At IREA, we work to maintain low rates for our customers. We have not had a general rate increase since February of 2013 and will not raise rates in 2017. We will examine whether some of our rate structures should be changed, probably in 2018, but even then we hope and anticipate that any changes will be revenue-neutral.
Factors that have allowed us to hold down rates include stable fuel costs; negotiated reductions in some of the other wholesale power cost components; improved performance of Comanche Unit 3, which is partially owned by IREA; debt reduction and restructuring; retention of an efficient and well-qualified workforce (IREA has more customers per employee than any other distribution co-op), and steady growth.
Since February 2013, the last time IREA had a general rate increase, the national average price per kilowatt-hour of electricity has jumped more than 5%. IREA has not raised rates since then and has actually refunded $58 million to its members. The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that the average cost of residential electricity will increase by 4% over the next year. IREA, however, will work to prevent rate increases as part of our continuing commitment to providing reliable, low-cost service to the customers we proudly serve.
It sometimes is not easy for customers to ascertain the truth of a utility’s statements about rates, as many utilities have variable “adjustments” included on their bills for items such as fuel costs, transmission costs, wholesale energy charges or other items. Sometimes these items make it difficult even to tell what is being paid for. IREA does not have any adjustments that pass through “stealth” increases; a customer can compare our bills from year to year and easily compare the unit costs on which bills are based. Our only billed adjustment is a load factor adjustment, adopted last year for new services, which charges customers for demand when billed usage is low and demand usage is high.
Finally, we have not raised our monthly $10 service charge since it was adopted in February 2013. Only one Colorado co-op has a lower monthly service charge; the average distribution co-op service charge is more than $26 and the highest is more than $34 per month.