More dialogue between community and OPALCO | Editorial

If you’re having trouble making sense of the many facts, figures, moving parts and the overall financial state of the union at Orcas Power and Light Cooperative, you’re not alone.

We’re right there with you.

The numbers are enough to make one’s head spin: $15 million submarine cable replacement, $1.4 million revenue shortfall, $11 monthly facility charge (rounded up) for starters, $7.5 million loan to “acquire” and partner with a for-profit local Internet service provider (intended to be a money maker), 9-percent rate hike, 12-percent revenue increase for 2015 and projected revenue increase of $28 million by 2019.

That’s a lot of dollar signs to keep track of.

And then, trying to weigh the analyses and wildly conflicting conclusions by folks with expertise about the benefits and costs associated with the delivery of electricity, fiber-optics and broadband, and about what all these moves, investments and strategies portend for the future, is enough to give one whiplash – you can get a taste of how divergent many of these analyses and opinions are by going to www.islandssounder.com and searching “OPALCO.”

Two positions are up for election on the OPALCO board of directors. Four candidates are vying for those two spots. The board sets policies and rates for the power co-op. Late last year it approved a $728,000 payout to co-op members of 25 years or longer, known as “capital credits,” presumably because the co-op’s financial condition is just fine. To see the candidates’ bios, go to www.opalco.com.

We encourage the powers that be at OPALCO to do whatever possible, and quickly, to set up a community forum led by OPALCO’s general manager and board of directors so that members of the power cooperative can ask and have questions answered.

We’d also encourage readers to take a close look at the OPALCO’s recent explanation about rates and revenue, if you haven’t already. (It’s a paid advertisement and you’ll find it on page 6 of the April 8 edition.) We credit OPALCO with offering the information.

The co-op acknowledges in that piece that its new rate structure is likely to create “real hardship” and that it’s the “right thing” to do. The ad remarks that the increase is necessary due to the following issues: warming temperatures, expensive submarine cables projects, shifting energy-usage patterns and grid control backbone expansion to meet near future needs. It also says, with regard to questions and concerns form members, that its listening.

There’s nothing wrong with listening, but we’ll suggest that a bit more dialogue would prove beneficial for all.

– Scott Rasmussen, Journal of the San Juans