La Plata Electric Association will change the way customers can contribute to the development of local renewable power beginning April 1.
Customers will be able to elect to give any amount to the development of local power as part of their monthly bill, said LPEA spokeswoman Indiana Reed.
For example, residents could give $5 per month to the local renewable generation fund, rather than an amount tied to their monthly energy consumption.
“It just makes it simpler, hopefully, for everybody to understand,” she said.
In January, the LPEA board approved the change to one of the co-op’s two green power programs.
For years, residents have had the option to purchase renewable energy from Tri-State Generation and Transmission for 9 cents per 100 kilowatt-hour block or designate the same amount to support local energy development, Reed said. Customers can also participate in both if they choose.
In January, about 1,200 customers contributed to the local green energy fund, and about 1,300 customers purchased green power from Tri-State, said LPEA’s Chief Financial Officer Dennis Svanes.
Customers gave $1,237 to the local green energy fund in January.
The Tri-State program serves businesses promoting themselves as “100 percent green-powered” and buildings that maintain LEED certification.
Customers can continue to give based on their power use or elect a different amount, Reed said.
The local funds have helped install renewable energy projects, such as solar panels at Southwest Horizon Ranch, a low-income housing development about 10 miles east of town. It also helped fund the installation of panels at Bayfield and Escalante middle schools, she said.
The change makes sense because the contributions to the local renewable development were defined as part of the legally binding rate, and the co-op could disconnect someone for nonpayment of those contributions, Svanes said.
“We would not do a disconnect for nonpayment if a member was unable to make the voluntary contribution – we would just remove it,” he said.
The new policy also defined how the LPEA board will distribute the funds. The board plans to issue grants to nonprofits to develop renewable energy projects.