Blue Ridge Electric's rates may rise

Jun. 15, 2013 @ 07:25 AM

Customers of Blue Ridge Electrict Membership Corp. may see rate increases over the next five years as a result of closing older coal plants and replacing them with new natural gas and coal plants for environmental compliance, CEO Doug Johnson said at the cooperative's annual meeting Thursday evening in Lenoir.

The costs will be incurred by Duke Energy, the wholesale supplier of energy to Blue Ridge Electric, and passed on through rates.

"If Duke's estimates are accurate, it will cause us to have annual retail rate increases of 2 to 3 percent," he said.

But Johnson said an employee WorkSmart team has implemented plans resulting in $3 million of annual savings, and the cooperative's two subsidiaries, Blue Ridge Energies and RidgeLink, are expected to provide about $1.5 million in direct member benefit to help hold down rates.

Director elections were announced at the annual meeting. Elected to three-year terms were Jeff Joines, Caldwell district; James Burl "JB" Lawrence, Watauga district; Bradley McNeill, Ashe district; and Bryan Edwards, Alleghany district.

More members than ever participated in director elections due to options to vote by mail and Internet: nearly 7,000 voted in this year's election. Director election kits were mailed to members on May 15 and included a proxy for voting and a postage-paid return envelope, directions for the option to vote online, and candidate biographies.

Blue Ridge Electric serves some 74,000 members in Caldwell, Watauga, Ashe, and Alleghany counties as well as parts of Avery, Alexander and Wilkes counties.