Budget Shortfall Drives Rate Increase at Georgetown Electric

In Williamson County, Texas, Georgetown Electric utilities customers soon may see a hike of $2 to $4 per in their monthly bills – and it’s all because of what they didn’t use last summer, according to a January 5 report by the CBS-TV Austin affiliate, KEYE-TV.

In discussing its plans for 2017, the local power provider here revealed it came up short last year. It was counting on a hot summer to cover some big expenses, but comfortable weather in August and September saw electric meters spinning a lot less.

With cooler temps last summer Debbie Thrush in Georgetown told the local broadcaster that she didn’t have to run the air conditioning as much, and that was good for the family budget. She said, “We have two [AC] units but it seemed significantly less than what we had been paying.”

As a result,  Georgetown Electric had to dip into its reserves to cover the difference.  Utility General Manager Jim Briggs told KEYE-TV, “We drew in the range of about $6- to $7-million from that fund to be able to make balance.”

Going forward he told the local ABC-TV affiliate, KVUE-TV, that he would like to grow the reserve fund back to about $20 million.

He said the utility had not planned for such a big difference in the weather. “”Typically during that period we expect to get 95 to 100 degree temperature days and we expect that we will sell a certain amount kWh during that period,” said Briggs

However, that was a monetary a hit that Georgetown easily could have handled, Briggs told KEYE-TV – however, the utility already was  covering a series of transmission price hikes from the independent system operator in Texas, ERCOT.

Briggs explained, “We’ve absorbed that cost for five years and it’s just gotten to the point we were coming back to the council to let them know we need to adjust that rate because we’re eating into the rate base by upwards of a million dollars a year now.”

Finally, Georgetown is not alone in reporting lower electric revenues. Austin Energy saw a $19 million decline in billings last summer but, as  a much larger system, that utility was able to absorb the loss without having to dip into its reserves.

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