Manager’s Message

Electricity Remains a Good Value

In today’s world, you won’t find many items that cost less than $5. You can buy a gallon of milk, a gallon of gas or a Big Mac meal from McDonald’s. But did you know that an average day’s worth of electricity costs less than $5?

Even in our country’s shifting energy climate, electricity remains a good value. In fact, electricity has the lowest cost per day of any of the items listed above. And not all of those items are necessary for daily life!

As general manager of Wasco Electric Cooperative, I urge you to think about your daily necessities: electricity and gasoline, to name two. Then think about the cost of the special treats we allow ourselves to buy on a weekly basis—maybe even on a daily basis for some items.

We don’t often question the cost of a Big Mac meal, but it costs more than $1 more to buy a Big Mac meal than it does to buy a day’s worth of power. And yet we frequently become upset if our electricity rates rise.

It makes sense. We are increasingly reliant upon electricity. Electricity has, for many of us, gone from a luxury commodity to a necessity and an expectation. We expect the lights to come on when we flip the switch, and we expect our power to stay on during the best and worst conditions. How else would we keep our food fresh, our homes cool in the summer or warm in the winter?

It is easy to cut a Big Mac out of your spending routine here and there to save a few dollars. But we cannot simply cut electricity out of our budgets if times get tough or we decide we want to scale back our spending to save.

Perhaps that is why it is so upsetting
to us when our rates increase, even if only in small increments. It is nearly impossible for us to think about what our lives would be like if we did not have electricity.

If at times it doesn’t seem that electricity is affordable, remember: Even as the demand for electricity grows, annual cost increases still remain low, especially when compared to other consumer goods such as medical care, education, gasoline and, yes, even Big Macs.

Electricity is still a great bargain. As the general manager of Wasco Electric Cooperative, I am committed to making sure you and your family always have safe, reliable and affordable electric service in your home.

So the next time you crave a Big Mac, remember your electric bill, and think about what a great deal you’re getting for your dollar.

 

Jeff Davis, General Manager

Cooperative Awards Community Grants & Youth Programs

Each year, the cooperative supports the development of projects throughout its service area with its economic/community development grant program.

This year, the cooperative’s grant committee awarded a $2,500 grant to the Juniper Flat Rural Fire Protection District for a lighting project at each of the district’s three fire stations.

Youth Programs

This summer, the cooperative sponsors area students as they attend utility-related youth tours.

In June, Michael Stephens, a recent graduate of The Dalles-Wahtonka High School, attended the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Washington, D.C., Youth Tour. Michael, along with more than 1,600 cooperative-sponsored students representing 43 states, converged on the nation’s capital for a week of touring landmarks, meeting with state representatives and honing leadership skills.

This month, Rose Stephens from The Dalles-Wahtonka High School—along with Michael, who is returning as a camp counselor—will attend the Idaho Youth Rally in Caldwell, Idaho.

This camp attracts student from several Western states for a week of motivational speakers and education on the utility industry and the cooperative way of doing business.

These tours are a great investment in not only today’s youth, but in tomorrow’s leaders. Congratulations to Michael and Rose.

As always, if you have questions or concerns regarding your cooperative, please feel free to stop by or give us a call.

Summer Safety

With the arrival of summer comes an increase in outdoor activities. Whether you are out and about for work or pleasure, please be aware of where overhead power lines are located in relation to your activities.

If you come across a downed power line, stay away from it, protect the area and call the power company immediately.

In addition to increased outdoor activities, summer also brings fire season. In the event of a fire that may potentially threaten the cooperative’s distribution or transmission lines, please call the office immediately.

To prevent yourself or a loved one from becoming a victim of an electrical accident, follow these other electrical safety tips:

  • Before digging into the ground, be sure to call 811. They will mark underground utilities to make sure you don’t come in contact with power lines, gas lines or any other utilities. One wrong move can result in death or injury from electric shock or an explosion.
  • Don’t plant tall-growing trees under lines. If a tree has lines running through it, don’t climb it or build anything in it.
  • Stay away from downed power lines. If someone comes in contact with a live outdoor power line, call Wasco Electric immediately so the power can be turned off.
  • Never fly kites, model airplanes or metallic balloons near power lines or in stormy weather. Avoid using metal or wire on kites. If your kite or balloon gets snagged on overhead lines, don’t try to untangle it. Call us at (541) 296-2740 immediately.

Have a safe and enjoyable summer!

High School Graduates

The board of directors and the employees of Wasco Electric Cooperative offer our congratulations to the 2014 graduates from area high schools.

One of the ways the co-op supports local young people is through its contribution to the high school’s graduating class drug- and alcohol-free graduation parties.

The high schools we support in this manner are The Dalles-Wahtonka, Dufur, Sherman County, South Wasco County and Madras.

Again, congratulations and good luck in your future, wherever it may take you.

As always, if you have any questions about your cooperative, please feel free to call or stop by the office.

Jeff Davis, General Manager

Factors of your Electric Bill

The cost of the power you use is the biggest factor in your monthly bill from Wasco Electric Cooperative. We purchase all of our energy needs from the Bonneville Power Administration. We, along with the other public power utilities in the region,  track BPA’s financial obligations and expenditures carefully—and push back frequently—because all of BPA’s revenue comes from ratepayers like you, our members.

Among the major factors that affect what we all pay for electricity are BPA’s conservation and fish and wildlife programs. BPA acts in accordance with federal and state laws, such as the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Northwest Power Act and legal proceedings related to salmon protection in the Columbia Basin. Understandably, BPA works to mitigate the impact of the federal hydropower system on fish and wildlife by funding projects in the Columbia Basin focused on fish and wildlife, habitat restoration, hatcheries, land acquisition, predator control, research and evaluation. These efforts have made a difference. More fish are returning to the Columbia River now than at any time since Bonneville Dam came online in 1938.

One of the driving factors of BPA’s fish and wildlife spending is the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. Established by the Northwest Power Act, the council is comprised of two representatives from each Northwest state: Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. The council directs BPA on spending for protection, mitigation and enhancement of the fish and wildlife affected by operation of the federal dams in the Columbia Basin. Every five years the council must amend its fish and wildlife plan.

Currently, the council is considering amendments to this plan. The state of Oregon and the Nez Perce Tribe have proposed a new amendment to the plan to test whether spilling more water over the dams—and, consequently, not generating electricity with it—at certain times of the year for 10 years will help salmon.

Wasco Electric strongly opposes this proposal. Not only will it endanger fish due to increased dissolved gas levels in the water, but to replace this power BPA will have to purchase power on the open market. This proposal could cost all ratepayers about $110 million per year. That’s more than $1 billion during the course of the experiment. BPA estimates that, if enacted, this experiment will cause an almost 8 percent wholesale power rate increase. This 8 percent increase would be in addition to nearly $700 million BPA currently spends annually on fish and wildlife.

We and our contemporaries are working to educate the council about the state of Oregon/Nez Perce spill test proposal. The council already has received a negative scientific review of the spill proposal from its independent science advisory board. The council will hold public hearings later this spring. WEC and other utility representatives will be active participants in this process.

I will keep you up to date on this issue and other factors affecting your electric bill, and what we are doing to keep it as low as possible.

 

Jeff Davis, General Manager

Telling our Hydro and Rivers Story

You may have noticed recent TV advertisements that celebrate CleanHydro, an informational campaign that is raising awareness of the tremendous value of the Columbia and Snake river system. I am proud that Wasco Electric Cooperative is a part of this effort—now in its second year—because the Northwest’s hydropower dams and rivers benefit all of us and our members in many ways.

We joined this campaign because hydropower isn’t capturing the same kind of attention in the eyes of the public as it once did. There are several reasons for this; chief among them is that many people have moved to the Northwest from other parts of the country where hydropower wasn’t a daily part of their lives. Many of our young people haven’t grown up with the dams as we have and so may not understand their value. And, dramatic changes in the energy industry and government-led efforts to encourage other types of renewable energy—such as wind—have dominated news media headlines.

That is why we need to continue to tell the incredible story of our dams, hydropower and the Columbia and Snake rivers through CleanHydro. Last year, the campaign increased support for hydro across the board by demonstrating its value to the Northwest’s environment and economy. But our work is not done, which is why it is so important to Wasco Electric to be a part of this public education effort again this year. It will take a sustained effort to regain lost ground and keep the value of hydro firmly planted in the public’s mind and in conversations and debates about our energy future.

I hope you also will take a moment to visit,  www.cleanhydro.com so you can view the TV and print advertisements. While the advertisements promote the key ways hydropower and the rivers affect our lives, the website tells more about these amazing resources in greater detail. Please share it with your friends and families so they, too, can feel the same sense of pride about what we have right here in our own Northwest backyard.

Join us and help spread the word about this tremendous asset to our Northwest way of life.

Jeff Davis, General Manager

Capital Credit Change

At the January board meeting, the Wasco Electric Board of Directors decided to change—consistent with the current bylaws—how the cooperative retires the accrued capital credits of deceased members.

The current practice of retiring, upon request by a legal heir, 100 percent of a deceased members capital credit balance in an accelerated, one-time payment—rather than waiting for the normal retirement cycle—will be replaced with a discounted one-time payment.

Beginning in March, when the legal heir of a deceased member requests the payment of all annually accrued capital credits, those capital credits will be discounted using the net present value of money calculation in exchange for the early retirement. The discount rate used in the NPV calculation will be the cooperative’s actual five-year average weighted cost of capital, currently 7.25 percent.

If the heir chooses to receive the full value of the accrued margins, he or she is required to wait until the normal annual capital credit retirement cycle clears the balance of the deceased member’s account, currently about 28 years.

This change adopted by the board of directors comes from the recommendation of the cooperative’s Capital Credits Committee members, who spent the past year examining the financial impact of accelerated retirements—the co-op paid out more than $112,000 in 2013—as well as the business model of other cooperatives’ estate retirement processes. The committee found most electric cooperatives across the country use some means of discounting estate payments in exchange for the early, one-time payout of accrued margins.

If you have any questions regarding this change in policy, please feel free to contact me at our office at 541-296-2740.

Jeff Davis, General Manager

Rate Increase Effective

In July, Bonneville Power Administration announced a regionwide rate increase to both its power and transmission services. This increase resulted in an increase to Wasco Electric of 9.2 percent for power and 9.3 percent for transmission services.

The increase in wholesale rates stems from higher costs to operate and maintain the aging hydro system, higher long-term fish and wildlife costs, upgrades to an aging transmission system and reduced revenues from surplus power sales due to lower market prices for energy.

Following much deliberation and review with staff of the financial forecast and revenue requirements of the co-op during the past few months, the board of directors, at the regular September board meeting, approved an 8 percent overall rate increase to all rate schedules of the cooperative, effective with the November 2013 billing.

The rate increase is intended to cover the increased costs from BPA to its wholesale power and transmission rates, cover the cost of debt service to the loans for the system rebuilding during the past several years, maintain reasonable cash reserves, retire accrued margins, and pay for increased costs of goods and services to the co-op.

We understand the hardships and frustrations many of our members face, but we must make responsible financial decisions for the overall well-being of the cooperative and continued reliability of the electric system for today and into the future.

Increasing costs make energy efficiency more important than ever. We will continue to encourage our members to take advantage of our energy-saving incentive programs. The smarter we are about our energy use now, the less power we will need in the future.

Rate Increase Effective November 2013

In late July Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) announced a region-wide rate increase to both its power and transmission services. This increase resulted in an increase to Wasco Electric of 9.2% for power and 9.3% for transmission services.

The increase in wholesale rates stem from higher costs to operate and maintain the aging hydro system, higher long-term fish and wildlife costs, upgrades to an aging transmission system and the reduced revenues from surplus power sales due to lower market prices for energy.

Following much deliberation and review with staff of the financial forecast and revenue requirements of the co-op over the past couple of months, the Board of Directors, at the regular September board meeting, approved an 8% overall rate increase to all rate schedules of the cooperative effective with the November 2013 billing.

The purpose of the rate increase is to: cover the increased costs from BPA to the wholesale power and transmission rates, cover the cost of debt service to the loans for the system rebuilding that has taken place over the past several years, maintain reasonable cash reserves, retire accrued margins, and pay for increased costs of goods and services to the co-op.

We understand the hardships and frustrations that many of our members face, but we must make responsible financial decisions for the overall well-being of the cooperative and continued reliability of the electric system for today and into the future.

Increasing costs make energy efficiency more important than ever and we will continue to encourage our members to take advantage of our energy saving incentive programs. The smarter we are about our energy use now, the less power we’ll need in the future.

November 1, 2013 Rates

Power Rate Increase

Last month, Bonneville Power Administration announced a regionwide average 9 percent increase in wholesale power rates and an 11 percent increase in transmission rates effective October 1, 2013

The increase in wholesale rates stems from higher costs to operate and maintain the aging hydro system, higher long-term fish and wildlife costs, upgrades to an aging transmission system and the reduced revenues from surplus power sales due to lower market prices for energy.

The Wasco Electric management and board are determining the additional revenue requirements needed to cover the increased cost of power, as well as the cost to continue maintaining its own infrastructure serving the membership.

Later this month, we will announce what the final rate impact will be to the membership and when the increase will take place, likely as early as October 1.
We recognize that a rate increase will be a challenge for many of our members. I assure you we are working diligently to keep the increase as low as possible, yet maintain the system reliability and financial health of your cooperative.

Increasing costs make energy efficiency more important than ever and we will continue to encourage our members to take advantage of our energy-saving incentive programs. The smarter we are about our energy use now, the less power we will need in the future.

2013 Annual Meeting

Although November is far off, preparations for Wasco Electric Cooperative’s 74th annual meeting are underway. The meeting is Saturday, November 16, at Civic Auditorium.

During the meeting, members will vote on three director positions that are expiring—one from each of the three districts.

At its August meeting, the board of directors will appoint the member committee that will nominate candidates to run for those positions. This committee will meet in early September.

If you are a member willing to serve on the board of directors, please let us know. We will give your name to the nominating committee members for consideration. See page 8 of this issue for more information.

Current directors up for election this year are Bob Durham, District 1, serving on the board since 1994; Gary Brown, District 2, serving on the board since
1998; and Jim McNamee, District 3, serving on the board since 2006 and as the current secretary.

August Events

August is a busy time for many end-of-summer events. Below is a list of several signature events happening this month. I hope you are able to take in some, if not all, of these great events.

August 2nd to 4th: 26th annual Shaniko Days
August 9th to 11th: Cruise the Gorge, The Dalles
August 10th to 11th: Dufur Threshing Bee
August 15th to 18th: Wasco County Fair and Rodeo, Tygh Valley
August 21st to 25th: Sherman County Fair and Rodeo, Moro

As always, if you have any questions about your cooperative, please feel free to call or stop by the office.

Questions? Call 800.341.8580