Manager’s Message – July 2023

Keith Brooks headshotWe invite you, our member-owners, to the Douglas Electric Cooperative (DEC) open house Saturday, August 19, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 1981 Northeast Stephens Street.

We are excited to open our doors and encourage you to join us for hot dogs, hamburgers and ice cream. We plan to have bucket truck rides, face painting, a Play-Doh station and gift bags for members. Our directors and managers will be on hand to talk about our new headquarters building and give tours of the facility.

Explaining the Basic Charge

I was recently asked why DEC’s bill includes a “basic” charge as well as a power (kilowatt- hour) charge.

To explain this simply: Imagine someone owns a vacation home by one of the beautiful lakes to which we provide electricity. This member only visits a few times a year and uses little power. However, the infrastructure required to maintain electric service— such as substations, poles, lines, tree trimming and equipment—is still necessary to serve their property.

If DEC didn’t include a basic fee, we would have to shift the maintenance costs for that service onto members who use power year-round. This would mean charging them not only for their own maintenance costs but also for maintaining the lines that serve properties using minimal or no power.

Typically, companies with a low basic fee have a high kilowatt hour (kWh) charge. Companies with a higher basic fee typically have a lower kWh charge. How those costs are divided is always hotly debated. A low basic charge usually means a subsidy for those who benefit from being connected to the grid but use little power to help pay for the maintenance.

Independent analysis of DEC’s system says a service costs $40 for the substation, poles, wires, trucks, etc., whether any power is used or not. If someone is not paying their portion because they use minimal power, that means everyone else has to make up the difference.

This is why DEC has a basic charge—to make things fair. Remember, we are a member- owned, not-for-profit business.

The bigger question: How do our rates compare with other companies? On average, DEC is 10% cheaper than investor-owned utilities in the state and about 9% lower than our average neighboring cooperatives. That is impressive, considering we are mostly in rural areas, and our lines are in rugged hillsides and forests. Utilities with less-challenging service territories or with a higher number of customers per mile of line can spread maintenance costs more easily. Even with the odds against us, we are doing great.

We are always working for you, and our members have some of the lowest rates in the country to show for it.

Stop by or call if you have questions or concerns. I work for you, and I promise to listen.

General Manager Keith Brooks