2009 proved to be one of the most challenging years for North Arkansas Electric Cooperative as we dealt with the worst winter storm ever to hit North Arkansas. This following 2008's record setting year with tornadoes, floods and Hurricane Ike. Hopes were that 2010 would see a much more moderate year in terms of weather. However, January brought record low temperatures to the area followed by a 12-inch snow on the anniversary of last year's ice storm, and another snowstorm 10 days later.
Regardless of the nature of events we are presented with, the North Arkansas Electric Cooperative Team is ready, 24/7, with an immediate response in our effort to provide each member with reliable electric power.
The record temperatures during the first week of 2010 pushed North Arkansas Electric Cooperative's distribution system to the limit. It was some of the most extreme temperatures we had experienced in decades. The cooperative planned and was prepared for the worst case scenario with anticipation that isolated outages would be the main issue. As with any possible weather event, we notified our members so they could prepare for any situation. Fortunately during the period of extreme weather the cooperative experienced no weather related issues.
During the extreme cold our system performed well with no outages due to extensive load on the lines. While that was great news for members of NAEC, the consequences of such extreme temperatures left most heating systems running at full capacity. Additionally more people were indoors resulting in even more electric consumption. NAEC members KWH use for the month of January far exceeded all previous KWH records, resulting in an unprecedented power demand set by NAEC.
Another part of member's bills will also be affected by the extreme weather. Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC), our wholesale power provider, experienced peaks in electric demand at several of its 11 generating plants in Arkansas. One of their coal fired generating plants (a less expensive generation resource) experienced problems during January, resulting in an unplanned shutdown, causing AECC to purchase and/or generate more expensive generation in the form of oil or gas. The combination of high demand, plant outages and extreme weather conditions will also contribute to the higher bills over the coming months through the Power Cost Adjustment (PCA).
The PCA was relatively an unknown item until AECC experienced shortages in coal in late 2005 and was forced to purchase or generate higher cost generation. The supply problem continued through the middle part of 2008, but the PCA has trended downward over the last year and even resulted in a credit on January statements. (The PCA fluctuates depending on generation fuel costs). It is not a rate increase nor does it increase operating revenue for NAEC. But it is how AECC (the wholesale supplier) passes through additional costs of fuel used to generate power to all Arkansas cooperative members. When fuel costs are more than expected, the result is a higher the normal PCA. The higher Power Cost Adjustment members will see the next few months will be due to the extreme weather conditions Arkansas has experienced.
North Arkansas Electric Cooperative understands that increases in electric bills affect family finances. We will continue to work hard to improve operating efficiencies and keep rates and operating costs low. As we have said many times before, our mission is simply to keep the lights on, and the rates down.
If you find it difficult to pay your electric bill this month, you may call any one of our three local offices to make an extension or a delayed payment agreement. The numbers for each district are: Salem: 870-895-6261; Mountain Home: 870-508-5814; and Ash Flat: 870-257-1210.