To the Editor:
Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative residential members have experienced increases in OTEC’s monthly “delivery charge” on their monthly bill in recent years. In a little over eight years, accompanied by an impressive propaganda campaign, OTEC has raised this fixed charge, the money you have to pay OTEC just to buy electricity, by almost 300 percent, from $10 to $29.50 per month, and they would like to raise it even higher.
Idaho Power’s monthly charge is $8 for Oregon residents and even less in Idaho. Public Utility Commissions in the various states tend to keep these monthly delivery charges low and recover most delivery costs through a tiered rate system based on usage and its benefits, but electric cooperatives are for the most part unregulated monopolies that have little oversight from the PUC, so they get away with the practice.
OTEC constantly reminds members of our low rate for electricity used, but figures from OTEC tell another tale: Because of our high delivery charge, more than half of OTEC members would have a lower bill if they were with Idaho Power. That’s you if you average less than 1000 kWh a month.
Consumer Reports commissioned a study of these fixed charges that indicated that higher fixed charges are inequitable, increase the bills of low usage customers like singles and elderly the most, and disproportionately impact the poor while reducing incentives for energy efficiency.
There are changes that could help lower fixed charges on member’s bills, though.
Employee compensation would be a good place to start as the top eight OTEC employees took home $2,286,446 in compensation and other benefits in 2016, skewed high by the $785,135 raked in by exiting CEO Werner Buehler. For three to eight hours of work a week, the elected directors yearly take home $16,100 to $26,250 with an hourly wage that ranged from $71 to $103 per hour depending on the director.
Another place to look are programs unrelated to OTEC’s purpose of providing power and assisting members with their electricity infrastructure needs. OTEC spent $655,681 on these unrelated programs in the last five years.