For the first time in its history, Fall River Electric Cooperative will rebate its owner/customers around $1 million for the second time in 60 days.
This month, it will reimburse its customers/owners $1 million, and that’s in addition to the $1 million it rebated them in December.
“It’s a pretty big deal. We are not Idaho Power or Rocky Mountain Power — We’re a pretty small utility. For us to rebate to our customers over $2 million in 60 days is pretty spectacular,” said Fall River Electric Marketing/Public Relations Manager Ted Austin.
In a press release, Fall River Electric’s CEO Bryan Case said that the company cut back on expenses last year when COVID-19 first impacted the community.
“When the pandemic struck our area, Fall River Electric tightened its belt and reduced expenses. Although energy sales to businesses shrunk, residential energy sales increased as people self-quarantined or worked from home which contributed to better-than-projected revenue in 2020,” he said.
Thanks to that residential energy sales increase, Fall River found itself in good financial condition this month, and in such good condition that it offered to share the wealth with its customer/owners, Austin said.
“Because of the pandemic and folks being in need monetarily, our board decided to rebate a million bucks to members that were part of our membership in 2020,” he said. “We said, ‘We don’t need to hold on to all of this money. We’ll take a million bucks of it and disperse it now.’”
Why not give their staff a big pay raise instead?
“Our staff is well compensated,” Austin said. “We were able to keep everybody employed throughout the pandemic. We have sufficient funds to do all of the infrastructure and construction projects we have planned for ‘21. This was basically extra money. Given the pandemic and the need members had financially, the board thought it was wise to provide this instant owner rebate.”
Customers’ rebates will vary and will be based on how much they paid for electricity last year. The rebate will show up as a credit on customers’ February electricity bills, said the press release.
The first rebate provided in December was part of the company’s “Patronage Capital Program” that went out to 6,500 long time Fall River Electric members. The Patronage Capital Program involves extra money generated and dispersed to owner-members every 20 years, it said.
“Unlike investor-owned utilities that pay profits to stockholders, Fall River Electric’s patronage capital is a customer’s investment in the cooperative,” said the press release.
Fall River Electric has around 14,000 customers. The rebate amount each receives depends on the size of their home or business, Austin said.
“Take a business like the Grand Targhee Resort, one of our largest commercial businesses. Their rebate is going to be much larger than the average household that uses electricity for their lights,” he said. “It’s going to be different depending on what the member uses in terms of electricity based on what they purchased in 2020. Equity wise, it spreads itself proportionally across our membership, and what they purchased in 2020.”
The money was there to share, and there was no question whether to return it to Fall River Electric members, Austin said.
“If we can provide it and keep the company sound financially, there’s no reason not to do that,” he said.
The press release noted the second rebate would also help infuse funds back into the communities of eastern Idaho and southwestern Montana. Fall River is a nonprofit electric company providing to customers throughout Idaho, southwest Montana and western Wyoming.
“Fall River is committed to safely and economically providing reliable energy and other services which bring value to its membership,” the release said.
For more information visit http://www.fallriverelectric.com/.