Lower Valley can’t give away free money

By Jim Stanford on June 11, 2013

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Transmission lines from a coal-powered plant in southern Wyoming. Jim Stanford photo

Electric rates are rising, but many customers are missing out on refunds.

Nearly 5,000 people and businesses have refunds coming to them from Lower Valley Energy, but the cooperative cannot send checks because of incorrect addresses.

Some customers have changed P.O. boxes, some are deceased, and some have moved away. But a quick glance at this list reveals a who’s who of Jackson Hole neighbors and friends.

The amounts range from just a few dollars to thousands, totaling more than $1 million. The old Dirty Jack’s Theatre, for instance, has $729 to claim. One of my former housemates — to whom I paid a share of the electric bill! — has $147 coming.

The refunds are for unclaimed patronage capital. Lower Valley explains:

Because Lower Valley Energy is a cooperative, owned by its members, it does not technically earn profits. Instead, any revenues over and above the cost of doing business are considered margins. These margins represent an interest-free loan of operating capital by the membership to the cooperative. This capital allows Lower Valley Energy to finance operations and to a certain [extent] construction, with the intent that this capital will be repaid to you in later years.

Other names that stood out from a brief scan include Big O Tires ($195) and an entity identified as “Western Wyo Pizza Hu” — likely Pizza Hut — owed $4,290. (Maybe someone informing them can claim a free rotation or pie next visit?)

Thanks to Teton Barber Shop for publicizing the list.

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Lower Valley ballots due

By Jim Stanford on June 25, 2012

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Denny Emory

Somewhere in the stack of bills and junk mail piled up with summer’s arrival is the ballot for Lower Valley Energy’s board of directors.

The deadline to submit ballots is 4 p.m. Thursday, which means they probably have to be mailed today or tomorrow or dropped off at Lower Valley’s Jackson office on Highway 89.

Two seats are up for grabs, with Denny Emory challenging incumbent Ted Ladd for one seat and three candidates, including incumbent Nancy Winters, vying for another. All cooperative members, i.e. anyone who receives a power bill, can vote for both seats.

Emory, who lives in Wilson, has advocated for a better pricing system for electricity, so that heavy residential users pay a higher service charge commensurate with their use. Average homeowners who use less power could see a reduction in the service charge, he said. The base charge for all residential users currently is $15 per month.

Anyone who submits a ballot will be entered in a drawing for five $100 prizes to be applied toward utility bills.

Update 6/29: Incumbents Ladd and Winters won re-election.

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taking power over power

By Jim Stanford on April 11, 2012

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Transmission lines from a coal-fired power plant in southern Wyoming. Lower Valley faces tough decisions in the years ahead regarding what type of power it purchases and how it should distribute higher costs to members.

Last summer, readers reacted angrily when Lower Valley Energy decided to hike electricity rates in winter, rather than charge more to the heaviest consumers of power. The cooperative later backed down from the plan, but at least one commenter asked to be informed when board members are up for re-election.

Here’s your heads-up. Lower Valley has two seats open this spring, including the District 4 seat held by part-time Wilson resident Ted Ladd. The other seat is District 3, which includes Hoback Junction, Alpine, Little Horsethief Canyon and points south. Nancy Winters of Star Valley is the incumbent.

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Lower Valley lowers gas rate by 13 percent

By Jim Stanford on February 14, 2012

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Gas is drilled 90 miles away.

Last week, amid constant reports about Gov. Matt Mead and Wyoming lawmakers having to cut the state budget because of the low price of natural gas, utility bills arrived from Lower Valley Energy. While using about the same amount of energy as last winter, I seemed to be paying slightly more for gas, which struck me as a disconnect.

Well, Lower Valley has caught up to the market changes. The cooperative has reduced its rate for natural gas by 12.9 percent, to $1.13 per therm, effective Feb. 1. LVE informs of the change in a letter residents should be receiving this week, spokesman Brian Tanabe said.

So, after a late cold spell pushed nighttime temperatures below -10 last week and sent heating bills rising, residents will get some relief.

The new rate still doesn’t match the nearly 70 percent drop in gas prices over the last four years, but pricing is complex, Lower Valley has to lock in advance supply contracts, and someone (not LVE, as a member-owned cooperative) has to make a gazillion dollars at our expense.

(Photo by David Stubbs)

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Lower Valley pulls plug on winter rate plan

By Jim Stanford on August 31, 2011

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When the weather turns this frigid, electricity bills won't sting as much.

In a small victory for the poorest Jackson Hole residents, Lower Valley Energy has dropped a plan to impose a significantly higher electricity rate in winter.

Instead, all residential users will pay 1 percent more year round, according to a News&Guide report.

Lower Valley’s board of directors had voted in June to create a new pricing system, in which residents would pay a higher rate for power during winter, when demand is greatest. The board opted not to charge more to the heaviest consumers of electricity, who drive up costs for the cooperative as a whole.

The decision sparked a sharp backlash. Among the hardest hit would have been low-income renters, who are more likely to be living in older, poorly insulated homes heated by electricity.

According to the News&Guide, Lower Valley reversed course because of continued uncertainty over how Bonneville Power Administration will price electricity it supplies to the cooperative. The board plans to revisit the rate structure next summer.

Mark your calendars once the date of Lower Valley‘s annual meeting is set next spring, and be sure to make your voices heard.

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