Regulators approve DEMCO bill plan

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The 100,000 or so customers of Dixie Electric Membership Corp. can expect monthly electric bills increase more than 4 percent starting April 1 for a year.

But then they will start receiving refunds for a year.

The Advocate reports the unusual proposal approved by the state Public Service Commission is aimed at moderating an expected jump customers will see in their monthly bills beginning in April 2014.

John Vranic, chief operating officer for the power company better known as DEMCO, said the move is designed to minimize overall impact on customers. "Instead of having a steep step, we will transition the customer into it," he said.

Vranic said DEMCO is nearing the end of a decade-long contract that locked in the price of power and kept bills low. None of the power suppliers vying for a new contract would duplicate those terms, he said.

"All good rides have got to end," Vranic said.

Usually, the PSC would wait until the new contract begins before allowing an increase in electricity rates.

Commissioner Jimmy Field of Baton Rouge made the proposal to allow collect a surcharge before the new contract goes into effect.

"It's not a great idea," Field said. "It's really not. But they felt like it would help. I told them as long as the customer is made whole, then I felt like we could let them do that, truthfully, because they are a very well-run co-op."

Headquartered in Greenwell Springs, DEMCO said it has more than 100,300 customers in Ascension, East Baton Rouge, Livingston, St. Helena, Tangipahoa, East Feliciana and West Feliciana parishes.

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