FAQ'S - Frequently Asked Questions
What is a distribution cooperative?
A distribution cooperative is a non-profit, member-owned electric company that purchases electric power at wholesale and distributes it to its members. Delaware County Electric Cooperative purchases electric power at wholesale from the New York Power Authority.
What is Delaware County Electric Cooperative?
Delaware County Electric Cooperative is an electric utility that is owned by the members it serves. DCEC exists primarily to safely, reliably and cost effectively provide electric service to all of our members. Profits or margins, are put back into the cooperative to help run the business efficiently, or are returned to the members as capital credits.
What is the REA/RUS?
Before 1935, there was no national effort to bring electricity to rural America. In most rural areas, it was not economically viable for Investor Owned electric companies to extend their lines out into less populated areas. Therefore, farmers and other rural residents did not have electricity. However, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and other members of Congress felt strongly that having electricity should not be limited only to Americans who live in larger towns and cities.
In 1935, President Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration (REA). In 1936, President Roosevelt - working with Congress - passed the Rural Electrification Act. Thus began an enormous effort by rural Americans and the newly created REA to organize in their communities and plan how they would bring electricity to their towns and farms. When the Department of Agriculture was re-organized in 1995, the Rural Electrification Administration was combined with the Rural Water Facilities and Telecommunications Programs to form the new Rural Utilities Service.
Rural Utility Service is a program of the Rural Economic and Community Development agency, which is one of six basic mission areas of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). RUS houses the rural electric, telephone and water/wastewater loan programs and was authorized by the Federal Crop Insurance Reform and Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act of 1994. RUS replaced the Rural Electrification Administration (REA).
What is the importance of being non-profit?
Electric cooperatives were developed because many citizens in rural sector did not have access to electricity in the 1930s. It was not economically viable for investor-owned power companies to serve the rural areas. With the assistance from the federal and state levels, the concerned citizen band together and formed their own electric companies-cooperatives to provide them power. The cooperative business structure was already a well-established business model for providing services that were too big for anyone to perform alone.
Are rural electric cooperatives run by or owned by the government?
No. Co-ops are owned by the members-customers which they serve. Co-ops are governed by the bylaws which are established by members. Policies are established by the Board of Directors which are elected by the members that serve to govern operations. The Board also hires a manager and establishes the overall goals & objectives of the cooperative which provide direction to the manager and staff.
What is the New York Public Service Commission?
With the exception of NY State Electric Cooperatives the Commission regulates the state's electric, gas, steam, telecommunications, and water utilities. The Commission also oversees the cable industry. The Commission is charged by law with responsibility for setting rates and ensuring that adequate service is provided by New York's utilities. In addition, the Commission exercises jurisdiction over the sitting of major gas and electric transmission facilities and has responsibility for ensuring the safety of natural gas and liquid petroleum pipelines. For more information on the New York State Public Service Commission, click here.
What is National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA)?
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) is the national service organization dedicated to representing the national interests of consumer-owned cooperative electric utilities and the consumers they serve. NRECA also offers education and training programs for cooperative directors, managers and employees; collaborative research to enhance cooperatives’ use of technology and insurance, employee benefits and financial services and technical advice and electrification assistance in developing countries around the world.
What are the basic differences among electric utilities?
There are several types of utilities that provide electric service throughout the U.S. These include electric cooperatives, investor-owned utilities, municipal systems and state and federal power agencies.
Electric cooperatives are utilities that generate and/or distribute electrical energy on a non-profit basis and are owned by the members they serve.
An investor-owned utility (IOU) are utilities that generate and/or distribute electrical energy for a profit. The IOUs are owned by stockholders. Some of the well known IOU is our area are New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG) and National Grid.
Municipal systems are electric distribution system owned by a city to provide service for its residential, commercial and industrial users within the municipality. Municipality systems often also provide other utility services such as telephone, internet, cable and sewage service.
State and Federal Power Agencies are government-owned organizations established to provide a unique or strategic service that supports the energy security of the area in which they exist. For example, the New York Power Authority built and operates large-scale hydro generation plants in New York State (e.g. the Niagara Falls Station) that are of strategic importance to the New York electricity grid and the State’s economy.
Why can't I get my electric service switched from NYSEG to DCEC even though I am very close to DCEC's lines?
Unfortunately, New York State law prevents DCEC from providing service to any location that is already being served by an investor-owned utility such as NYSEG or National Grid. Ostensibly, this law exists to protect the investment of the for-profit utilities, but it has the unintended consequence of limiting consumer choice in areas where the local rural electric cooperative can provide superior service at a lower cost. Our state legislature could change this law in the future to allow open competition between electric utilities.
Why do my lights blink?
Electric utilities operate and maintain power lines that have protection equipment installed to address possible faults that may occur that could cause temporary or extended outages. When a blink or momentary interruption occurs, this protective equipment is programmed to temporarily interrupt power to allow the fault to clear to avoid a outage situation. Possible faults could include a tree limb touching the line often times caused by sever wind. Other possibilities could include faulty insulators, which fail most commonly during cold and/or damp weather conditions. Occasionally, wildlife (e.g. squirrels, birds, etc.) and cause faults from their presence on pole tops and in substations. Lightening-strikes can also cause electrical surges to occur that cause outages when protective equipment automatically isolates affected power lines. During g outage conditions, lineman need to assess the cause of the outage before they are able to repair the problem and restore service. This can at times be elusive which can lead to extended outage situation.
What causes my power to go out?
One cause would be lightning strikes which take a toll on various pieces of equipment with replacements necessary in many instances. Another outage cause would be wet snow many times causing the top wire to come in contact with the bottom wire. (Neutral wire). Possibly a tree falling or being cut down on the power line will cause a short and in turn cause the fusing switch to open. A cracked or faulty insulator will cause an outage, and many times may cause the pole top to burn due to the severity of the arcing. Sometimes the cause of the power outage may be a planned or unplanned interruption from the utility supplying the power to our substation. Many times a bad storm with lighting, high winds, wet snows will cause difficulties with our suppliers’ transmission lines as well as the cooperative distribution lines. Accidents such as a motorist hitting a pole will obviously cause an outage. Sometimes birds or other animals become entangled in our electric line, become electrocuted and it too will create an outage. We could have an assortment of other outages due to such things as overloads, faulty switches and fuses, vandalism, or just plain pre-planned cooperative outages.
Why is my electric bill so high?
Electric rates reflect 2 types of services: one being the cost of the electricity actually consumed with the other being the cost of constructing a maintaining the power lines over time. There are several reasons for a higher than normal electric bill. A few of these reasons can be: (1) Electric space heaters used to heat a room for a period of time instead of for a quick warm up, (2) installation of new electric devices or heaters that rely on electricity (e.g. hot tubs), (3) aging appliances and (4) poor insulation. DCEC can assist in providing reference information to members who are interested in investigating possible energy efficiency programs to reduce electrical usage (and therefore costs).
What is the service charge on my bill?
The service charge is a flat charge applied each month regardless of the amount of kilowatt hours (kWh) used. The charge covers such items as customer accounting, mailing, billing and metering and therefore is charged even if the customer has had no usage for that month.
What is the Power Cost Adjustment charge on my bill?
Average estimated power costs are used to establish the amount of power cost to recover the Cooperative’s monthly base rate, which on your electric bill is called the Energy Charge. The Power Cost Adjustment mentioned on your electric bill refers to the unpredictible variation in power costs. On a month to month basis, DCEC compares the amount of power costs collected through its base rates and the actual costs incurred. The difference between the power costs actually incurred and the amount recovered through the base rates is either refunded to or collected from customers the following month through the Power Cost Adjustment charge. A negative Power Cost Adjustment means on your monthly bills reflects a refund and a positive Power Cost Adjustment reflects a charge for the difference between estimated power cost and the actual cost incurred.
What is the difference between a Residential Service Class - 1 (SC-1) and a Residential Service Class - 2 (SC-2) member?
- Residential Service Class - 1 (SC-1) is available to members whose residence, at which electricity is being supplied, is a member's permanent legal address. Eligibility for this classification requires the residence to have consistent usage (i.e. >/+50% of kWh usage between Monday through Friday over three months), including farms/businesses with common service with a permanent dwelling.
- Residential Service Class - 2 (SC-2) is required for members whose primary legal residence is other than the address for which service is being supplied. After one (1) year of service, a member may become eligible for Service Class - 1 (SC-1) if kWh usage is "high and consistent" (i.e. >8,000 kWh/yr, >50% from Monday - Friday).
A fee of $100.00 plus tax is required for a meter installation within 3 business days, and a fee of $200.00 plus tax for an after hours reconnect (only for members that have been disconnected for non-payment).
Can I pay my bill on line?
Yes, Delaware County Electric Cooperative offers enhanced online service that allows members to pay bills online using your Checking or Savings bank account and MasterCard or Visa credit card.
When will the Cooperative be paying my capital credits?
Each January the Cooperative completes year-end financial statements and determines “net margin” for the prior year. Funds are then allocated to all member-owners on the basis of their electrical usage for that calendar year, and are called capital credits. These capital credits are paid at such times when the Cooperative’s Board of Directors deem prudent to ensure the financial viability of the cooperative.