Columbia REA ratepayers to see increase in 2014

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WALLA WALLA — Power bills for Columbia Rural Electric Association customers will have more charge at the start of the new year.

The electric cooperative will begin 2014 with a rate increase, operators say.

Although the increase will vary by class of service, the overall average among residential, commercial and irrigation users is 7.5 percent. The co-op’s website says the result will be about a $10 bump per month for the average residential user.

However, Scott Peters, Columbia REA’s marketing and member service manager, said the calculation is closer to $9.50.

The co-op’s board of directors approved the increase in October. The raise, operators said, is driven by the cost of wholesale power from Bonneville Power Administration.

As of Oct. 1, BPA wholesale power costs jumped 6.9 percent and transmission costs increased 9.3 percent.

“If you look historically, our rate increases coincide with BPA wholesale rate increases,” Peters said. “If paper or ink goes up dramatically for the U-B, your rate goes up for your subscribers. It’s the same thing for power rates.”

Columbia REA’s last increase was January 2012. BPA reviews its rates every two years.

The change affects 2,900 residential accounts and 2,100 commercial and agricultural customers.

Columbia REA has provided electricity to customers in Columbia and Walla Walla counties and parts of Umatilla County since 1940. Through its Columbia Energy LLC, it has provided high-speed wireless Internet since 2000.

The co-op returns revenues above its cost of services to members in the form of “capital credits.” Those basically serve as dividends on members’ investments into the cooperative. Peters said capital credits checks were distributed earlier this month.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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