Community Electric asking for first rate increase in 21 years

Published 4:19 pm Friday, April 13, 2012

WINDSOR—For the first time in 21 years, Community Electric Cooperative is asking for a general rate increase.

“We’ve been able to sustain almost the same rates with the exception of fluctuations due to fuel and wholesale power costs,” said President James Reynolds.

The Windsor-based utility has asked the Virginia State Commission to grant the increase, which Reynolds estimates will be about 6 percent. The average monthly residential bill — minuses taxes — of $115 would increase to about $121 for the 11,000 customers in Isle of Wight, Southampton, Sussex and Surry counties and Suffolk.

The utility’s Board of Directors during its Thursday, May 17, meeting will vote on the exact amount of the increase, Reynolds said.

“We’re still in the process of going through the cost-of-service study to develop what level of increase would be suitable,” he said.

The utility depends on customers and energy sales to cover its expenses, Reynolds said.

“In the last three or four years, with the economy down, we had essentially very little, if any, increase in sales,” he said.

Fewer homes were built to connect to the system, and accounts were lost due to foreclosures and bankruptcy filings.

“The number of accounts serviced by the cooperative has essentially remained unchanged,” he said. “We haven’t had the benefit of growth to support our operation costs. At the same time, inflation has continued to rise.”

The utility for April passed on a 2 percent decrease to customers due to a reduction in wholesale costs. That amount will appear on the May bill.