As a not-for-profit electric provider, Mountain Parks Electric (MPE) has very thin margins, in some years as little as one percent. MPE budgets this way intentionally, attempting to sell its product – electricity – as close to “at cost” as possible. It’s a budgeting practice common to electric cooperatives. All of MPE’s profits are either returned to its member-consumers or reinvested in its electric infrastructure to maintain a safe and reliable grid.
Normally, in the spring, MPE returns profits (capital credits) to its member-consumers. But this year, due to the impacts of COVID-19, has been anything but normal. Since March, MPE’s late payments/non-payments have increased drastically, putting a strain on its cash flow. In response, MPE made the decision to delay payment of capital credits to cover its operating expenses.
“Our current financial position is strong,” said MPE General Manager Mark Johnston, even with a reduction in electric sales and the increase in late and non-payments. “Even so, our primary goal is to ensure safe and reliable electric service.”
Johnston continued, “We understand the challenges that people are facing. In addition to keeping the lights on, Mountain Parks Electric has made generous contributions from previously unclaimed capital credits – not from the rate base – to assist those in need.”
These contributions are being administered by Mountain Family Center in Granby and to the Grand Foundation. The funds are helping distressed residents and businesses in Grand and Jackson Counties with electric bill payment assistance. MPE is also arranging payment plans for member-consumers affected by COVID-19 that need assistance.
Additionally, MPE has reduced its operating and capital costs to offset declining sales.
“Our goal is to return capital credits as soon as we are able,” said Johnston.