What are the Alternatives to Electricity Rate Hikes?

1 by Timothy Hurst

Ft. Collins, CO – The electric co-op that serves over 30,000 residential and business customers in rural portions of Larimer, Weld, and Boulder counties in Northeast Colorado, has increased its electricity rates 24 percent over the last three years. But the Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association (PVREA) is hardly alone. In response to these un-relenting rate hikes and over-reliance on coal-fired power, the Colorado non-profit group PV-Pioneers, has proposed an alternative plan that would encourage reductions in demand by focusing on energy efficiency and the principle of avoided costs.

The proposed plan suggests that the REA could finance Home Energy Makeovers for members who need them the most, and can afford them least. REAs and co-ops are in a position to make these loans because of their ability to secure no-interest federal loans themselves. The program would allow structural energy efficiency improvements including permanent housing weatherization improvements, replacement of inefficient appliances, or even just the replacement of incandescent with compact fluorescent or LED lighting.

PVREA's current assistance program - like many energy assistance programs across the country - help people pay their bills when they cannot afford to pay themselves. These programs can be incredibly helpful. But the problem is they create little incentive to permanently reduce those bills. They really mask the problem, rather than addressing some of the root causes.

This program is being presented as an alternative to rate increases that PVREA will have to absorb if its wholesale provider, Tri-State G&T continues its search to find somewhere to build a new coal-fired power plant. Just last month, Tri-State made national headlines when they, along with Sunflower Electric of Kansas, were denied an air permit by the Kansas Department of Health for a proposed expansion of the Holcomb coal-fired power plant in Southwestern Kansas.

The PV-Pioneers is a Colorado non-profit group made up of Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association members from Larimer, Weld, and Boulder counties. The group works to keep future rates down, to promote energy efficiency programs and to facilitate the generation of locally abundant renewable energy resources.
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