Electric rate hike sought in Richmondville

The village Electric Department plans to apply for a 15.9 percent increase in electricity rates, Ric

The village Electric Department plans to apply for a 15.9 percent increase in electricity rates, Richmondville Power & Light Superintendent Bruce Stevens said Wednesday.

If approved by the state Public Service Commission, the increase would raise bills for typical customers of the village-operated municipal power company by about $5 or $10 per month, depending on whether they use electric heat or not, Stevens estimated.

The proposed rate increase, which amounts to about a penny per kilowatt hour of electricity, according to Stevens, is the nonprofit village company’s first rate hike since 1987.

The nearly 1,200 customers in the village and much of the surrounding town will be receiving information with their monthly bills this week comparing current and proposed rates.

If approved by the PSC, the rate changes wouldn’t take effect until Sept. 1, Stevens said.

Village officials plan an informational meeting to explain the reasons behind the rate increase at 10 a.m. April 12 at the village firehouse on Main Street, according to Mayor Kevin Neary.

Once the rate application, which would include data about cost of operations and plans, is sent to the PSC, the regulatory agency would schedule a formal hearing to allow additional public comment before a rate change is authorized, Neary said.

As part of the process, the PSC would audit the local company and assess operational needs and projected plans for the next five years, he said.

The proposed change would raise the basic minimum residential service charge by 95 cents, from $4.80 to $5.55, according to Electric Department figures. The energy charge per kilowatt hour would rise about from 3.67 cents to 4.43 cents, an increase of .76 cents.

Most residential customers use between 500 and 1,000 kilowatt hours per month, according to Stevens.

Rates for other categories of electricity demand for industrial uses and outdoor lighting would also rise proportionally.

Village officials have been considering the need for a rate increase for several months.

An Albany consulting firm, the Hudson River Energy Group, was retained last fall to assist the village in evaluating operations and rate structures.

Richmondville Power & Light lost about $70,700 over the 2007 fiscal year ended May 31, Stevens told the Village Board in a January report.

At that time officials were considering raising rates by about 20 percent.

Combined county, town and school taxes have more than doubled since the town of Richmondville reassessed property values over the past couple of years, according to village officials.

“The tax increase was one of the leading factors, but also the cost of operation has gone up and the cost of purchasing equipment has gone up over the last 20 years,” Neary said.

“The general consensus is to move forward [with the rate application,] Neary said.

“We want to discuss this with the people of the community,” he added.

“Sometimes people are confused about how the bills are laid out,” Neary said, particularly about additional charges for extra power sometimes purchased in addition to cheaper hydroelectric power already allocated from the New York Power Authority under long-term contracts.

Even though that costs the consumer more, Neary said the village power company doesn’t make additional revenue from the purchased power.

Even though it might reduce gross revenue for the power company, Neary suggested customers might consider ways to reduce consumption by changing how and when they use electricity to help lower the need for the company to buy the extra, higher-priced power from the statewide grid.

The greatest use of power is between December and March, and that is when company typically needs to buy additional power, Neary said.

“People come home [in the evening,] turn up the heat, cook and run the washing machine,” he said, driving up higher-priced power consumption at the same time.

Rescheduling some of those power uses at different times, “could keep the consumer from spending more,” he said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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