Manager’s Message

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message – August 2022

Ned Ratterman headshotAre All Electric Companies the Same?

At Wasco Electric Cooperative, we believe there are significant advantages to being served by an electric cooperative. While many members who have been on our system for years know how they benefit differently from investor-owned utilities, we are excited to educate transplants to our neighborhoods, young members and families as we help them appreciate how their electric provider is special.

In this vein—and as the motivation to better connect with all members— we recently held our first-ever Member Appreciation Picnic to help all members understand our business model and the inherent benefits we provide the members owners we serve.

Our gathering at Tygh Valley Fairgrounds was preceded by more than a half-inch of rain the night before, but we still received appreciative, positive responses from the many attendees who encouraged us to make this a recurring celebration. The wet conditions did not dampen the friendly demeanor the members brought that day.

At the event, we combined educational opportunities to learn more about our wholesale electricity provider—the Bonneville Power Administration—and how the amazing federal hydropower system we receive energy from is an engineering, economic and ecological marvel.

The picnic offered less cerebral activities, such as a bouncy house and a duck pond offering prizes based on which waterfowl participants chose. The live music and meal were big hits, helping create a social environment where we could bond, as well as inform you of our commitment to the communities we serve.

Service is our hallmark and what we truly believe makes us different.

WEC understands our members are future board directors, and some will be employees. We know how important it is to help you understand how we function so you can one day help lead the utility, if that interests you.

Working from a not-for-profit philosophy allows us to focus on how best to serve, not how best to make money.

As owners of the cooperative, you are proportionally allocated a part of the business each year based on your electric purchases, so you truly own the business. Why would we charge owners more than the bare minimum? We wouldn’t.

As a visual reflection of remaining current with societal norms, we hope you realize WEC embraces the benefits of social media. We are committed to posting news and providing updates on the cooperative, the industry and areas in which we operate.

Members can find this information on our social channels: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

We want to be the model utility you deserve. If we are operating to your high standards, we appreciate hearing from you about how we are meeting your expectations. Conversely, if we can improve and you have suggestions, we appreciate your input.

In both scenarios, we value talking with you about anything you are inclined to discuss—whether it’s a billing question or how we can be more active in your civic functions. We want to be the best we can be, to help you in all possible ways.

Best,

General Manager
Ned Ratterman

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message – July 2022

Protecting Yourself & Your Neighborhood

Ned Ratterman headshotWildfires are among the worst natural and human-made disasters facing our nation. They are beginning sooner and lasting longer each year.

The term wildland urban interface is being used more often these days. This phrase and associated thought process was born primarily in the firefighting community to bring attention to the need for a buffer zone between your property and adjacent lands.

When wildfires occur, one method used to contain the spread of fires is to bulldoze a fire line, which creates a physical barrier in hopes the flames will not continue beyond that perimeter of bare dirt. According to the firefighting community, you should incorporate the concept of a fire line at home.

Wasco Electric Cooperative encourages you to create a protective zone around your buildings. The most important considerations when thinking about how to make your property and neighborhood safe during wildfire season include the following:

  • Ensure firefighter and public safety by maintaining proper ingress/egress routes to your home and community
  • Keep fuels at least 30 feet away from structures on level ground and greater distances if there are slopes – Fuels include dry grass, firewood, trees, shrubs and any combustibles.
  • Clean gutters – Remove debris from rooftops, foundations or decks
  • Encourage healthy vegetation management by tree-trimming contractors, removing dangerous trees, and supporting liberal trimming along utility rights-of-way

We all have enjoyed the recent moisture as a reprieve from expected drought conditions. We need to maintain proper trimming and make sure excess plant growth does not endanger our properties.

Membership Appreciation Picnic

Members learn about the value of hydropower at the member appreciation picnic in June. Photo by Traci Brock

We want to thank our board of directors and all members who attended our first-ever membership appreciation picnic in Tygh Valley on June 11.

Although the weather continued to provide an abundance of precipitation and our picnic was a bit wet, the crowd was enthusiastic. Members reported having a great time. The picnic was the result of many dedicated employees putting their best feet—flippers—forward.

Sincerely,

Ned Ratterman
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message – June 2022

Ned Ratterman headshotThe last time prices for a basket of goods and services—the consumer price index—rose over a 12-month period at the same pace as it has been lately, many of you reading this message were either not yet born or had significantly fewer body aches.

Several decades have passed since we last saw expenses soar so abruptly. According to economists, some of the most glaring differences between the 1980s and today are associated with current supply chain shortages. Even if someone wants to pay an arm and a leg for something today, you may be forced to wait a long time before receiving your purchase.

Wasco Electric Cooperative (WEC) is not immune to skyrocketing prices. One of the latest CPI reports indicated market prices have increased more than 8% within the past year for a broad spectrum of expenses.

As you know, we buy wholesale power, transmission services, poles, wires and other necessities to maintain the electric system. Those costs are increasing at an unsustainable pace. The most alarming expansion in costs WEC has seen recently is not attributed to fuel for our fleet—as you can all relate to—but for transformers. And yes, fuel is expensive for us, too.

One of the most unique purchases we annually incur is for transformers. They are a specialty item dependent on raw materials, such as metals for manufacture. There is no alternative piece of equipment we can substitute.

WEC’s suppliers have increased prices approximately 400% in little more than a year, while extending lead times for delivery of new units from the usual six to 12 weeks to 50 to 100 weeks, given the most recent estimates.

In other words, we now pay four times more and wait five times longer for the same transformer today as we did about a year ago. That shift cannot be anticipated quickly because it is a monumental shift from predictable, historical averages from which we estimate our annual budgets.

We continually work to control costs. However, many expenses fall outside our ability to mitigate and leave us in a financial shortfall if our revenues do not keep pace. Meanwhile, our system has aged and requires substantial upgrades and replacements.

Therefore, due to what has been described above, and many additional contributing factors, we must raise our rates to finance ongoing needs.

Beginning in June, WEC will increase rates 8.25%. A rate breakdown based on rate class is on page 8.

Thank you for understanding this necessary decision.

Sincerely,

Ned Ratterman
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message – May 2022

Vegetation Management Considerations

I know people who planted trees in memory of loved ones who died. Some plant trees and landscape after the birth of a family member or to honor cherished former pets.

In nearly all cases when someone dedicates time, money, and energy to plant a tree, an emotional investment accompanies that effort and binds the planter with the plant.

These attachments are good for the soul and the environment.

I am thankful for the trees on our property and look back with pride on the many my family has planted, including more than 300 in a series of windows.

With all the inherent good we receive from having trees in our lives, they also pose significant challenges beyond pruning, and combating pine beetles, blight, and fallen twigs on the lawn.

Wasco Electric Cooperative has a relationship with trees and vegetation that we can never escape.

One of the most consistent causes of power outages across the nation is trees. They create difficult situations. On one hand, we recognize and respect the connection most landowners have with their trees. On the other hand, we must relentlessly trim and remove trees that will create outages if left unattended.

This challenge can be overwhelming, especially during and after major storms such as those we had in December, January, and last month.

One reality we face is that healthy trees outside of a right-of-way can have limbs or treetops that break and travel hundreds of feet in high winds and cause electrical failures.

How in the world can we prevent every one of these from affecting our membership? We cannot.

No matter how devoted to vegetation management we are, we can’t prevent every tree/power line contact. Strong trees growing outside rights-of-way can be blown over into power lines and break under the weight of snow loads. Unless all trees are removed for hundreds of feet from either side of power lines, utilities will have trees contacting power lines. It is impossible to avoid all contacts.

Conversations about how the broad swaths of treeless hillsides look surrounding transmission lines in our otherwise forested areas frequently include people describing the sight as an ugly bald spot. I don’t like them either, but I propose that hundreds—or, in many cases recently across the United States, thousands—of charred acres are a much more alarming sight.

Our goals in vegetation management include maintaining safe electric service and preventing ignition sources for fires. This is a difficult task.

WEC asks that you help by working with our crews to allow for the most thorough and beneficial trimming and removal of potentially problematic trees to minimize interruptions and ignition potentials. When planting sentimental leafy additions to your private ecosystem, please locate them at least 50 feet from power lines.

We hope you understand our ongoing efforts at vegetation management. We strive to balance the many complex considerations involved.

Thank you,

General Manager Ned Ratterman

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message – April 2022

Member Appreciation Picnic

Ned Ratterman headshotWe have been busy planning for our first-ever Member Appreciation Picnic. This is an opportunity for Wasco Electric Cooperative staff to connect with members after having to cancel the last two annual meetings.

Join us Saturday, June 11, at Tygh Valley Fairgrounds from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch, cooperative programs, safety presentations, games and much more. Watch Ruralite and our social media channels for more details.

Spring Safety

As spring approaches, many of us are itching to get outdoors and start working or playing. As outdoor activities start, I want to remind everyone to be aware of where overhead power lines are in relation to your activities.

Tree trimming, irrigation pipes and ladders are of particular concern. If a line appears too close to the area you are working, call us for assistance to evaluate the situation before you start.

If you are planning any kind of excavation project, Oregon law requires you to contact the Oregon Utility Notification Center at 811 two business days before you dig. The notification center will notify us, and we will locate and mark any Wasco Electric-owned underground wires in the area to be excavated.

Capital Credits

Capital credits are unique to cooperatives. Private power companies make profits and pay dividends to stockholders. Cooperatives, on the other hand, work on a not-for-profit basis and allocate leftover operating income back to their members.

Capital credits represent your share of the cooperative’s operating income, or operating revenue remaining after operating expenses. The amount designated in your name each year depends on your energy purchases for the year. To calculate this, we divide your annual energy purchase by the cooperative’s remaining operating income for the year.

Recently, each member received a statement of their 2021 capital credit allocation. The allocation amount is based on yearend operating margins of $951,105 divided by the total patronage from 2021 sales of $11,727,958. This equates to 8.11% of each member’s 2021 billings allocated back to the member.

Most months, Wasco Electric receives more cash from operations than is necessary to pay for operating expenses. However, the cooperative needs cash for purposes other than paying for operating expenses. Wasco Electric must service its debt—payments of principal and interest on money the cooperative has borrowed. Wasco Electric also must use cash to pay for capital expenditures.

The distribution of capital credits and its effect on the financial well-being of the cooperative is an issue the WEC board considers each year. It is the policy of the cooperative and the discretion of the board to return capital credits as long as the cooperative is financially fit to return them without additional borrowing or raising rates to pay capital credits.

In 2021, Wasco Electric refunded $500,003 in general retirements of the 1991, 1992, and a portion of 1993 capital credits. Additionally, the cooperative retired $48,354 in special retirements to the estates of deceased members.

Ned Ratterman
General Manager

 

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — March 2022

Take Boy Scouts’ Rule to Heart

Ned Ratterman headshot“Be prepared” is not just something taught by the Boy Scouts as brand recognition. It’s a smart philosophy for all of us to live by. Fortunately, you are not alone when it comes to being well-positioned to know how to avert certain crises, when an active emergency exists in your area, and how to react when they happen.

Wasco Electric Cooperative (WEC) partners with many entities outside our cooperative, from individuals, businesses, and communities to all forms of governmental agencies. Some of the most important within our network are the emergency management offices within each county. It is reassuring to know we have experts in the field of emergency response to rely on in tense situations and can use these resources to create and execute plans beforehand to prevent or dramatically soften the results of a predicament. As with all considerations within our lives, communication is essential in successful interactions.

When WEC has an outage that may affect many members—or fewer members for extended periods—we strive to communicate this possibility with you in a reasonable timeframe. We all know social media is an incredibly effective way to spread the news, but we cannot communicate exclusively through Facebook or Twitter to relay important information.

You may think we can make phone calls to members when we foresee the need to contact you. This is possible in some cases, but not all. Due to limited phones and communication lines, we are severely limited to the number of calls we can generate at any given time. This is where the counties come to the rescue.

We have emergency management coordinators working for us and are at our service if we ask for their assistance. They can efficiently send mass notifications in cases of severe weather, unexpected road closures, when help is needed to find a missing person or to coordinate evacuations.

Recently, when discussing large-scale member notifications, Wasco County Emergency Management Coordinator Sheridan McClellan reminded us the county is best capable of executing this task. We can, and should, use existing systems to notify members about outage information.

This is made much easier if you sign up for citizen alerts within your county of residence. The process is simple, only taking a minute or two to complete.

First, go to your county’s website and find its emergency management department. Once there, you should be able to find a link to sign up for the free service. Some of the benefits of joining are the flexibility to select multiple addresses, which phone number to use, and whether you prefer emails or texts. In essence, you pick how and where you are notified.

Please consider partnering with WEC and the public servants in the county you call home to provide the most effective means of widespread notification for a range of benefits to you and your neighbors.

Be safe and healthy,

Ned Ratterman
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — February 2022

A Stitch in Time

Ned Ratterman headshotLike most well-run organizations, electric utilities create contingencies in anticipation of major disruptions. One example in which backup plans are necessary is when handling large outages that may include multiple days of members without power.

No one wants to have outages, but they inevitably occur, and we must respond in an effective manner. Fortunately, disruptions are rare and our amazing line crews can quickly restore power.

Wasco Electric Cooperative members benefit from a 99.97% service availability index, but when you are out of power that can be hard to appreciate.

As many of you know firsthand, we had massive, prolonged outages in mid-December and early January, mainly in Wasco County. Trees, wind, and ice buildup on the lines were the main culprits.

We built our system to endure heavy storms, but there is a point at which building power lines capable of withstanding all storms becomes prohibitively expensive.

Technically, you could build a system to withstand a hurricane or blizzard with 50 mph gusts, but that would cost many times more than typical infrastructure and is unrealistic based on the cost versus benefit. This necessitates our being ready for storm and outage restoration. Planning and preparation are key to successful responses.

When large-scale outages happen, we experience many challenges, including safety concerns for employees and the public; a need for additional manpower; travel difficulties; equipment, including dealing with breakdowns; finding problems in difficult terrain and navigating in the dark; access to damaged equipment; office support; and battling fatigue.

My greatest concern is for the lineworkers who often work lengthy shifts and eventually operate off adrenaline. As a team, we need to make sure they are clear-headed and capable of working safely. When they let us know they need rest, they aren’t exaggerating.

This is why we have mutual aid agreements with neighboring utilities to call for help when our employees cannot respond to all of our members’ needs in a timely manner.

In December, four crews from other organizations helped our lineworkers. This was a difference-maker. Without prior planning, it would have been much more difficult and undoubtedly delayed repairs.

WEC put out the call for help and quickly found support. The help did not change the reality of our line crews working extended hours for many days, but the result was much better than if we had tried to do this work alone. That option would not have been acceptable to you or us.

By nature of owning electric lines, we understand we must repair and replace lines continuously. Think of driving a 1940 model car with no plan to upgrade or make repairs. That would not be prudent or even possible at some point. Poles rot, lines break and transformers wear out.

Part of our ongoing preparedness is selectively working on areas most in need of replacement. That mindset will never change, nor will our staff’s dedication to complete work in a fiscally responsible manner.

Ned Ratterman
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — January 2022

General Retirement of Capital Credits

Ned Ratterman headshotLast month, Wasco Electric Cooperative (WEC) retired the remaining 1991 balance, all of 1992, and a portion of the 1993 capital margins to members and former members. The total capital credits returned to these members was $500,000.

The co-op also retired $38,312.02 to the estates of deceased members during the year, bringing the total capital credits returned to the members in 2021 to $538,312.02.

Capital credits are unique to cooperatives such as WEC. Private power companies make profits and pay dividends to stockholders. Cooperatives work on a not-for-profit basis and allocate their operating income back to their members.

Capital credits represent your share of the cooperative’s operating income—the operating revenue that remains after operating expenses. The amount designated in your name each year depends on your energy purchases for the year. To calculate this, we divide your annual energy purchase by the cooperative’s operating income for the year. The more electricity you buy, the larger your share of the capital credits.

Next month, each member who received service last year will be mailed a statement of their 2021 capital credit allocation. The members’ allocation amounts are based on the year-end operating margin.

Capital credits are not necessarily dollars in a bank account. Instead, they represent funds that have been invested in the co-op’s utility plant.

Most months, Wasco Electric receives more cash from operations than is necessary to pay for operating expenses. However, the cooperative needs cash for purposes other than paying for operating expenses. Wasco Electric must service its debt—payment of principal and interest on money it has borrowed.

The cooperative also must use cash to pay for capital expenditures. The amount of cash needed for capital expenditures is largely determined by the growth of a utility and the replacement schedule of its aging system.

Your board of directors considers distribution of capital credits and the effect on the financial well-being of the cooperative each year. The board has the discretion to return capital credits as long as the co-op is financially fit to return them without any additional borrowing to pay capital credits.

Board of Directors

Congratulations to our reelected board members: District #1, Bob Durham; District #2, Stacy Eakin; and District #3, Mike Collins.

Thank you to our members who attended our virtual meeting. Your attendance was much appreciated.

If you have questions about your cooperative, feel free to reach out to me at (541) 296-2740.

Ned Ratterman
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — December 2021

General Retirement of Capital Credits

Ned Ratterman headshotThis month, Wasco Electric will retire the remainder of the 1991 capital margins to members, along with the 1992 capital margins and a portion of the 1993 capital margins. The total capital credits to be sent to members who received service in 1991 is $81,031; in 1992 is $283,452; and in 1993 is $135,517.

In addition to these general retirements, this year the co-op has retired $31,320 to the estates of deceased members through October 2021, bringing the total capital credits returned to members in 2021 to $531,320.

Capital credits are unique to cooperatives such as Wasco Electric. Private power companies make profits and pay dividends to stockholders. But cooperatives work on a not-for-profit basis and allocate margins from their operating income back to their members.

Capital credits represent your share of the cooperative’s operating income, which is the operating revenue (margins) that remains after operating expenses.

The amount designated in your name each year depends on your energy purchases for the year. To calculate this, we divide your annual energy purchase by the cooperative’s operating income for the year. The more electricity you buy, the more capital credits you earn.

Next February, each member who received service in 2021 will be mailed a statement of their 2021 capital credit allocation. The member’s allocation amount is based on the year-end operating margins.

Capital credits are not necessarily dollars in a bank account. They represent funds that have been invested in the co-op’s utility plant.

Most months, Wasco Electric receives more cash from operations than is necessary to pay for operating expenses. However, the cooperative needs cash for purposes other than paying for operating expenses. Wasco Electric must pay principal and interest on money it has borrowed.

The cooperative also must use cash to pay for capital expenditures. The amount of cash needed for capital expenditures is largely determined by the growth of the utility and the replacement schedule of its aging system.

The distribution of capital credits and its effect on the financial well-being of the cooperative is an issue your board of directors deals with each year. It is the policy of the cooperative and the discretion of the board to return capital credits as long as the cooperative is financially fit to return them without borrowing more or raising rates to pay capital credits.

Ned Ratterman
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — November 2021

Special Meeting Set For November 20

Ned Ratterman headshotDue to the ongoing pandemic and our continued efforts to keep our members, employees, and community healthy, this year’s in-person annual meeting has been canceled. In its place, we will hold a special meeting virtually via Zoom on Saturday, November 20.

This year’s director elections will take place exclusively via mail-in voting. Your ballot will be mailed to our auditing firm, Connected Professional Accountants LLC, which will validate and tabulate the election results.

The information booklets—including virtual login information, résumés of the candidates for election, financial reports, and the absentee ballots for the director election—were mailed to each member November 1.

We know a virtual meeting is not the same as seeing you in person, but we want to remain connected with our members and inform you of the happenings at the cooperative. Members who attend via Zoom will receive a $25 bill credit on their December billing statements.

If you have any questions about the meeting or your cooperative, please contact our staff at (541) 296-2740.

Ned Ratterman
General Manager