IREA proposes policy changes

Co-op works to improve customer relationships

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IREA, the energy co-op that services much of Douglas County, may make some policy changes — ranging from changes meant to benefit customers with health issues who have difficulty paying bills — to imposing a fee for disconnect notices, to offering a rate discount for industrial users who move their operations into IREA’s territory.
A list of proposed changes sent out in January to customers will be reviewed at the IREA board of directors’ March 4 meeting, said Michelle McAndrew, IREA’s manager of rates, regulations and power supply.
Customers with concerns need to file a written complain with IREA at least 15 days before that meeting.
She said current policy for customers who have serious health issues — enough that without electricity it would be life-threatening — allows the customer to provide a medical certificate from a physician. If approved, IREA gives the customer extra time to pay — a 60-day grace period, as well an additional 30-day extension, if needed.
But the proposed policy would allow more than one medical certificate per year, allowing a customer to submit one after another as long as the bill’s balance was paid after each certificate.
“It gives them time to resolve the situation,” McAndrew said.
Another change for residential customers: Currently, if IREA has misread a meter and not charged enough, to recoup that, it would bill the customer the additional amount over a period of time, not to exceed six months. The new policy, to make it fairer to the customer, would allow for a much longer time period.
McAndrew said if, for example, they misread a customer’s meter for 24 months, the new policy would give the customer 24 months to pay.
Another proposed change involves something not done before: requiring a deposit from new customers that haven’t established a previous good payment history with IREA. McAndrew said the deposit would be based on an estimate of 60-days usage. And the deposit would be returned with interest after 12 months of good payment history.
Another proposed change is to add a $9.25 fee on disconnect notices.
She said they find that many people use the disconnect notice as a reminder to pay — and that’s costly for IREA. She said in one month last year, they sent out more than 10,000 disconnect notices.
She also said IREA doesn’t charge a late fee.
“We don’t want to charge late fees. … We (know) times can be tough,” she said.
Currently, they will send the second-month’s bill out. And if the customer doesn’t pay the overdue amount from the first month’s bill within seven days, a disconnect notice is sent out.
Sending that notice out costs IREA, and when the customer pays what’s due, it also costs IREA “to reverse the process and/or reconnect service,“ McAndrew said.
Another efficiency measure being proposed: If a customer terminates IREA’s service and the final account has a credit balance of less than $5, that amount would only be refunded at the customer’s request — otherwise it would be donated to an agency that provides low-income energy assistance.
For large commercial and industrial customers, there are a couple proposed changes. McAndrew said IREA would like to entice large companies to move into IREA’s territory — in part because companies like a data center have major power needs that generate significant revenue, which keeps rates down for everyone.
One proposed change would be to offer the company a rate discount if it chooses to install its own power transformer — which is typically very large and expensive — and also agree to maintain it, saving IREA maintenance costs, McAndrew said.
For more information, call McAndrew at 303-688-3100, ext. 5497.

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