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Coast Electric customers to see bills go up

In a press release, Coast Electric Power Assoc., which provides electrical service to 77,000 customers in Pearl River, Hancock and Harrison counties, said that among factors causing bills to increase beginning Jan. 1, are “regulations imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the rising cost of coal.”

The press release said that the average Coast Electric customer uses about 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per month, and that customer should see his bill rise by $5.86 per month.

“We expect it (the cost of electricity) to continue to rise,” said April Lollar, a spokesperson for Coast Electric, when contacted by the Item.

She said, based on the average usage of 1,000 kilowatt hours per month, a customer-owner’s bill would be $118.70. When the increase takes effect on Jan. 1, it will be $124.50 for that same usage, or a 4.94 percent increase.

The press release said that another of the factors influencing the higher bills was an “increase in wholesale purchased power.”

The press release said the company manages power costs by working with South Mississippi Electric, a generation and transmission cooperative, to purchase what the company calls a “diverse mix of fuel sources.”

Coast Electric purchases power at a wholesale rate, not a retail rate, said the press release, and then sells it to its customer-owners, and approximately 71 cents of each dollar a customer pays the cooperative, goes to pay for the cost of power, and the other 29 cents covers operating costs such as lines, poles and utility trucks.

“Anything over operating costs is assigned to members every year in the form of what is called capital credits,” said Bob Occhi, Coast Electric president and CEO.

Coast Electric, a nonprofit cooperative owned by its customers, purchases power from wholesalers and operates mostly in high-cost rural areas. The cooperative charges its customer-owners only a markup to cover expenses of getting electricity to them.

Said Occhi, “Although we were able to reduce the total cost to our members in 2011, the current price increase from our power supplier makes this pass-through adjustment necessary.”

He added, “We want our members to understand how increases to the cost of wholesale purchased power affects their power bills. As a not-for-profit cooperative business, our primary motivation is to provide reliable service at the lowest possible cost.”

Doug Mooney and Richard Dossett represent Pearl River County customer-owners on the Coast Electric board of directors. Board members are elected from the cooperative’s customer base.