Dear Jones-Onslow Member,
While I wish I could say that 2020 has been a wonderful year, we all know it’s been a tough one. Wrestling with COVID-19, business closings and layoffs, work and home life, as well as educational challenges have been hard on us all. Yet, the spirit of cooperation and concern for the community, two of the core principles that guide us and set us apart, have shone brightly.
As a cooperative owned by the people we serve, we’ve made many adjustments this year while staying focused on providing safe, reliable power to members — especially during the pandemic. We suspended, for several months, service disconnections for nonpayment and the associated fees. We calculate the lost revenue to be almost $2 million.
We could typically offset these and other expenses with strong sales, but this has not been a typical year. We’ve seen power sales decline. While many businesses have been recovering, it’s a slow process. Without the sales needed to offset increasing expenses, this not-for-profit cooperative will need to take steps to maintain its financial health.
JOEMC has the second-lowest-cost for 1,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh’s) in the state. Members have not seen a rate increase since early 2013 because your cooperative continually works to control costs and hold down expenses. While approximately 70 cents of every dollar of your bill pays for your wholesale power costs, we’ve managed to cover all other expenses with the remaining 30 cents and still kept the power on 99.986% of the time.
Like other costs in our lives, the expenses associated with safely delivering reliable electric service have steadily increased. Over the last seven years, we’ve also faced some extraordinary expenses such as hurricane restoration costs and coal ash costs. These expenses were more than $28 million, and we have absorbed them without increasing rates.
Reliable electricity requires an up-to-date power delivery system, as well as great people to keep electricity flowing. That means poles, power lines, substations, transformers, and other equipment must be maintained to ensure our grid and all other equipment operates properly to deliver safe, reliable electricity. Combatting cybersecurity threats, supporting billing and payments, managing right-of-way, maintaining a fleet of vehicles, offering energy-efficiency services, and equipping a staff dedicated to serving you 24 hours a day and sometimes through the harshest weather imaginable are also essential. All of these fixed costs are the same regardless of how much electricity is used.
Utilities typically recover these fixed costs through a Facilities Charge on the bill, ensuring you have power when you need it. As a not-for-profit electric cooperative, we believe these expenses should be spread fairly and equitably across all members, regardless of the level of electricity used. Since all members benefit from the same service, every member pays the same Facility Charge each month. In essence, this gives each co-op member an equal share in JOEMC’s operation.
As we prepared our 2021 budget, it became apparent the time has come to adjust our rates to remain financially healthy. Our independent rate consultant has recommended a $4 increase to each account’s monthly Facilities Charge. Even though this change is less than the cost of a fast-food meal, we realize every dollar counts. JOEMC appreciates and values the monthly investment that members make in the co-op through the Facilities Charge and strives to use that wisely. We would not make this change unless it was absolutely necessary. You’ll see this change starting with your February bill. And while I would rather be sharing happy news, we want you to know now so you can plan ahead and take advantage of solutions that will help mitigate this change.
For example, Budget Billing allows you to spread your costs out equally throughout the year. You pay the same amount each month for 11 months. The account is “evened up” on the 12th month, with a final payment billed or a credit applied. Best of all, this service is free.
Also, the Energy Center at JOEMC.com offers low-cost and no-cost savings tips, home energy calculators, an online home energy audit tool, videos detailing energy-saving actions to take in the home, and much more. Members can also take advantage of rebates on high-efficiency heat pumps, water heaters, and appliances.
Another great option is our new Connect to Save program which offers members a smart thermostat and a $50 annual incentive. A signal to the thermostat will minimally adjust it during times of high demand when the cost of the power we buy is higher.
Participants can add their water heater to the program too. After successful installation, the participant will receive a $50 Connect to Save Prepaid Mastercard®. A free controller is added, turning the unit into a smart device that allows you to easily monitor and manage its energy use. You can find details and enroll at connecttosavenc.com or by calling 844-577-7283.
As we work toward powering a brighter future in 2021, we’ll continue to keep you updated through our social media outlets, newsletters, and joemc.com. Happy Holidays.
Jeffery T. Clark
CEO, Jones-Onslow EMC