- Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative is adding a a storm recovery charge to member bills to help with Hurricane Idalia Recovery.
- Some neighbors in the SVEC service area say they disagree with the charge which is $0.0092/kWh or $9.20 per 1,000 kWh.
- Watch the video to see the response from SVEC's CEO.
Some Suwannee Valley Neighbors are preparing to pay more for their electric bills.
"None of us understand it."
I'm Kendall Brandt in the Live Oak neighborhood where Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative says they're adding a hurricane recovery charge to bills. Five months after Hurricane Idalia, I'm taking neighbors’ questions about that to the CEO.
Courtney Reed says her neighbors are still recovering five months after Hurricane Idalia.
"People lost their jobs and stuff because of the storm. The mill shut down in Perry."
Starting Thursday, February 1, some will have an extra expense.
"Now, you're having them pay more for their electric bill?" Reed says many of the 27,000 people relying on Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative cannot afford the new Idalia Recovery Charge added to their account.
The change was announced Monday on social media.
SVEC says the charge is less than one penny per kilowatt hour of electricity use. A member using 1,000 kilowatt hours will have a recovery charge of $9.20. The surcharge will go into effect Thursday and members will see this in their next bill.
"To expect your members to pay that is ridiculous."
I took her and other neighbors' concerns to Mike McWaters, the CEO of SVEC.
"What would be your response to neighbors that may be confused about why they have to pay more?"
"Unfortunately, the only way we can pay that money that we borrowed is to go to our members, the people that own our organization and ask them to contribute to that number."
He says the storm created $55 million in damage to electric infrastructure across the area. It’s something he says is nearly 18 times more than what was left from Hurricane Irma in 2017.
"We think our plan worked well, but unfortunately it came at a cost."
Considering the magnitude, some neighbors said on social media they don't mind the increase.
One neighbor wrote "I'm okay with this. You guys worked hard as a team to restore our power as quick as possible."
McWaters says the decision to add the charge was not easy.
"Our trustees agonized over this, what was the equitable way to do this but we know we have to do it in order to keep the company sound."
As recovery continues, Reed says she thinks they could find other ways to help to help, like cutting back on other projects.
"Things could be put on hold until you can cover this debt instead of forcing your customers to pay your debt."
McWaters tells me as soon as they pay off that storm recovery, members can expect to see that charge go away.