The Turlock Irrigation District (TID) held a series of public meetings to discuss rates; the purpose was to explain the estimates of revenue shortfall, the TID staff proposal to cover the shortfall and change current rate structures, as well as gain customer feedback.
Proposed is a system-wide 2 percent rate increase for TID energy customers to help balance the revenue shortfall.
Led by Amy Peterson, an Energy Strategy Manager for TID, Turlock’s workshop was described as an opportunity to inform the public and record their concerns on the proposals from staff on how a potential rate increase may work despite the fact that no decisions have been made regarding the issue as of yet.
TID is currently faced with a projected 2015 revenue shortfall of $17 million due to an increase in anticipated power supply costs, generation O&M, and O&M, the three largest areas of budgetary concern.
Power supply costs cover two areas — the cost to purchase electricity from generators and the cost to purchase fuel to run TID’s generators. Currently, there is power supply adjustment (PSA) that automatically changes as costs increase or decrease as power supply costs change.
Currently there is a maximum credit to the customer of $0.005 per kilowatt hour, and a maximum charge to customer of $0.01 per kilowatt hour. Staff expects that the power supply adjustment will remain with a credit of $0.005 kilowatt hour for the “near term.”
Though this is only part of a proposal, and no definitive changes have been made in relation to rates, TID projects that as power supply costs rise rates will adjust upward.
Other costs contributing to the projected budgetary shortfall include Generation O&M, which includes the cost of regular maintenance to power plants and their components that has increased over time. The proposal includes the cost of overhauls on the Almond and Walnut Energy Center power plants for the purpose of improving efficiency, maintaining reliability and extending the life of the plants.
O&M costs include fees of regular maintenance of transmission and distribution system, the TID offices, warehouse, and maintenance yards, labor, legislative and regulatory costs. TID notes that despite their reduced workforce, they foresee the need for highly skilled labor which comes with a higher price tag.
They forecast higher costs for system reliability due to the Federal Power Act of 2005.
Acting as a reserve, the Irrigation District has a rate stabilization fund, which essentially acts as an emergency fund, with $69.2 million, money set aside by the board to offset rates; $4 million of it was budgeted for 2014 and it is anticipated to be further tapped for $7 million in 2015. It was explained that depleting the fund is not necessarily an option as it acts as backing to attain lower interest rates should bonds be needed.
The proposal is to let PSA manage changing costs related to the power supply, further utilize, but not deplete the rate stabilization fund, and increase base rates. The breakdown would be an estimated net of $4 million from the potential PSA change, and $7 million from the reserve which leaves $6 million needed, which would come from a system-wide rate increase of 2 percent.
The base rate change would come from the energy demanded by the customer; the demand cost is comprised of the generation, transmission and distribution costs. The Irrigation District deems it necessary to have on hand at any given moment the maximum amount of energy a customer might need at any given time.
TID notes that some customers pay demand costs through energy charges and that there are not demand charges set in place currently for all residential, and commercial rate customers, because of past practice and the technology changes in meters.
The plan, as put forth by TID, is to transition into a demand charge over several years for residential and commercial customers by way of meter deployment software upgrades.
They propose to move all demand costs into a demand charge by enacting a monthly fixed charge that will start in 2015 to collect 1/4 of demand costs followed by an additional increase in 2016 to collect an additional 1/4 of demand costs.
In each phase the energy charge, as proposed, would decrease as demand costs are collected in a separate charge.
Additionally, TID currently has six farming rates, Farm Energy, Farm Connected Load, Farm Demand, Farm Time-of-Use; the other two which are no longer being offered to customers are Farm Service – Irrigation Pumping, and Farm Service – Irrigation Pumping – Time of Use. The reasons for closing these legacy options off are because of the relatively low number of people who utilize these rates and the fact that they are, according to TID, not very far apart from the other rate options.
They propose that Farm Energy rates would be modified to have a fixed charge and recommend that eventually eliminating it. Customers would then be offered the Farm Connected Load, Farm Demand, and Farm Time of Use rates going forward.
Rate workshops for the TID board are scheduled for Oct. 28; staff will present their recommendations along with comments and concerns made by the from the forms. There will be a rate hearing that is scheduled for Dec. 2.
Following the Dec. 2 rate hearing, the TID Board of Directors would be able to vote on the proposed rate increase.