Commentary: If rates must rise, MID should help those most in need

This editorial appeared in the Modesto Bee on Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2008.

It's hard to get a handle on some of the amounts being tossed around in Washington, D.C., and New York - those figures in the millions, billions and even trillions.

Here's a number that's much closer to home - $16. That's how much the average monthly residential electricity bill will go up if the Modesto Irrigation District follows through on the developing consensus from staff to raise rates 15 to 20 percent next year.

MID directors will have a workshop Friday and a public hearing Nov. 4 - yes, Election Day - to discuss electricity rates. While residents usually pay little attention to MID business, we anticipate they'll have something to say on this pocketbook issue.

No doubt, the MID needs to raise rates. Less rain and snow generated less hydropower, meaning the MID must generate roughly 60 percent of its electricity by burning natural gas. The cost for that gas has risen over the past year. Foreclosures and conservation have reduced consumption, but also cut revenues. Further, the MID must continue to make major investments in transmission lines, windmills, power plants and other expensive equipment in order to assure that customers get the power they need and to meet increasing mandates to reduce greenhouse emissions and to provide more renewable energy to customers.

The five elected MID directors will need to weigh these demands against the economic reality for its 91,500 customers.

To reader the complete editorial, visit The Modesto bee.