Power Struggles - Rural Electric Co-op's

Nacogdoches County resident, Aubry Stone is caught in the middle....in the middle of two power providers. Aubry lives on the boundary where TXU service ends and Deep East Texas Electric Co-op service begins.   Aubry points to across the road where he lives.    " This is my home. I'm on TXU. You can see the metering point over there where the switch over is made for TXU to Deep East Texas."

That means his neighbor across the street, to his cousin down the road, pay just over 8 cents per kilowatt hour. For the same hour, Stone pays around 13 and half cents. Following a power struggle over sky rocketing electricity costs Stone placed a phone call to Deep East Texas Electric Co-op.

From its headquarters in San Augustine the regional co-op serves eight counties and provides over 38,000 thousand meters. The co-op rates are cheaper because the co-op is not in it for the money. General manager, Larry Warren explained,  " A co-op is a group. We refer to them as members. They've gone together to build an organization that is not in the business of making a profit."

And any money it does make is given back to customers. Since President Roosevelt got co-ops going, deep east Texas has returned more than $8-million in capital credits. There's one exception. The year of Hurricane Rita.

But just like the for profit companies, finding power sources can be a struggle. The high price of natural gas has forced co-ops to seek diversified power sources, like water and coal, to feed more than 7,000 miles of line.    At the Sam Rayburn Reservoir Dam more than 118 million kilowatts are produced and some of that hydropower is taken through lines to co-op member's homes."

Edd Harvey searches out the energy sources. " The companies are building new plants. We're investing in those and those costs are much, much higher than they were 25 years ago when the last power plants were built. Everybody's bill is going to go up some, but we hope to hold it down as much as we can."

This pleases Aubry Stone who learned he lives in a dual certified area. That means he can switch from an investment owned utility to a non profit utility. Aubry said, " I have friends that work for TXU and I'm a stockowner in TXU, but it's purely economics. If I can get a cheaper rate. I'll take the cheaper rate."

The co-op will welcome its newest member, but with growth comes additional expenditures. How long those cheaper rates stay around is a question that even the provider has difficulty answering.

If you live near the service boundary of a rural electric co-op you may be eligible to choose your provider. Some co-ops do sell memberships across the state. Deep East Texas Electric co-op does not.