Cooperative Board of Directors Approves 2021 Budget at November Meeting
United Power is pleased to announce there will be no rate increase in 2021. The decision from the cooperative’s Board of Directors was made in November upon approval of the 2021 budget and rate structure. For many members, who have had to endure a tumultuous past few months or have been impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the news could not have come at a better time.
Rates were able to remain steady thanks to the forethought of cooperative leadership, who recognized the potential financial impact the pandemic could have and took immediate action to reduce spending in various departments. Just as businesses and homeowners adjusted spending, each team at United Power was tasked with evaluating initiatives that could either save money or be delayed without impacting service.
“United Power has been fortunate during this time,” said Laurie Burkhart, the cooperative’s chief financial officer. “We haven’t seen the same level of impact as many other cooperatives, and that’s due in large part to the actions our teams have taken, as well as continued growth we’ve seen. It’s allowed us to keep our rates from increasing and provide some small relief to our members.”
A variety of factors allowed the cooperative to keep rates steady, but perhaps chief among them has been the amount of growth seen throughout the service area, despite the pandemic. The slowdown United Power anticipated on its system never materialized. Instead, another strong year in residential and business growth, as well as load growth, helped fuel its ability to weather the storm. Other shifts in the ways our members interacted with us this year made small, but noticeable, changes to costs. Member enrollment in services like online account management and paperless billing was also a factor, which helped the cooperative improve efficiencies and provided real savings.
While keeping the current rate structures may ease the burden for many residential members, it could be especially impactful for local organizations like school districts and businesses that may be facing tough budget years ahead as a result of slower sales or state budget cuts. Steady electric rates are one less thing for larger members to plan for when making end of year budget adjustments.
Many members may realize some small benefit from stable rates in the coming year, but United Power has also prioritized the pursuit of more affordable and competitive rates for several years. The cooperative has had ongoing discussions with its wholesale power provider, Tri-State Generation & Transmission, that would allow it to eventually lower rates as much as 15% to 25% in the next few years.
“United Power has worked closely with Tri-State for several years to provide reliable and affordable rates to our members,” said acting CEO Bryant Robbins. “Efforts continue to be made in looking at all of our options with Tri-State to reach our rate reduction goals. We are also looking at other power supply options should we not be able to come to an acceptable agreement. My hope is to provide our Board with a couple of great options so that they can make the decision that they feel is in the best interest of our membership.”
In a cooperative, we all share in the expense and prosperity, and members who were able to continue paying bills helped United Power maintain its positive financial condition. For those who were impacted by job loss or illness and unable to pay their bills, the cooperative established the Co-op Cares Fund to provide financial assistance and ease the burden on both members and the co-op. This year $300,000 was allocated to the fund from unclaimed capital credits. In October, the Board approved an additional allocation of $250,000 for members in 2021.
United Power understands our members have different needs and use electricity in vastly different ways. United Power’s residential rates are designed so members have the option to choose one that most closely fits how they use energy. When the cooperative’s demand rate debuted in January 2019, it separated the energy and demand components and allowed the cooperative to more fairly charge members for both their energy use and impact on the grid. Along with it, the cooperative also rolled out the Smart Choice Rate, which provided two different peak demand charges and a much lower energy charge. Earlier this year, United Power added a Peak Time of Day rate, which encourages members to switch their usage to off-peak hours. The new rate charges a higher demand for on-peak usage, but does not charge for demand during off-peak hours. The cooperative’s standard and time of day rates also remain options for members.
However you use your energy, the flexibility of the cooperative’s residential rates should meet most members’ needs. You can compare the demand and energy charges of each rate and choose the one that most closely fits how you and your family use energy on the Residential Rates page.