Chamber unveils energy consultant

Delmarva Power commercial customers who join the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce electric cooperative could save anywhere from 8 to 25 percent on their current energy bills, officials said Monday.

The Chamber announced on Monday that CQI associates, a Columbia, Md.-based energy consulting firm, will act as the aggregator for the co-op.

“This program will provide them budget stability in what is clearly a volatile energy market,” said Richard Anderson, a principal for the Maryland firm.

Anderson said that, unlike other cooperatives, which charge application fees based on the amount of accounts, prospective chamber co-op members will only have to pay a $250 entrance fee per location, regardless of the amount of meters.

CQI has been working with chambers of commerce on cooperatives since 2001. It currently serves as an aggregator to 19 chambers throughout the region.

All local businesses, outside of home-based ones, who are members of the Chamber will be allowed to join the co-op, which will have no limit on its membership.

“Encouraging smaller businesses to participate was important to us in choosing an aggregation partner,” said Chamber Executive Director Karen McGrath. “Many of the firms we spoke with simply wanted leads on our largest members and weren’t interested in including the businesses too small to buy on their own. CQI wants to include all our members.”

Anderson said that CQI will accept bids for 36-month locked supply contracts for the co-op. Once that term is over, the Chamber can initiate another group, depending on the success of the first.

Anderson said that small businesses – based on rate class – will likely see an 8 to 10 percent savings, while medium-sized businesses could see a 12 to 16 percent savings. Large businesses could see savings in excess of 25 percent by joining the co-op, he said.

Any businesses that join the co-op, however, will receive one bill from Delmarva Power, who will be delivering the energy. Customers who join should still contact that company if there is a problem with the service.

McGrath said that, in the best-case scenario, co-op members will be able to switch supply companies in July.

CQI and the Chamber will hold an informational meeting about the co-op at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23, at the Holiday Inn Express in Bethany Beach. All businesses are encouraged to attend the meeting and possibly sign up for the co-op that day.

“Everybody is concerned about the increase in power rates,” said Tom Neville, the president of the board and a co-owner of the Cottage Café in Bethany Beach, last week. “This looks like something that is going to help. Electric prices are still going to go up, but hopefully not as much.”

To join the Chamber and become eligible for membership in the co-op, call its office at 539-2100. Prospective Chamber members will have to complete an application and pay an annual charge. For an average business of one to six employees, that charge is $195.

The Chamber’s board voted unanimously on May 3 to form a co-op for its members because of high energy costs.

On May 1, because of high supply contracts based on rising fossil fuel prices, Delmarva Power commercial customers’ electric rates increased anywhere from 47 to 117 percent.

The Chamber started looking into the cooperative alternative in February when the company first announced the hikes in prices. Government and residential cooperative efforts have also stemmed from the rising prices.