I’m very pleased to announce there will be no rate increase in 2018!
While this continues a trend of no rate increases since 2013, rising cost pressures are challenging the energy industry. Blue Ridge Energy has a multi-pronged strategy in place to help keep member bills as low as possible, but earier in 2018, the largest factor in avoiding a rate increase was the federal tax reform Congress passed. This savings was able to offset the increase in wholesale power costs recently caused by coal ash regulations. Without this, Blue Ridge Energy likely would have needed a rate increase this fall. Instead, the cooperative was able to pass along these savings to members by keeping rates level this year.
Savings by your cooperative are always passed along to those who use our service: you, the members of Blue Ridge Energy.
Cost challenges we’re continuing to manage include maintaining energy delivery systems to reliably and efficiently serve current and future generations. Much of our nation’s electric grid is reaching its usable lifespan and must be replaced. In fact, Blue Ridge Energy is beginning its largest and most critical system improvement project in its history: replacement of a 50-year-old transmission system responsible for delivering power to our mountain counties. Total project cost is $40 million, which reflects $25 million for the transmission line and $15 million for a new substation. While it’s unusual for a distribution utility to build or maintain a transmission line, Blue Ridge Energy serves an area that makes this necessary because there is no large power generation utility with a transmission system reaching into our mountain service area.
Your cooperative has several strategies working to mitigate rising power costs and keep member bills as low as possible. In addition to managing wholesale power cost, the most important way we keep costs low is from the benefit produced by your cooperative’s two subsidiary companies. The profits and financial benefit provided by your propane and fuels subsidiary and business-to-business telecommunications subsidiary are used to help hold down rates. Part of the profits are also donated to the Members Foundation to help improve quality of life in local communities.
Another effective strategy is reduction of operational costs from WorkSmart, an employee-led effort. Over a period of several years, WorkSmart has produced a benefit of over $5 million in sustained expense reductions and productivity savings that has helped keep rates lower than otherwise would have been possible.
We’re also introducing new programs such as “Beat The Peak” for members to partner with us to keep rates low. I encourage you to join this voluntary program and take simple Beat The Peak actions during a few critical hours that can make a big difference when we all join together!
I hope you share the good news that rates will remain stable in 2018! Keeping member’s bills as low as possible and providing reliable, excellent service is our commitment to you from Blue Ridge Energy. We will always put members first in our mission and passion to make life better for those we serve!