OPPD board approves rate restructure plan despite opposition

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) - In its monthly meeting Thursday, the OPPD board voted to approve (6-2) a plan to restructure rates, which critics have said will hurt the poor and low energy users.

The plan calls for increasing the monthly fixed service rate and decreasing the monthly energy usage charge.

On Tuesday, critics delivered a petition opposing the change.  They say the change penalizes customers who use less energy and will hurt low-income families and those on a fixed income.

To address those complaints, OPPD announced a plan called the “Low Usage/Low Income Transition Program.”

They say it will help qualifying customers adapt to the change by distributing bill credits. The program targets those already using the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

More than 30 people addressed the board opposing the plan during Thursday’s meeting.

“You will see that income and equality graph where the rich are getting richer and the poor getting poorer, that will go down for the poor and up for the rich and we can put a note on there that that’s because of OPPD’s fixed cost rate change.  It’s not fair,” said Daniel Lawse of Omaha.

“The only (plan) put forth unfortunately discourages efficiency, conservation, and homegrown energy such as solar power,” said Linda Duckworth, Energy Director for the League of Women Voters of Nebraska.

Bills are currently charged about a $10.25 fixed rate for a household. The change would increase that $5 a month per year for the next 4 years, but kilowatt costs for customers would come down.  Customer bills would likely increase for those who use less energy, and decrease for those who use more energy.  OPPD says people whose bills are usually $80-$125 a month wouldn't see much of a difference.

"We have some accountability on our side to make sure we put together the right program that really does assist the low income low use customers,” OPPD CEO Tim Burke explained. “That’s our commitment to do that. We have those similar and same concerns and I think our organization has rallied around that in this change of the proposal that we presented.”

OPPD Board of Directors Thomas Barrett and Tim Gay voted against the proposal.

The fixed rate change will start for customers in June 2016.

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