Utility marks fifth year with no rate increase

Photo courtesy VEC
Vermont Electric Coop line workers in Grand Isle.

STAFF REPORT

Vermont Electric Coop will not seek a rate increase in January, marking the fifth consecutive year that the utility’s rates have remained flat, according to a recent company announcement.

“It’s taken a great deal of creativity, negotiation, and careful budgeting and everyone has pitched in,” said Chief Financial Officer Michael Bursell. “That’s the beauty of the co-op model – if we do well, all our members do well.”

Over the past 10 years, the co-op’s rates have increased an average of just 0.7 percent each year. Bursell said the company has been able to contain rates by making good investments in infrastructure, managing debt, and having a diversified power portfolio to protect against power-supply cost volatility.

The co-op has also benefited from increased power sales to some commercial users who are abandoning fossil fuel in favor of electricity. And members have managed to trim their electric use during times when it’s particularly expensive for the co-op to buy and transmit extra power, he said.

Once of the utility’s larger consumers welcomed the news.

“Any time we can keep costs down – and for our resort electricity is a significant cost – we can invest in a better experience for our guests and help us keep and add jobs in the local community,” said Steve Clokey, marketing vice president at Smugglers’ Notch Resort. “Hats off to VEC.”

Bursell cautioned that future rate increases are not likely to be inevitable. Factors that will likely push rates up in the future include Vermont’s net metering program – which requires utilities to compensate producers at rates above retail prices – storm activity, transmission costs, and the replacement of natural gas contracts with more expensive renewable energy contracts.

Vermont Electric Cooperative is a nonprofit, member-owned electric distribution utility serving approximately 32,000 members in 75 communities in northern Vermont.

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