Local utility companies are still calculating the numbers and figuring out cost relief for February's winter storm.

Lake Region Electric Cooperative officials said the power cost adjustment - PCA - was still being reviewed as of Friday, April 30.

"We will not know the full cost of these subfreezing temperatures, or what this event is going to cost the co-op from our generating provider until a later time," LREC said in a statement.

Hamid Vahdatipour, LREC CEO, said rates are set on an annual basis, and the PCA was in the negative for 2020 and 2021.

"Our members are actually getting credit on their bills, instead of a charge. Our rates did not change and still have not changed for this purpose," said Vahdatipour. "The usage has obviously gone up during February, but the rates did not change."

The average PCA for LREC was $.006036 for 1,000 kilowatts of usage in 2020.

"We were giving $6.03 credit in 2020, and in 2021, when we did our budget and set our PCA, that actually went from $6.03 to $8.33. Our members started getting credit of $2.30 more in 2021, and it has been the same since then," said Vahdatipour.

The costs of generating electricity through natural gas during the snowstorm increased for all utility companies.

"The same thing has happened for us, but our power supplier is still looking at all of the numbers and trying to put those together," Vahdatipour said.

Meanwhile, Congress approved the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, which could help those struggling to pay their electric bills. The American Rescue Plan Act provided $4.5 billion in emergency funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, and LREC is informing its customers help is available.

During an April 24 Saturday Forum on Facebook, Tahlequah Daily Press readers were asked who provided their utility service, and what the difference in February's bill was, compared to past bills.

Russell Dean said his gas bill is normally around $95, and his bill for February was $425.

"I gladly paid it [and I'm] grateful that the heat here stayed on, unlike many places in Texas. The cost of replacing burst pipes makes $425 look like a walk in the park," said Dean.

JoElla Retherford expressed her frustration, as she conserved energy but still received a high bill.

"We did as we were asked and turned everything down or off, and limited our cooking and usage to the point we were freezing and uncomfortable in our own home. Yet our bill was still sky-high," she said.

Brittany Williams also conserved her usage during the frigid weather and still received a costly bill.

Vahdatipour said he doesn't anticipate a large cost from the winter storm, but that will have to be discussed at the LREC board meeting.

"I think in a worst-case scenario would be that for the rest of this year, we'll go to a PCA of what 2020 was instead of 2021. Our average member may see a $2.30 increase in their bill for the rest of the year, but that's very minor," he said.

LREC is a nonprofit electric utility with 17 "cooperatives" in Oklahoma and Missouri that, all together, own another cooperative, KAMO Electric.

”KAMO Electric Cooperative is our transmission provider and they are in Vinita,”V Vahdatipour said. “Associated Electric Cooperative is the organization that generates the power, and KAMO brings the power to our substations and LREC will deliver the power to its customers/members and that is the three-tiered system. 

To get a better understanding of what the difference between February's and January's bill for residential and commercial customers, the Daily Press asked Tahlequah Public Works Authority General Manager Mike Doublehead for those figures.

Doublehead responded via email and said he would be including Director of Finance Beth Bailey on that request. He said it would be a generic average based on the entire group's usage in both categories.

When contacted Friday morning, April 30, Doublehead wasn't in, and employees said he would return that afternoon. However, calls and emails weren't returned by Doublehead by press time, and Bailey said she had not gathered those figures as of Friday afternoon.

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