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IID bills to be higher through end of year

February 20, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

Imperial Irrigation District power customers can expect higher electricity bills to continue through the end of the year.

IID General Manager Jesse Silva said while there are factors that could bring the cost of power down, the one factor that has sparked the higher bills — the cost of natural gas — likely will remain unchanged.

In a recent action, district staffers set the amount IID will pay for natural gas at $7.90 per million BTU. That is nearly three times what IID paid for natural gas a year earlier.

However, without setting a price for natural gas, the concern was the district could pay much more this summer for the fuel source that runs the district's power plants.

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In past months the cost of natural gas rose as high as $52 per million BTU and has continued to go through violent fluctuations.

The action taken by the district will spare rate-payers the effect of such fluctuating prices.

Nevertheless, that IID will pay three times as much for natural gas this summer has prompted the district to increase the energy cost adjustment portion of power bills by 8 percent.

The district has the authority to increase or decrease the ECA each month depending on the cost of producing energy.

As a result of the higher cost of natural gas, the district opted to increase power bills starting this month. IID officials said if they waited until the summer to implement the higher ECA, it could lead to severe power bill increases this summer

By starting the increase in the ECA now, customers can expect to pay $7 more for power for every 1,000 kilowatts used as compared to last summer. Average household use during the summer is 2000 kilowatts.

Silva said the 8 percent increase in the ECA is expected to remain in place through the end of the year. He said the district had to average out the cost of producing energy for the year to control costs.

Still, he said there is hope factors other than the cost of natural gas can help control power costs.

Silva said moderate temperatures during the summer could lead people to use less power, which could mean the district would not have to use all its power plants. The fewer plants the district must use, the lower the cost to produce energy.

He added if people conserve energy, that could keep the district from having to use all its plants.

Sue Giller, an IID spokeswoman, said while the entire state is trying to conserve energy, the IID effort is different.

Throughout the state the conservation effort is aimed at controlling the use of power in an attempt to maintain supplies.

With IID, Giller said, projections are the district will have enough power to meet the needs of its customers in the Imperial and Coachella valleys.

Still, she said that does not mean conservation is any less important locally. She said there will be a "pro-active" effort in coming months to share information about energy conservation with the public.

Such conservation can come from such measures as avoiding using household appliances during peak hours day and setting thermostats at 78 degrees while using fans for cooling.

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

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