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(LISTEN): New coalition wants to see Columbia electric rate increase changes

(LISTEN): New coalition wants to see Columbia electric rate increase changes

Columbia’s municipal power plant is operated by Columbia Utilities (2022 file photo courtesy of Utilities spokesman Matt Nestor)

A newly formed coalition wants Columbia’s city council to restructure its June vote to increase electric utility rates.

The council approved the $8.3 million revenue increase in late June, with Columbia Water and Light saying the average Columbia customer would see a 6.9 percent increase in their monthly utility bill, starting in July. The Columbia Fair Electric Rate Coalition says some residents have seen 15 percent increases in their bills. Coalition spokesman Jim Windsor addressed the council during Monday night’s meeting.

“For the other rate classes, we propose that a 7.3 percent across-the-board rate increase be applied to the pre-July 1 structure as a fair and appropriate approach to meet the revenue requirements until advanced metering infrastructure can provide Columbia data,” Windsor tells council members.

Mr. Windsor tells council members that the majority of Columbia Water and Light’s customers would see a decrease in cost under that plan. He says low-income ratepayers and small businesses specifically would see a decrease.

The council approved the rate increase in June on a 5-2 vote, with Council members Andrea Waner and  Roy Lovelady voting against it. Columbia Water and Light said in June that the increase was necessary to address an increase in operation and maintenance expenses, to maintain cash reserve levels and to ensure adequate debt coverage for the Water and Light electric fund.