On October 11, the day after Hurricane Michael swept across the co-op’s four-county service area, only 191 of West Florida Electric Cooperative’s (WFEC) 27,317 meters remained operational. With 99 percent of the system down and over 4,800 miles of power lines to traverse, cooperative employees began the daunting task of rebuilding WFEC’s distribution system – a system which took over 80 years to construct. After 28 days of working 16-18 hour shifts, the co-op was able to restore power to all members who could safely receive electric service at that time. This monumental task was completed by the co-op’s personnel along with the assistance of a workforce that swelled to 1,600 linemen, right-of-way crews and support personnel from nine other states. Unfortunately, this task was not completed without costs.
After months of submitting invoices and supporting data to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to ensure the co-op receives the maximum reimbursement possible, it is estimated that the cost of recovery from Hurricane Michael will be in excess of 70 million dollars.
Unfortunately, FEMA will not reimburse all expenses associated with hurricane restoration; therefore, WFEC will be required to increase its electric rates. The new rate was unanimously approved by the WFEC Board of Trustees at the April 23 board meeting.
The increase for residential members will be .0091 per kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity used. This is less than a penny per kWh. The new rate will be reflected as a line item on each bill beginning on our members’ June billing statement.
WFEC always strives to maintain a fair and balanced rate structure that accurately reflects the true cost of service to our members. All of the funds collected by this new line item will only be used to pay interest expenses and pay back debt created by the storm restoration charges. This rate has also been established with a maximum limit of five years and will be reviewed annually.
“It has been several years since rates have changed at the cooperative,” said Joe Rone, President of the Board of Trustees. “During that time, the cost of goods and services has increased but the co-op has worked diligently to absorb those increases internally through cost management and containment measures. Unfortunately, the economic impact Hurricane Michael had on our electric system was so substantial that it cannot be mitigated internally and will require this increase in the kWh rate,” he continued.
Member-owners who have questions about how to reduce overall energy costs, should contact their local district office. Thank you for your understanding and support as we work through this unprecedented disaster that adversely impacted your
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