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Power bills going up

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By Claude Lewis

Skyrocketing gasoline prices continue to be much more far-reaching than what you literally pay at the pump.

A close look at your power bill will reveal charges directly linked to fuel cost increases.

After holding off for as long as possible, Central Florida Electric Cooperative finally had to pass some of the load to its 30,000 customers in the tri-county area.

On your bill under "Current Charges," there are a number of lines breaking down each month's figures.

The third item down reads "Wholesale Power Adjustment." From mid-April to mid-May, the charge was at $0.0065. That came out to $6.50 on the $100.

CFE Co-op Member Services director Tim Hastings said that will increase to $0.00925 on the next bill, with more hikes possible as no relief at the gas pump is in sight.

The $0.00925 would put the figure at $9.25 on the $100.

"The 'Wholesale Power Adjustment' was zero four or five months ago, but fuel costs are forcing us to change that," Hastings said. "We've been trying to hold it down. This will surprise people in the coming months."

Hastings said rising costs of fuel affect the costs of coal and natural gas.

The CFE Coop purchases power from wholesaler Seminole Electric in Palatka. The costs to ship coal via railroad and to supply natural gas via pipeline have gone up. Hence, Seminole must charge the Coop more. And in turn, the Coop must add on a percentage to the customers.

"Our margin of profit hasn't changed," Hastings said. "If anything, a small coop helps keep costs down. We're nothing like GRU."

But Hastings did warn a rate cost hike down the road is inevitable.

"The last time we had one was in the late '90s," he said.

Hastings said Floridians are using more power than ever.

"The demand for electricity in a normal household is 1/3 higher," he said.

There are a number of ways folks can keep their costs at a minimum, however.

New-fangled light bulbs use a lot less power. Green high-efficiency utilities like water heaters, washers, dryers, dish washers and stoves can cut big numbers.

"We'e unlike almost any other business," Hastings said. "Power companies are pleased when you buy less of their product."