REDMOND, OR -- Central Electric Cooperative members will likely pay more next year, as the utility works to expand and update its system. CEC's Jeff Beaman says raising rates would accommodate wholesale rate increases expected by the Bonneville Power Administration. And, he tells KBND News, it would cover the cost of infrastructure improvements, "We need to increase the amount of funding we are investing in our electrical system in order to keep it robust, reliable, and expanded where necessary for growth; and to replace outmoded components where necessary in order to maintain the reliability of the system."
CEC plans about $113 million in capital expenditures between 2020 and 2030. That's a more than 80% increase compared to the previous 10 years. "As the system grows and more people join it, it adds up to the kind of funding necessary to make the major system improvements to not only maintain the reliability of it today, but also to ensure that we're expanding it, as well," says Beaman. "People are going to move here. If you don't expand the system appropriately, you'll have unreliable service for everybody here, regardless of when they arrived. So, decisions have to be made to expand infrastructure in order to accommodate that growth."
Members will also see changes to billing, this month, as CEC rolls out Phase Two of a rate redesign. Beaman says it's a separate but related issue. Service charges are going up, but Kilowatt Hour charges are going down, "What we're moving toward is the point where you will see more of an even split, so that we have clear separation between the cost of maintaining and operating the system, and the amount of energy you use." He says it's necessary because as people use less electricity, the cost of running the system remains. The rate redesign project began in 2016. Changes were approved by a committee made up of co-op members. There are five phases, which should be complete by 2025.