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Power and Money - Who is paying the most for electricity?

Fri, Jan 24th, 2014
Posted in All Features

Power costs money. When residents and business owners of Fillmore County receive their monthly utility bills, they see firsthand the cost of their consumption.

But, how does your utility bill compare with others in the region and the nation? Specifically, this article is going to focus on residential electric rates.

State and National Averages

The 2012 average monthly bill (residential) in the United States based on a report provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration was $107.28 with an average monthly consumption of 903 kilowatt hours (kWh) at a rate of 11.88 cents/kWh.

In Minnesota, the average monthly consumption in 2012 was 793 kilowatt hours at a rate of 11.35 cents/kWh for an average monthly bill of $90.06. In neighboring states like Iowa, the rate was lower at 10.82 cents/kWh, and Wisconsin was much higher at 13.82 cents/kWh. Obviously, the higher the kWh rate, the higher your electric bills are based on comparable consumption.

If you were lucky enough to live in Hawaii in 2012, your average monthly electric bill would have been $203.15 at a rate of 37.34 cents/kWh. But, since you would have been living in Hawaii with the highest electric rates in the U.S., surely your electric bill would have been the least of your concerns. After all, you’re in Hawaii.

The lowest electric rates in the nation in 2012 came from the great state of Louisiana. But, while the electric rates were 8.37 cents/kWh, the consumption was nearly 39 percent above the national average.

Tri-County Electric Cooperative

In the Fillmore County area, Tri-County Electric Cooperative (TEC) directly and indirectly serves the most number of customers of any electric utility. According to TEC President/CEO Brian Krambeer, “We serve about 11,000 members and have about 13,000 active accounts.”

Tri-County Electric Cooperative, which employs 51 individuals in their service territory, operates out of Rushford with outposts in Caledonia, Harmony and Spring Valley.

They serve the rural areas of Houston, Fillmore and Winona counties, including the cities of Brownsville, Canton, Fountain, and Houston. According to Krambeer, they “also serve wholesale power to the cities of Caledonia, Eitzen, Harmony, Lanesboro, Mabel, Peterson, Rushford, Spring Grove, and Whalan.”

With TEC, they do have seasonal rate fluctuation, so the months of June, July and August are considered peak summer months for energy consumption.

The most common residential rate for TEC customers (rural service) is 13.00 cents/kWh during the months of June, July, and August. During the other months out of the year, when energy consumption is less, the rate is 10.5 cents/kWh. So, based on the 2012 average monthly consumption of 793 kWh in Minnesota, your average Tri-County Electric Cooperative bill would run $106.27 per month for city service or $115.27 per month for rural service.

TEC also offers “city, suburban, small commercial, large commercial and industrial service rates,” according to Krambeer.

According to the TEC rates effective May 1, 2012, a city service (single-phase) basic monthly service charge is $23, while a basic monthly charge for rural service (single-phase) is $32. Krambeer did indicate that their “basic service charge does differ quite a bit,” and this relates to the fact that their number of consumers per mile of line is much less than most other utilities. For example, according to Krambeer, “The latest statistics show that publicly-owned utilities average 48 consumers per mile of line; investor-owned utilities average 34 consumers per mile of line; and electric co-ops average 7.4 members per mile of line. TEC has 3.7 members per mile of line.”

Alliant Energy

Serving the cities of Chatfield, Ostrander and Wykoff, Alliant Energy is the only corporate, publicly traded company providing electric service to communities in Fillmore County. Led by President/CEO Patricia L. Kampling, raking in an annual wage of $1.7 million, Alliant Energy is a huge utility that serves approximately 40,000 electric customers across 15,000 square miles in southern Minnesota.

From June 1 through September 30 of each year, the residential rate is 11.036 cents/kWh. And, from October 1 through May 31, the residential rate is 9.193 cents/kWh. Their basic service charge is $8.50 per month. So, based on the 2012 average monthly consumption of 793 kWh in Minnesota, your average Alliant Energy bill would run $96.02 per month.

Spring Valley Public Utilities

With 1,154 residential and 174 commercial customers, the Spring Valley Public Utilities is a member of Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (SMMPA). Superintendent Stuart Smith shared that the “Spring Valley Public Utilities maintains a seven megawatt power plant that will provide enough electricity to run the whole town if and when the power grid is down. This is a big investment for any city to have for reliability. Most cities do not have this.”

The Spring Valley Public Utility does not have seasonal rates like TEC and Alliant Energy.

The Spring Valley Public Utilities residential rate is 11.24 cents/kWh. So, based on the 2012 average monthly consumption of 793 kWh in Minnesota, your average Spring Valley Public Utilities bill would run $89.13 per month.

Preston Public Utilites

Just like the Spring Valley Public Utilities, the Preston Public Utilities is also a member of SMMPA. With 652 residential and 183 commercial customers, the PPU maintains a coverage area of approximately 2.5 square miles.

And, just like Spring Valley, Preston has a back-up plan in case of a power grid failure. According to PPU General Manager and Preston City Administrator Joe Hoffman, “Preston maintains a diesel/natural gas power plant that operates at times of high electric demand; most recently during the cold spell. The plant has the capacity to power the entire community during transmission outages.”

The Preston Public Utilities residential rate is 9.98 cents/kWh from November through April for the first 600 kWhs, and 9.59 cents/kWh for the next 600 kWhs. From May through October, the first 600 kWhs costs 9.98 cents/kWh, with the next 600 kWhs charged at 11.15 cents/kWh. Additionally, PPU charges a residential base rate of $6.42 each month. So, based on the 2012 average monthly consumption of 793 kWh in Minnesota, your average Preston Public Utilities bill would run $82.47 per month. Effective January 1, 2014, the PPU rates were increased by 10-percent.

Harmony Public Utilities

With a total of the 515 residential and 157 commercial/industrial customers, the Harmony Public Utilities serves all customers located in the city limits of Harmony. With a wholesale agreement, HPU purchased their power from Tri-County Electric Cooperative.

Following a basic service charge of $8, HPU does also operate with seasonal rates based on usage. From January through June 15, the residential rate is 11.9 cents/kWh. And, from June 15 through December of each year, the residential rate is 12.16 cents/kWh. Effective June 2013, electric rates were raised 2.2-percent. So, based on the 2012 average monthly consumption of 793 kWh in Minnesota, your average Harmony Public Utility bill would run $102.37 per month.

Lanesboro Public Utilities

The Lanesboro Public Utilities currently serves 461 residential and 101 commercial customers in the City of Lanesboro. And, just like HPU, the LPU has a wholesale purchasing agreement with Tri-County Elective Cooperative.

Following a basic service charge of $12, LPU does not operate with any fluctuating seasonal rates. Their residential electric usage rate is 14.71 cents/kWh. So, based on the 2012 average monthly consumption of 793 kWh in Minnesota, your average Lanesboro Public Utilities bill would run $128.65 per month.

The Least and Most

The lowest electric rates in the area come from the Preston Public Utilities with rates nearly 19-percent below the state average of 11.35 cents/kWh. And, the highest rates in the area come from the Lanesboro Public Utilities, with rates nearly 30-percent above the state average and more than 53-percent above the rates offered by the Preston Public Utilities.

Keeping costs down

Unless you’re one of about 350,000 people in the United States that lives completely “off the grid,” you are paying for utilities. So, how do you keep your costs down?

Tri-County Electric Cooperative offered some tips to help keep energy costs down. Here’s their top 10 list.

1. WELL AND/OR PRESSURE SYSTEM: Defective or broken water lines, wires shorted at the well head and water logged pressure tanks can use excessive electricity.

2. STOCK TANK HEATER: Inadequately insulated tanks may run up to 24 hours a day.

3. PORTABLE SPACE HEATER: Uncontrolled space heaters may run up to 24 hours a day and may have thermostats set higher than necessary. Additionally, this form of electric heat does not qualify for a reduced rate dual fuel program.

4. ENGINE/TRACTOR HEATER: Because engine or tractor heaters may lack thermostatic controls, they may operate up to 24 hours per day.

5. WOOD STOVE BLOWER: Check to ensure your wood stove blower is operating properly, as these may run continuously without being noticed.

6. OUTDOOR WOOD BURNING UNIT: Circulator pumps can run 24/7 in outdoor wood burning units. If the fire in an outdoor unit goes out, it can cause the water heater in your home to attempt to heat the boiler within the wood burning unit.

7. HEAT TAPE: Take note of the status of your heat tape to ensure it has not become defective, that it is turned off when no longer needed and that the temperature is not set higher than necessary.

8. HOT TUB: Outdoor hot tub installations often do not have adequate insulation. Water is continuously heated to over 100 degrees and can unnecessarily shed heat to the outdoors.

9. ELECTRIC BLANKET OR HEATED MATTRESS PAD: Often left running 24 hours per day, electric blanks and heated mattress pads can be shut down when bed is not occupied.

10. ROOM/WALL AIR CONDITIONING UNITS: Improperly weatherized or inadequately insulated against winter’s cold drafts, air conditioning units leak heat to the outdoors and require greater heating input to make the home comfortable.

In summary, you can’t control your electric rates but you can control your electricity consumption. Take a close look at your usage each month and compare it to the state average. If you are using more than 793 kilowatt hours per month, then you are above average -- and this is costing you and your family more money.

Making everyone in the household aware of the collective monthly energy consumption helps everyone realize how they can have an impact on reduction.


Your comment submission is also an acknowledgement that this information may be reprinted in other formats such as the newspaper.


10:00:55, Jan 29th 2014

Dachshund says:
Thank You Jason,

For providing the 1st piece I know of that publicizes for all to see what I've known for a long, long time. Those of us living in Lanesboro are paying significantly more for things than are the residents of other Minnesota communities, both nearby and elsewhere throughout the state. While this particular article deals with electric rates specifically, I'd be willing to bet that the results would be much the same if researching the cost of water, various sundries (toilet paper, & soap for example), property taxes, and just about anything else.

Fifty percent more than Preston, however, can not help but make one wonder what is different there in Preston than here in Lanesboro. Exactly what is it that sets these two neighboring communities apart. Could it have, heaven forbid, something to do with the Tourism/Arts "industry" and the resulting proliferation of "non-profits" that so heavily dominates Lanesboro "culture." Certainly seems like the only thing differentiating Lanesboro, other than grocery stores of course, from neighboring communities to me.

The Tourism/Arts minority has dictated Lanesboro's direction now for nearly two decades. In that time our town has lost virtually every business really needed by a community's residents, the things that make a community a desirable place to live. Access to groceries, hardware, etc., etc., is an important consideration in choosing where to live to even residents of big cities like Minneapolis, St. Paul and Chicago.

And based on recent newspaper coverage of "Lanesboro's" (the town's taxpaying year-round residents are apparently NOT "stakeholders" in this) art campus plans, the Tourism/Arts fanatics are far from finished with us here yet either. Who cares that Lanesboro has to dig a new well (yeah, our top dollar water isn't even fit to drink), upgrade waste water treatment facilities, or repair a "hazardous" falling down dam (damn). Taxpayers can foot the bill for that, along with the costs of running and maintaining new "art installations" too.

And so, exactly when is enough, enough? I, for one, am sick and tired of being told what art is and who in the community is an artist by those who have appointed themselves "art masters." Sick and tired of having to look at and in some cases even listen to someone's (and far too often a non-resident of Lanesboro) concept of "art" (junk to the eyes of some beholders) each and every time I step outside. Most of all, I'm sick and tired of having to help pay for this privilege too!

Sorry, but I grew up in a place where I could choose between shows at literally dozens of theaters, could visit a multitude of museums (all with art of some kind or another) and shop hundreds of galleries on any given day. Sorry, but I just don't need any help appreciating art or in determining who is or isn't an artist. And so very sorry that the latter can be said of my non-artist neighbors, regardless of where they may have been born and raised, as well. Saved Lanesboro, my eye!

John P. Levell
Lanesboro, MN

Perfect Glossy