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— How often do you receive news that in the coming year, you’ll actually be paying less for a service?

Most of us, when anticipating a new year, sigh and resign ourselves to the cost going up for about everything we need to exist.

So, the news from Ouachita Electric Cooperative is certainly not only welcome, but the sort that we don’t usually expect.

As reported recently in the Camden News, Ouachita Electric Cooperative is preparing to ask state regulators to lower rates for its 7,000 members in five south Arkansas counties. The decrease is made possible by advances in solar power and other efficiencies the utility has created.

The request, which should be filed by Nov. 1, will ask the Public Service Commission to approve a 4.56-percent rate drop, according to Mark Cayce, OEC general manager.

“This is an across-the-board decrease for all customers,” Cayce said, noting that the average residential customer will receive a 4.15-percent rate cut. Individual rate cuts are based on usage.

Ouachita’s board of directors recently approved the decrease and the utility is preparing a filing to present to the state commission for approval. The filing should be submitted by the end of the month, and regulators have 90 days to act on the filing, Cayce said.

Despite rates traditionally going up every year, according to Cayce, Ouachita Electric saw the opportunity to reduce the usual hike. “We think it’s the right thing to do for customers,” he said.

Ouachita Electric worked with Aerojet Rocketdyne Inc. to put in place a 12-megawatt solar operation in 2017 to power its operations, a move that has helped the utility reduce the amount of power it buys during peak demand. That has led to lower costs being passed along to customers.

The electric cooperative’s efforts with Aerojet Rocketdyne have garnered notice nationally. “This is a good example of how embracing clean energy and reducing carbon can benefit both customers and the planet,” said Julia Hamm, president and chief executive officer of the Smart Electric Power Alliance in Washington, D.C. The alliance named Ouachita Electric as its top electric cooperative utility of the year in 2017 for Ouachita’s work with Aerojet

Rocketdyne.

It is significant that our electric cooperation is led by visionaries who have brought recognition to the area and done something positive for the planet. And its customers are the winners, reaping the benefits through lower rates.

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