Stephenson warns of higher utility rates to come

February 23, 2021 | Featured|Headlines

PONCA CITY — During Monday’s city commission meeting, City manager Craig Stephenson warned of higher electric bills to come thanks in part to the winter blast that blew through the region last week.

“As we recover from the events of the past week, we are thankful that Oklahomans didn’t have to suffer the hardships as our friends in Texas,” said Stephenson.

Stephenson said the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) has been in place since 1941 and has never experienced an energy emergency alert No. 3, which requires mandatory curtailments. “We had a handful of OMPA cities that did get cut off. Fortunately, Ponca City was not one of those and we are very blessed,” said Stephenson.

Stephenson told commissioners that the cost of natural gas reached levels never thought of between Feb. 12-18 because of increased demand.

He said power providers had to pay millions of dollars more in fuel cost and that a historic winter peak load was set across the SPP. “It will take several weeks before the true cost of this event is known,” said Stephenson. “Consumers should begin preparing for increases in electric charges to recover these ordinary expenses.” Stephenson said OMPA hopes to spread the cost over a longer period of time.

“I know that in the conversations with OMPA, we are looking for a multi-year hopefully payback for the residents,” he said. “This is electric not ONG. We do not know what ONG will do to those who use gas to heat their home.” Stephenson said he believes OMPA paid four times more than they pay in the course of a year and that the cost could spread out over 3-5 years.

Stephenson switched gears and told commissioners that city crews are about 90 percent complete with ice storm debris clean up and that 23,300 cubic yards of debris have been collected.He also announced that the Ponca City Senior Citizen Center will be open five days a week and serving lunch everyday beginning March 15.