Co-Mo Electric Cooperative is bumping up its service charge to fund continuing improvements to reliability and efficiency.
The cooperative's Board of Directors in January approved a $4 monthly increase to the amount typical residential members pay to have service available when they flip the switch or need to heat their home.
The monthly increase will allow the cooperative to generate an additional four percent in revenue annually, which will enable the cooperative to invest in needed system improvements. These improvements include aggressive right-of-way tree trimming, upgrades to outdated equipment in the field, replacement of poles evaluated to be at the end of their life cycle and placement of more smart-grid equipment on the system.
"Members should feel good about our not-for-profit business model," said Ken Johnson, the cooperative's CEO and general manager. "They should know we're not doing this to satisfy some far-away shareholders. Rather, this money is an investment in the community where we all live."
The increase also reflects a reality all businesses are facing.
"Just about everything costs more these days. Bread, milk, bacon, gas - you name it," Johnson said. "The same holds true in our industry. When you look at the much larger increase in the cost of those consumer goods over the past few years, we believe our members should be proud of the value electricity continues to provide to power their lives."
The monthly increase will allow the cooperative to keep up with the increased reliance its members have on technology, said Sean Friend, the cooperative's Finance Manager.
"With the increased importance we as a society place on technology, the demand for electricity has never been higher," Friend said. "This is why it is important that we as a cooperative continue to invest in our electric infrastructure. These system improvements will ensure we are able to meet the increasing needs of our members."
Co-Mo has had just one rate increase - 3.5 percent - since 2010. The 2014 adjustment goes into effect on members' April bills.
"We're happy to be able to keep the increase as low as we did," Friend said. "There's a lot of upward pressure on rates. We're facing a tremendous threat from the Environmental Protection Agency that would take away our coal plants, which provide 80 percent of our members' power."
Without those coal plants, Johnson said, the cost of electricity is going to rise dramatically.
"The $4 increase we're talking about here will pale in comparison to what we will see if the EPA is successful in its initiatives. We could be talking increases of up to 75 percent on the monthly electric bill," he said.
To combat that, Johnson urged members to go to the website Action.coop to send a message to the EPA that they want it to return to an all-of-the-above energy policy that includes affordable clean-coal generation. More information about the issue can be found at that site.
Those without Internet access can come into one of the cooperative's offices to fill out a postcard that will be sent to the EPA.
"This isn't empty talk or a scare tactic," Johnson said. "What the EPA is proposing is a threat to all of our budgets and to the reliability of the grid. Tax those coal plants into oblivion and there simply aren't enough megawatts available from other generation sources to meet our members' needs. We need people to act to make their voices heard and to know that we're fighting for them."