Understanding Your Power Bill
Wells Rural Electric Co. employees work hard to provide accurate consumer accounting and ensure every bill represents reliable electricity service and tremendous value for all of our members. We also realize it can be a complex process for members who might only look at their bill and electricity use once a month when they pay their bill.
To better explain the components of your bill and electricity use—and the value cooperative members receive—we will use this space regularly to address some of the bill questions we are most commonly asked.
Most members are aware of the amount they pay each month for their electricity bill, but how well do you know how your bill is totaled and what you are charged for?
Wells Rural Electric Co. determines its rate structures for each class based on an ongoing cost of service study. As a not-for-profit, member-owned cooperative, WREC buys power on behalf of every member and then charges each member for their share. The COSS ensures each rate class pays for its own costs and does not subsidize other rate classes. Here are a few key bill components to understand.
- Energy Charge. WREC’s residential members are billed for two basic components: energy charge and basic service charge.
The energy charge is the easiest part of the bill to explain. It’s the charge members pay for the amount of electricity, per kilowatt-hour, they use each month. Because WREC is a cooperative, members are charged at cost for their electricity from the Bonneville Power Administration. That means there is no profit margin built into your rate. Excess margin is returned to you in the form of capital credits.
Functioning at cost also means any time BPA changes its rates, WREC passes those changes through to members. The board of directors will vote on changes to the residential rate structure at this month’s meeting.
Your bill also shows your exact meter reads, the number of kWh used and the billing period dates.
- Basic service charge. This is the monthly fixed cost associated with managing and maintaining more than 1,200 miles of energized power lines throughout a service territory of more than 10,000 square miles to guarantee all members have access to safe, reliable electricity. As we covered in Billing 101 a few months ago, this charge has gradually risen the past decade to reflect WREC’s true cost of service for each member. This figure used to be partially blended with the kWh charge, artificially deflating the monthly basic service charge.
The board has decided to separate the two so the company is in a better position to help you save electricity and money through energy efficiency and conservation.
- Power/Cost Adjustment. Typically a small charge or credit on your bill, the power/cost adjustment is a way for BPA to pass along unforeseen expenses or refunds on your bill outside of a rate case. This doesn’t show up on every bill.
- Usage History. If your bill seems high, it often can be explained by the useful information provided on the top-right section of your bill, including how much you are paying, on average, for electricity every day. This section provides your 13-month use history and also compares your current bill with the previous month’s use and last year’s use for the same month. It also provides average high and low temperatures so you can see how the weather affects your consumption.
- Customer and account number. Located at the bottom left of your bill, this information is particularly helpful if you are interested in signing up for WREC’s account management app, Smarthub, which allows you to monitor your daily use and pay your bill online or with your smartphone.