- Co-op member bills are expected to be higher due to increased energy usage during the historic February 2021 cold spell.
- Electric cooperatives will work with members to offer flexible payment options and to minimize impact to membership as much as possible.
- Generation and transmission cooperatives and their member distribution cooperatives are evaluating the financial impact of exceptionally high natural gas prices.
- Once rising fuel costs are fully determined, electric cooperatives and their member-elected boards will implement a low-impact plan to recover costs.
In February 2021, the state of Oklahoma was one of many states in the nation that experienced record-low temperatures. Oklahoma experienced below-freezing temperatures for nearly 12 consecutive days with the lowest temperature recorded at -22 Fahrenheit and wind chills that dropped as low as -36 Fahrenheit, according to the Oklahoma Mesonet.
Due to historically frigid temperatures, demand for electricity rose significantly and power supply in some cases was not sufficient to fulfill the rising demand of electric power.
The Southwest Power Pool (SPP), a regional transmission organization that ensures reliable supplies of power in a 14-state footprint, called for energy emergency alerts levels 2 and 3 for the first time in its history. Out of the three generation and transmission electric cooperatives that are members of the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives (OAEC), two are a part of the SPP and called for temporary coordinated interruptions of service from their member distribution electric cooperatives.
“These extreme weather conditions provided unseen challenges to the electric utility industry,” said Chris Meyers, OAEC general manager. “Our member-systems are diligently working to lessen the impact of these unprecedented events to their consumer-members in the best manner possible.”
Industry experts say heating systems in Oklahoma were not designed to run on extremely frigid temperatures as experienced during the recent winter storm. With heating systems made to run efficiently at 30 to 40 degrees, the recent cold spell caused heating systems of all sorts to run at full capacity. In some cases, heating systems consumed twice the amount of electricity to provide heat or even close to three times. The higher energy usage from consumers will translate into higher bills.
Another challenge that emerged from this event was the exponential increase of natural gas prices. Despite extremely higher costs, electric utilities still had to secure natural gas to ensure adequate power supply to their consumers.
“While Oklahoma’s electric co-ops are aware of potential higher bills due to high usage and the rising cost of fuels, most cooperatives are evaluating ways to manage the impact of such bills to member-owners by offering options that include flexibility to make those payments and by connecting member-owners to financial assistance programs as needed,” Meyers said.
While the full impact of such increases is not yet known, generation and transmission cooperatives and their member distribution cooperatives are evaluating higher-than-usual costs and determining ways to lessen the impact of such increases to their cooperative membership as best as possible.
Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives are not-for-profit utilities that are owned by those they serve. As member-driven and community-focused organizations, electric cooperatives believe in the effectiveness of a diverse energy mix for the delivery of safe, reliable and affordable electricity to their members.
About OAEC: The Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives (OAEC) is a statewide association created and voluntarily supported by local electric distribution and generation & transmission cooperatives. OAEC is comprised of 30 member systems: 27 distribution electric cooperatives (two of which are headquartered in Arkansas) and 3 generation & transmission electric cooperatives (one of which is headquartered in Texas). Learn more at oaec.coop
Anna Politano, Director of Public Relations & Communications