Holy Cross issues refund checks
EAGLE COUNTY — If you have lived in the valley long enough, and by that we mean at least 15 years, then Holy Cross Energy comes through with a little cheer each December in the form of a member equity check.
If you haven’t resided locally for that long, not to worry. If you are currently paying for electric service from the company, then Holy Cross will try to catch up with you around 2031 to ship off a refund check from this year.
Last week, Holy Cross mailed out member equity refund checks totaling more than $4 million to 33,140 customers who purchased electricity from the company in 2000 and 2001. The refund program is in operation because Holy Cross Energy is an electric cooperative and as such, it must operate at cost. That means the company pays its expenses and then returns its profits to the members who purchase its services. It just takes some time for the process to happen.
According to Steve Casey, member services manager for Holy Cross Energy, the company used to do a single refund in December, but since 1999, the Holy Cross Energy Board of Directors has authorized refunds twice a year. The first happens in the spring and represents the “net present value” of the prior year’s equity. This process was launched to get refunds to members in a more timely manner. The remaining allocation of the equity refund is subject to the roughly 15-year delay.
For an example of how the process works, one Eagle household paid $992.51 for electric service in 2015 and received a net present value refund check of $21.69 in May of 2016. The remaining allocation of $35.10 from 2015 should arrive around 2030.
An exception to the equity refund process is when the amount totals less than $10. In those cases, the money is applied to active member accounts.
“One of the things our board of directors is most focused on doing is refunding the member-equity capital,” Casey said. “They started the May refund because they wanted to give money back to members more quickly.”
The company has a strong refund history, Casey added. Since 1963, Holy Cross Energy has returned nearly $142.5 million to its members.
Fraught with challenges
While Holy Cross wants to return members’ equity cash, it’s not a simple task.
“The December allocation can be challenging. In 15 years, of course, many people have moved,” Casey said. “If a member doesn’t provide an updated address, it is very hard to stay in contact.”
Checks are sent to the last known address for customers, but in today’s fluid society, customers have often moved several times since they last informed the company about their present address.
Holy Cross estimates 3 to 4 percent of the member equity refund checks are returned to the company. That money is retained in a member equity fund and if the customer contacts the company and has an outstanding refund balance, then he or she can receive the refund. According to Wayne Alderson of Holy Cross, while the company’s board could choose to re-examine the practice at some point in the future, currently the company policy is to hold the equity refund dollars indefinitely for customers to claim.