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The Sangre de Cristo solar project in Chaffee County. Photo courtesy of Sangre de Cristo Electric Association

It’s one year later, and Sangre de Cristo Electric Association (SDCEA)  is gearing up once again to introduce the idea of a rate adjustment.

According to the SDCEA Board of Directors, the proposed rate changes would vary by class of service and amount of electricity used. The rate restructuring proposal will be presented and discussed during the company’s next monthly meeting in the SDCEA Community Room on March 29, 2023. Last year a similar kind of proposal generated a hue and a cry from a segment of customers (particularly those with solar panels) who felt they were being dealt with unfairly. Several brought up their recent investments in solar panels and the payouts they expected over time, that in their perception, were being taken away.

Sangre de Cristo Electric Association headquarters in Buena Vista. Photo by Jan Wondra

In a written message on the energy company’s website, the SDCEA Board said that if approved, the new rates would go into effect on members’ June 2023 bills.

According to the SDCEA Board, the proposed restructuring is aimed at “ensuring that the electric cooperative can continue to provide reliable and affordable electric service to its members while also maintaining and upgrading its cooperative infrastructure.”

It stressed that the restructuring will break out the itemized costs to serve each individual member, and by providing these realistic breakdowns, this will allow the cooperative to re-balance costs to make it more financially stable and less influenced by external forces such as weather.

“We understand the importance of affordable and reliable electric service for our members, and we are committed to ensuring that our rates are structured in a way that better reflects the costs of providing electricity, said SDCEA CEO Paul Erickson. “The proposed rate restructuring will help us achieve that goal.”

The proposed rate restructuring is the result of a comprehensive review of SDCEA’s rates. This includes an analysis of the cooperative’s costs, usage patterns, and industry trends. If approved, the restructuring would result in changes to the rate components charged for various types of service, including residential and commercial.

To review the rate structure changes, follow this link.

According to some folks, they say the rate change will significantly and adversely affect member customers who have low electric usage, specifically low and fixed-income residents. “It will also adversely affect solar panel owners,” says Jerry Abramczyk. “This is essentially the same rate change proposed last year that generated much blowback from customers.”

A few facts are in order. First, as a locally-owned co-op, SDECA is a power distribution company, and its generation entity, Tri-state Power generates that power.

Second, as a co-op, SDECA is exempt from filing the kind of Colorado Rate Case documentation and notification that other public utilities are required to file prior to applying to implement rate increases.

SDCEA is a not-for-profit cooperative; which means that if you get an energy bill from SDCEA, you are also a voting member of the cooperative. It serves 14,000 member accounts in Chaffee, Fremont Custer, Lake and Saguache counties; including some of the most rugged service areas of the entire Rocky Mountains.

In seeking to execute a rate adjustment, it’s first since 2017, SDCEA is proposing breaking up the energy charges, something known as “unbundling”.

Who does this electric rate adjustment benefit most? Those of us who live here year-around.

“The board seeks to not subsidize second homeowners,” says Erickson. “Some 90 percent of SDCEA meters and 90 percent of SDCEA consumers are residential,” he adds. But only seventy percent of electric sales revenue currently comes from residential customers.

Why the 20-point difference? Unlike metro areas, 40 percent of the 90 percent of SDCEA residential consumers are second homes. Those people aren’t here all the time. But it costs the same to deliver the energy to their meter.”

“The board and cooperative staff have taken a careful approach in considering these changes and have been cost-conscious in decision-making on behalf of our members while ensuring the continued supply of reliable, safe power,” said SDCEA Chief Administrative Officer Sarah McMahon. “We are committed to ensuring that our rates are fair, transparent, and sustainable for our members.”

Members of SDCEA are encouraged to visit for up-to-date information about the proposed restructuring.