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IID: Action needed now for summer

January 10, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

With the cost of providing power set to rise this summer, Imperial Irrigation District directors are concerned people will opt not to use their air conditioners during the summer.

They said immediate action has to be taken to provide some relief for those who would be unable to afford power during the summer months.

On Tuesday, IID directors were given a clearer picture of what types of power bills customers will be facing.

For a household that uses 1,000 kilowatts of power per month during the summer, the monthly bill would be $99.20, up from the $92.30 would have paid last summer.

For a household that uses 2,000 kilowatts of power per month, the cost would be $194.80, up from last summer's monthly bill of $181.


IID power department Manager John Steffen said most households during the summer use at least 2,000 kilowatts.

IID officials have said what is happening is technically not a power rate increase — it is an increase in the energy cost adjustment portion of the bill, which IID can increase or decrease based on the price of providing energy.

The increase will come about because what IID must pay for natural gas has increased from last summer.

With violent fluctuations in the cost of natural gas, which runs IID's power plants, district staffers have locked in a price of natural gas for the summer at $7.90 per million BTU. Last summer IID was paying less than $3 for the same amount.

According to numbers released by IID staffers, last summer the cost of providing energy meant people were paying about $10 for the energy cost adjustment. With the new price of natural gas, the energy cost adjustment will be $16.90.

That amounts to a $6.90 difference per 1,000 kilowatts, the difference customers can expect to pay.

While the price of natural gas will be nearly three times what IID paid last year, officials are hoping they made the right move in locking in such a price.

The concern is the cost of natural gas has risen to as much as $52 per million BTU in recent months and even now is about $11 per million BTU.

IID officials said they do not expect that cost to come down, and IID customers would have much higher bills if the price of natural gas did not drop.

Still, IID directors said there are a number of people in the Imperial Valley who will not be able to pay the higher bills and may consider not running their air conditioners.

Director Bruce Kuhn said he is concerned there will be more heat-related illnesses and death, particularly among the elderly.

Kuhn asked that his fellow board members form a committee to look at ways to help those people "who might fall through the cracks." No formal decision was made on establishing such a committee.

However, the directors urged IID staffers to be as aggressive as possible in getting out the message there will be power bill increases.

Board President Andy Horne said, "In essence it is an increase in rates."

IID officials also said the increase in the energy cost adjustment cannot wait for the summer. They said to do so would mean large bill hikes all at once.

Instead, the district is expected to increase the energy cost adjustment as early as February to spread the cost increases.

IID officials said it is important for people to note the district does have public benefit programs to help with bills.

IID Director Stella Mendoza said people need to conserve energy to try to control their costs.

For more information about public benefit programs contact IID at 339-9031.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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