TRAER — Pat Stief told the 1,100 customers of his municipal utility investing in a wind turbine southeast of town would pay off.
Turns out, he wasn’t full of hot air.
The wind turbine Traer Municipal Utilities bought in 2012 will be paid off at the end of this year, said Stief, general manager at TMU. That will translate to price drops for everyone in January — and, for residential customers, that will mean lowering their bill by 10 to 12 percent.
“It’s a big jump,” Stief said.
It’s also the result Stief was hoping to secure for his customers, who had experienced quite the opposite result on their bills in years’ past.
Back in 2005, when wholesale energy markets were deregulated, Stief’s utility joined up with a consortium, Midcontinent Independent System Operator, to transmit TMU’s energy. In 2008, MISO also took over pricing as well as wholesale energy, making the prices of energy “volatile,” Stief said, and leading TMU to raise their prices.
“That upset a lot of people in town,” he said. “We lived through that, but we decided there had to be a way to get control and predict stability in pricing.”
In 2011, TMU partnered with a company from Story City to build the city’s turbine, which was the first one built in Tama County and provides around 40 percent of the utility’s energy usage. December will mark the last payment in their agreement, and all customers will notice an immediate change the following month.
Stief said residential customers will see the most relief, between 10 and 12 percent, off of the previous month’s bill.
“It’s going to be a huge benefit to the customer,” he said.
TMU wants to keep diversifying their energy sources: They’re asking voters to municipalize the natural gas supply in the upcoming election Nov. 7, and will hold a public meeting about that issue at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the library.
Right now, Traer residents get their gas supply from Alliant Energy.
“We fully anticipate that rates will be lower, but we cannot promise that,” Stief said of municipalizing the gas supply.
However, “it’s one more entity that we would have control of, and we would be able to use our existing workforce to operate this system. So that will help at least stabilize rates.”