As of midnight last night, Bethel residents are customers of the Alaska Village Electric Coop, or AVEC. The cooperative signed the final papers to take over for Bethel Utilities Corporation Tuesday.
As a non-profit coop, AVEC plans to charge about 8 percent less than BUC. That’s in part because they don’t pay corporate taxes. And any profits go back to co-op members. Meera Kohler is the President and CEO of AVEC.
“That’s one of the huge advantages of being a cooperative, if you make a profit, it belongs to the consumers and gets credited back to them,” said Kohler.
Last year, AVEC gave back about $500,000 dollars to customers. Another way that AVEC hopes to lower rates is thorough buying fuel through different suppliers. Vitus Energy was the winner of a competitive process. That fuel will come online soon, but AVEC will first use the fuel purchased through Crowley.
“So it will be a few months before we’re able to gradually be able to add fuel from another source, so when that happens, the cost of fuel will go down. It’s not a gargantuan drop, but it’s a drop and it will be reflected in the cost of electricity,” said Kohler.
This year, the Alaska Legislature gave just under a million dollars to AVEC for system upgrades. Kohler says that should go toward upgrading to automated, remotely accessible meters.
“It streamlines the whole billing process, reduces the cost of that operations, and allows us to understand what’s happening with the loads within the system,” said Kohler.
That means if there’s an outage engineers can figure out how far the outage extends and allow crews to more quickly restore power.
The bill for the month of April was sent out by BUC. Customers will actually pay that bill to AVEC. AVEC will accept credit cards payments online, something customers could not do under BUC.
AVEC will be opening an office next door to AC in the old post office building by August. With the addition of Bethel’s 2800 customers, AVEC now has about 10,800 customers across Alaska. AVEC paid 5 million dollars to takeover BUC.