Yampa Valley Electric Association cites aging infrastructure in raising rates

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This article has been edited to change the increase of the fixed customer fee from $2.50 to $3.50.

At Yampa Valley Electric Association’s annual meeting Thursday evening, General Manager Diane Johnson said the utility cooperative’s aging infrastructure is a major factor behind rate increases that will go into effect in August.

“We have not had a rate increase for many, many years,” Johnson said, stressing that the cooperative only charges for what it takes to provide electricity to its customers.

Infrastructure is all built at once, she said, and it’s difficult to manage repairs in small amounts.

YVEA must raise rates slowly to be able to take care of its looming infrastructure needs, Johnson said. The other factor contributing to rate increases is the cost of power purchased from Xcel Energy.

YVEA Board Elections

In the only contested race, Mike Brinks was elected to another term over Kathryn Deitz, 1,274 to 554. Larry Ellgen was running unopposed for District 2. Tom Fox was running unopposed for District 6. Both were deemed elected.

For the next two years, residential customers should see about a $5.27 per month increase on their bills. That includes a 2.7 percent increase in the cost per kilowatt-hour and a $3.50 jump in the flat customer fee, which goes to the utility’s fixed costs.

Johnson said this will equal a 6.5 percent increase in revenue from residential customers, and the same revenue increase will be raised from irrigators, who should expect their bills to be about $15.70 per month higher.

YVEA Board President Dean Brosious said that after the next two years, certain customer classes will see between 3 to 5 percent rate increases.

“You really do want to hear me say this,” Johnson said. Otherwise, she said, it means the board and management are not doing what’s needed to run the cooperative.

During the meeting, members of the cooperative in attendance had questions about YVEA’s solar garden project.

The project ran into a hurdle earlier this month when Clean Energy Collective, the company building the solar garden, discovered that Trapper Mine owns the mineral rights under the site it wants to lease from the city of Craig.

“As of yesterday, CEC was on their third title company, looking for mineral protection,” Brosious said.

CEC has looked at 20 sites for the solar garden, Brosious said. But, according to Johnson, the reason it’s still pursuing the 5-acre parcel owned by the city of Craig is that its solar production is 20 percent better than sites considered in Routt County.

CEC has presold 754 panels, Brosious said, with individual customers buying between 1 and 41 panels each. One business bought 144 panels, he said.

The solar array is projected to have 1,922 solar panels.

The solar garden, if completed, will help supply some of the local renewable energy YVEA needs to meet state standards laid out in 2013’s Senate Bill 252.

But the array will not completely satisfy the requirement that 1 percent of YVEA’s power come from local renewable sources, Brosious said, and the utility will need to find other projects.

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206, email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @MLSchrantz

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