percent in October. The agency revised its estimate recently, stating that a 46 percent wholesale rate increase could be expected in the fall.

Schauer said a drop in wholesale prices on the open market helped keep the expected increases at a lower level.

The Baker City-based electric cooperative said it will offer some conservation programs later in the year, including a compact fluorescent coupon campaign in August. Consumers will be offered two coupons for $6 off the purchase price of two compact fluorescent bulbs, and commercial customers will receive a cash incentive to convert existing lighting systems to more efficient systems.

According to the OTEC release, BPA hopes to stabilize wholesale electric rates after the Oct. 1 rate is implemented.