Co-Mo Electric Cooperative members will pay the same rates in 2013 as they did in the year just past.
The cooperative's Board of Directors voted at its last meeting of 2012 to keep rates steady for the coming year. But Co-Mo officials cautioned that regulatory uncertainty makes it difficult to project how long the cooperative can go without an increase.
"If you would have asked me at this time last year if we would have had a rate increase now, I would have said yes, we would have. But a variety of factors combined to allow us to push that decision back," said Ken Johnson, the cooperative's CEO and general manager.
Among those factors is the continuing low price of natural gas, which was used to generate a larger portion of Missouri cooperative members' power in 2012. In a typical year, coal is used to generate about 80 percent of Missouri's power; this year, affordable natural gas dropped that percentage to the mid 70s.
While a year with no rate increase is a definite plus to Co-Mo country residents, the future is much more murky. The Environmental Protection Agency is once again threatening costly regulations on coal plants that would make generating power more expensive.
"This is a pocketbook issue for our members," Johnson said. "We rely on a diverse fleet of sources to generate electricity - natural gas, hydroelectric power, wind power - but the backbone of the system is coal. If you make coal more costly, rates are going to go up eventually - and probably sooner rather than later."
Missouri's coal plants have received more than $1.4 billion in improvements over the past 10 years to make them meet and exceed current federal regulatory demands.
"We're happy to keep rates the same this year. That's a plus for our members," Johnson said. "We just want to see the moving target of regulations stop moving."
Co-Mo's service area comprises approximately 2,300 square miles in Central Missouri. Co-Mo exists to fulfill its members' needs for superior electric and related services at fair and reasonable prices and support its communities through economic, civic and educational opportunities.