Are GRU rates lower than 4 years ago?
BY JENNIFER CABRERA / SEPTEMBER 20, 2019
During the Gainesville City Commission’s special budget meeting on September 12, Mayor Lauren Poe said “[the GRU bill is] lower than we were four years ago.” He also said the bill was a 2.3% increase from last year, which is technically true if you include all the other services that are included on the GRU bill, which dilutes the contribution of the 5.26% increase in the Electric Customer Charge and the 6.13% increases in the rates for Tier 1 and Tier 2 Electric Energy Use.
But is the bill lower than four years ago? It turns out that for a city resident who uses 750 kWh (calculated in August/September), the electric part of their GRU bill is 2 cents lower than it was in 2015. But considering the fact that GRU General Manager Ed Bielarski told the public in 2017 that they would see an 8-10% decrease in their electric rates, let’s look at the history of GRU rates since 2011, the first year they displayed the breakdown in charges on the bill.
Primarily because of a low fuel adjustment charge, the cheapest year in the table was 2013, when 750 kWh cost $87.81 ($19.15 less than the projected 2020 charge). The biomass plant began commercial operations in December 2013, and the total bill increased $18.04 by the fall of 2014. It then stayed near that level through 2017.
Bills did, in fact, drop in 2018 (following the purchase of the biomass plant), but our sample resident saw a decrease of 5.79%, not 8%. Everything stayed the same in 2019, and now the bill will be increasing in 2020. So not only did our resident never see the promised decrease, the bill is back up to where it was when the promise was made, about 50 cents less than the peak in 2015.
Bottom line: the projected 2020 bill for our sample resident, using 750 kWh, is 2 cents lower than that resident’s most expensive bill in 2015, and that bill was 21.83% higher than the bill from 2013, before the biomass plant started operating.
The city commission’s final meeting on the FY20 budget (including increases in GRU rates, property taxes, and the Fire Assessment Fee) will be at 6:00 pm on September 26.