CALAIS – It was good news and loads of fun Saturday at Eastern Maine Electric Co-op’s annual meeting.
There were children’s games and lots of prizes, along with some serious talk about the future.
The co-op’s controller, Scott Hallowell, said that as a result of some internal financial restructuring, the organization will be able to delay a rate increase this year, but he predicts there probably will be a modest increase in a few years.
The efforts of the co-op, Hallowell said, contrast sharply with what is happening in the gasoline, heating oil and propane industries.
“In fact, the average total residential rate per kilowatt hour for 2005 is about half a penny lower than it was in 2002,” he said.
The delivery rate, which is the portion of the bill that the co-op is responsible for, is lower than the delivery rate of Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. and Maine Public Service Co., Hallowell said.
No so with the gasoline industry.
“In August of last year, the price of unleaded gasoline in Calais was about $2.06. This August it has been about $2.59 a gallon, an increase of 53 cents which is about a 26 percent increase,” he said.
“If you are fortunate enough to only drive 12,000 miles a year and are able to get 20 miles to the gallon, based upon the above prices on an annual basis, you would see an increase of $318, up to a total of $1,554 a year to drive your vehicle.”
And there have been significant jumps in the cost of home heating oil.
“The budget price, which is a cap price for heating oil, was $1.64 a gallon last heating season and $2.29 this year, an increase of 65 cents per gallon, or 39 percent. If you use 800 gallons a year to heat your home, you could potentially be seeing an increase of about $500 at your house this year,” he said.
Such increases also have driven up electricity prices. However, the co-op’s supply price is fixed through February 2008.
“We do have some concerns regarding what the price will be after that, particularly when we have recently seen about a 2-cent per kilowatt hour increase in the electricity supply rate for both Bangor Hydro and Central Maine Power,” he said.
While Hallowell talked about numbers, the co-op’s president, Scott Skinner, talked about some of the positive things the company has done during the past year.
Those improvements include e-billing, which allows co-op consumers to view and pay their bills on the Internet; voice-activated reporting for power outages; over-the-phone account inquiry and bill payments; and an automated notification system to alert consumers of meetings or power outages.
“As a matter of fact, Central Maine Power, Maine Public Service, New Brunswick Power and Bangor Hydro-Electric each provide some of these services, but not all of them,” he said.
“I’m not saying this to pick on these good companies. Still, I need to point out how much we are able to accomplish with just 34 employees and a network of like-minded co-ops around the country.”