EUGENE, Ore. — EWEB voted Tuesday night to increase its rates yet again. Not surprisingly, its customers aren’t happy.
The utility blamed wholesale electric rates going up for the increase.
The EWEB board meeting was only supposed to include 10 minutes of public comment. But customers took up at least a half hour vocalizing their opposition to the increasing rates.
“I think Eugene is gonna grin and bear it, but we’re gonna get hit. People aren’t going to be able to afford it anymore,” said one customer.
EWEB already upped rates earlier this year, so of course folks keep asking why. Aside from increasing costs from the Bonneville Power Administration, EWEB says it’s just not getting the full value of some of its renewable energy sources anymore.
“The wholesale market is severely depressed. A lot of these renewable energy facilities are more expensive than the natural gas turbines,” said Joe Harwood, EWEB spokesperson.
EWEB says their continued investment in these renewable sources are at the request of the public, so now that extra expense has to passed along to the consumers.
Servicing about 88,000 customers, EWEB is one of the biggest providers in the area, but it’s not the only one. So how are others dealing with the poor economy?
“Every utility has an expense to deliver electricity to the meters, but those vary with utilities,” said Dave D’Avanzo, Member Services Manager.
Despite those differences, turns out EWEB isn’t the only one affected. Both the Emerald People’s Utility District and Springfield Utility Board are feeling the pressure to charge their customers a bit more in 2013. Lane Electric Co-op is hoping to stave off any increases, but understands how difficult it is for those left without much choice.
“It’s painful to have to do a rate increase because we realize how much it impacts our members,” D’Avanzo said.
Repeatedly, each of the utility companies expressed the importance of their customers and hopes they all understand this isn’t done easily.
“Again, nobody including the commissioners, our general manager, our assistant general manager, nobody wants to go out and raise rates right now,” Harwood said.
EWEB and its fellow utility companies say they work to keep rates as low as they possibly can for their customers. Prior to these increases, EWEB noted cutting 63 positions in June to help cut costs.