Attention all electricity customers, you would be well advised to pay attention to the doings of Trinity Public Utility District, our publicly owned electricity service provider. Tectonic changes are afoot. Those low-cost electric bills that have been trumpeted endlessly are about to end. The Board of Directors just borrowed $9,000,000, and that is just the beginning.
We have been lulled into a false sense of prosperity. While the physical capital assets like power lines and transformers have been allowed to grow old, money was not set aside to replace or upgrade them. Many of these assets were aged when they were acquired from the previous companies. Prudent management would have recognized these truths and made plans for orderly upgrades. Instead, they have been spending more money than they have been taking in, while making non-essential large expenditures.
Oops, gee whiz, now we are told they need to raise an additional $2.5 million more every year. Or maybe more? From where are all these dollars to come? Residents of Weaverville are first in the line of fire. It has been suggested that the average bill will go up 25%. Did you build that into your household budget? That, however, will not be nearly enough to close the gap between income and the larger outflow of cash.
Where are they going to get the rest of the money? They have been eyeballing the high impact users that are already paying much higher rates. Who are the high impact users? Mostly cannabis cultivators. This may be the equivalent of saddling up on a dying horse. The cannabis market has been wildly oversupplied. Cultivators are still trying to offload harvest from last year and prices have plummeted. The market has done what it always does. Competition has driven the outsized profits out of the business. Many marginal operators have already quit. Sensible observers do not expect more than two years before the boom will be distant history. One must reasonably ask whether there will be enough high impact users left to pay those exorbitant electric bills to balance the books.
The other side of the equation is expenses. So far, no talk has been had about reducing expenses. When our household budgets become imbalanced, we immediately take inventory of how we can cut expenses as needed. No discussion has been had about a comprehensive survey of ways to reduce expenses. Eating into your saved money with no expense reductions or income boost is not a formula for success. At home we do not need fancy studies to know what to do. We cut expenses and put in more sweat equity. Entertaining an enterprise that does not discipline itself is akin to having someone in our lives that somehow just can’t keep themselves out of predicaments.
One of the most glaring shortcomings is that there has been no discussion of preparing for the future. We need to ask questions like, will the population increase, stay the same, or decrease. Will households increase or reduce their usage.
As an example, what is the current penetration of electric vehicles? What will it be in 2025, 2030? Some of the major vehicle manufacturers have already stated that they will not be producing vehicles powered by internal combustion gasoline or diesel engines past 2025 and 2030.
How will these developments affect our PUD? Will our local grid be prepared to carry the loads and how will this impact our rates? Before the Board of Directors jacks up rates and plunges into large expenditures, we need to ask a lot of questions and require answers which can be verified. Flat, declarative statements are not sufficient.
OK, enough. That was going to be short but it wasn’t. I beg the editor’s indulgence.
Call (623-5536) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) so you can get the link to join the board meeting at 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 14, on Zoom. I know, not a very convenient time for public attendance. Sit in and get acquainted with the topics and the persons. They meet the second Thursday of the month.
The board has considered having public meetings before they go further with rate increases. If you take a little time now you will be better prepared to understand the issues and interrogate the board during the public hearings. Speak up. They may ignore us, but they cannot ignore the future.