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Columbia electric rates increasing

Monday, March 9, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Regardless of the electricity provider, electric bills are going up in mid-Missouri.

Beginning in May, Boone Electric Cooperative customers will see an increase of nearly 10 percent in their electric bills. Columbia Water & Light  will increase its rates by 5 percent, effective Oct. 1.

The average Boone Electric customer, who uses 1,200 kilowatt hours per month and pays $108.70, will see an increase of $9.40 to $118.10,  said Vicki Kemna, Boone Electric manager of human resources and communication. This yields a total average increase of $112.80 per year.

For an exact breakdown of costs, go to Boone Electric's Web site.

The rate varies in increments based on use, becoming less expensive as customers use more electricity.

“Wholesale power costs have gone up,” Kemna said. “So in order to maintain financial security we had to increase rates to our members.”

In 2006, 49 cents of every dollar coming to Boone Electric went to the wholesale supplier, Kemna said. That number has now increased to 59 cents per dollar. She also cited increased costs of delivery fees and efforts to reduce emissions as reasons for the rate increase.

Changes will go into effect for April electricity use and will appear on customers’ May utility bills.

Kemna also said there is potential for further rate increases in the not-so-distant future.

“We’re working hard with legislature at the state and federal levels to make sure they keep the end user in mind and don’t make energy unaffordable,” she said. “But it really depends on energy policy. There’s a good chance that we will have one.”

On average, Columbia Water & Light customers saw an electric bill increase of 5 percent starting last fall. The average Columbia Water & Light customer uses 822 kilowatt hours per month, significantly less than the average Boone Electric customer.

“We have seen an increase in power supply costs,” Connie Kacprowicz, utility services specialist of Columbia Water & Light, said. “At least once a year we review our rates. We look into costs that go into providing services and adjust our rates accordingly.”

Expenses are expected to exceed revenue in the 2009 fiscal year, she said, so the company will be using its reserves and savings and could potentially increase rates again in 2010.

“Unfortunately, the cost of electricity for us has gone up, as well as for around the country,” she said.

Kacprowicz listed several reasons for rising costs, including power plants reaching production capacity, increase in the prices of natural gas and coal and increasing costs for distribution of energy. Since legislation has not gone into effect, however, she said energy policy has not yet impacted energy costs.

Unlike Boone Electric, Columbia Water & Light’s electric costs increase as the customer uses more electricity, encouraging energy efficiency, Kacprowicz said. The company’s rates also vary from between winter and summer.

“We are very cognizant of the fact that we have people having a hard time economically,” she said. “Anything we can do to help those customers we want to do.”

 

Boone Electric serves 28,700 customers in the central Missouri area. Kemna said the majority of customers live in rural Boone County but Boone Electric also serves members in Audrain, Callaway, Monroe, Randolph and Howard counties. Columbia Water and Light has about 45,000 electric customers, mostly within Columbia city limits.


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