Public Power Education

Power for Progress… a weekly column from the Grand River Dam Authority.

Public power gathering … GRDA Director/City of Wagoner Administrator Dwayne Elam addresses the crowd during a special utility rate design workshop hosted by GRDA at the MidAmerica Industrial Park Expo on August 22. Elam represents GRDA’s municipal customer communities the board of directors.

Last week, the Grand River Dam Authority had the opportunity to host representatives from its many municipal customer communities during a special workshop, held at the MidAmerica Expo building in Pryor.

The topic was “Cost of Service & Utility Rate Design” and the day was devoted to a better understanding of all the factors associated with setting rates for non-profit electric utilities. After all, that is what all of GRDA’s municipal customer communities are: cost-of-service utilities that exist to provide a service and not to turn a profit.

Across Oklahoma, GRDA sells wholesale electricity to 15 communities that own and operate their own municipal distribution system. In turn, these systems sell retail power to the end-users in their communities. This is the public power model. Some are fairly large municipals, serving thousands of meters, while others are smaller, serving 1,200 meters or less. However, they all operate in much the same way. Money made from the sale of electricity is used to maintain the system, provide customer service, purchase more wholesale power from GRDA and also to help fund other city services like streets and parks, police and fire protection.

Public power rates set at cost-of-service levels and according to the American Public Power Association those rates are, on average, approximately 2 cents lower per kilowatt hour than for-profit utilities. Instead of making a profit, public power utilities also return approximately 5.6 percent of their electric operating revenues to their communities.

With all this in mind, it is easy to see why good rate information and structure is important in helping these communities not only supply low-cost, reliable power but also supply customer service, enhance quality of life and support economic development.  All of this is done with one overriding goal: serve the citizen-owners of the utility.

GRDA is proud to be a part of this process and the greater Oklahoma public power team that helps to meet the electric needs of a combined 82,000 meters in these communities.

Headquartered in Vinita, GRDA is Oklahoma’s state-owned electric utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. Each day, GRDA strives to be an “Oklahoma agency of excellence” by focusing on the 5 E’s: electricity, economic development, environmental stewardship, employees and efficiency.