YVEA rate change is good news for some

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The first electric bills of 2004 hit the mail late last week and they'll reflect both inreases and decreases for customers, a Yampa Valley Electric Association spokesman said.

The electric co-op settled a lawsuit in December with Xcel Energy that will result in $1 million in annual savings to YVEA customers. YVEA buys electricity wholesale from Xcel.

The $1 million in pass-through savings will be reflected in the form of a decrease in the kilowatt-hour charge for electricity. Residential consumers will pay 5.6 cents per kilowatt-hour, compared to last year's 6.7 cents, according to Jim Chappell, YVEA's manager of consumer accounts.

Commercial and large power customers also will see decreases in their rates.

Consumers, however, will see an increase in the "consumer charge" portion of their bills.

The consumer charge is a flat fee applied to every bill that pays for the cost of maintaining the infrastructure that delivers power to the customer's location. YVEA does not make money off of the kilowatt-hour charge, which is essentially a pass-through charge for what the co-op pays for electricity.

According to Chappell, YVEA has about $2,500 invested in the equipment that brings power to each residential customer. YVEA recoups that investment via the consumer charge, which also accounts for other monthly costs the co-op incurs. It costs YVEA about $1.30 to read a customer's meter each month and it costs 50 cents to process and send the bill.

If customers paid the charge for reading meters and sending bills, and also paid a monthly fee to "purchase" the infrastructure over 30 years, a residential customer would pay about $20 a month, Chappell said. Last year's consumer charge for residential customers was $5.50.

The YVEA Board of Directors recognized in 2003 that it would have to increase the consumer charge to bring it in line with the company's actual costs. Chappell said the board thought that increasing the consumer charge from $5.50 to the more accurate $20 would be too much. Instead, the board decided to increase the consumer charge to $12.50 for residential customers.

Commercial customers who paid $18 a month last year will pay a $24 consumer charge in 2004. Large power customers face a consumer charge of $105 in 2004, compared to $90 in 2003. The company has about 18,000 residential customers and only about 3,800 commercial and large power customers.

Despite the decrease in the charges for electricity consumption, some customers could see higher bills due to the increased consumer charge. Since the residential consumer charge rose by $7, a customer who doesn't use enough electricity to save $7 on kilowatt-hour charges will pay a higher bill than last year.

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or jbrowning@craigdailypress.com

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