High utility rates subject of Saturday Buckeye Rural Electric meeting

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 13, 2003

AID - Earlier this year, some Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative customers got a rather unwelcome surprise: higher utility bills.

Now, some of them have scheduled a meeting with fellow BREC members, BREC utility representatives and local government officials to discuss the matter. The meeting will be 2 p.m. Saturday at Symmes Valley School.

"We want to find out what's going on and what can be done about it," Don Murnahan said. He was one of the organizers of the meeting. "I've heard a lot of complaints about this.

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Murnahan said in the last 13 months, his electric bill has jumped 65 percent. Murnahan said he recently sat down and figured the difference between then and now. He said in September 2002, he paid 8.3 cents per kilowatt. Now, he's paying 13.3 cents.

Murnahan said he feels sorry for all customers who have had to pay the higher bills, but especially for small business owners who dot the countryside.

Ray Ferrell is one of those small business owners. As owner of Giovanni's Pizza at Aid, he said his pre-hike bill was $1,200. Now, it runs anywhere from $1,600- $1,800.

"That takes a chunk out of the profits," Ferrell said. "By the time I pay for supplies, payroll, taxes and the electric bill, there isn't much left for you."

Ferrell said he has had to cut back on employees' hours and work more himself to cover the shifts and make ends meet.

Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative Customer Service Representative Steve

Oden said the reason the bills are bigger is that in January, BREC hit a new peak demand for the electricity it purchases from Buckeye Generation and Transmission Co.. The new peak in demand lasted one hour, but its effects will be felt for months to come: that peak cost BREC more than $1 million more this year for its electricity purchase. The $1 million was passed along to

the consumer in the form of an increase to the consumer's wholesale power cost adjustment.

"That peak lasted one hour of one day of one month, but under our agreement with Buckeye Power, they can and are charging us more than $1 million for

this," Oden said. "We don't like it and we know our customers don't like it. It's an unfair thing that an aberration occurred and we would be charged for the rest of the year. We're sympathetic. We're power customers, too."

Oden said the peak took place during a cold snap when customers were probably turning up their furnaces to stay warm. Because 95 percent of BREC's 18,500 customers are residential, executives could not go to a big industrial or

commercial power user and ask them to cut back on their usage to avoid hitting a new peak.