Manager’s Message

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message – March 2023

Update on the Oregon Legislature

Ned Ratterman headshotWhile the early focus of the Oregon Legislative Assembly is addressing homelessness and the housing crisis, there has also been considerable activity on energy-related issues of interest to Oregon’s electric cooperatives.

Wasco Electric Cooperative is actively engaged in the legisla-tive session through our statewide organization—the Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association (ORECA)—to ensure no proposal affects your rates or the reliability of your electric service.

For instance, the Association of Oregon Counties has advanced a proposal, SB 635, to collect fees on utilities’ work in the county rights-of-way. Another bill, SB 443, seeks to have utilities pay for generators for certain customers in the event of an outage of 8 hours or more. In both cases, Oregon’s electric cooperatives are working with lawmakers to mitigate the effects on your electric bill.

Not surprisingly, legislators are also expressing keen interest in the attacks on electric infrastructure across the country and here in the Northwest. Keeping the lights on is our priority, and ORECA has offered testimony about electric co-op efforts to protect our substations against sabotage and the importance of increasing penalties on those who perpetrate these attacks.

Finally, there is momentum in Salem for drafting a statewide energy plan to help Oregon chart a low-carbon future. We have some ideas on this, too. Instead of the state of Oregon’s misguided efforts to breach the lower Snake River dams, we believe any energy plan should embrace our incredible hydropower resources. These facilities are the best tools we have to keep rates affordable, lower our carbon emissions and prevent blackouts during extreme weather events, such as the ones Oregonians have experienced in the past several years.

We will keep you updated on any developments during this long legislative session.

General Manager
Ned Ratterman

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message – February 2023

We’re Looking out for Our Members

Ned Ratterman headshotThe Oregon Legislative Assembly is underway in Salem, with leaders of both parties pledging to take on some big challenges that were front and center during last year’s campaign: the housing crisis, homelessness and education, among others. Governor Tina Kotek has announced one of her priorities is making government accountable for all Oregonians.

Wasco Electric Cooperative has a voice in our state capitol through our partnership with the Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association (ORECA).

In recent sessions, the Oregon Legislature has approved measures to reduce carbon emissions and increase renewable energy production.

This session, ORECA is educating lawmakers—many of whom are in their first terms—about the important role electric co-ops play in our state, with an energy portfolio that is 96% emission free.

While we’re proud of our track record as one of the cleanest utilities in the country, we’re also advising elected officials that, like our state, we face big challenges maintaining our accountability to you.

These challenges include wildfire mitigation, vegetation management, supply chain issues and—perhaps the biggest challenge of all—protecting the federal hydroelectric dams that are critical to maintaining an affordable, reliable and renewable power supply in the Pacific Northwest.

As the session progresses, we will keep you updated on legislation of interest to your electric co-op. In the meantime, we thank our elected officials for rolling up their sleeves and working together to make our state a better place to live.

General Manager
Ned Ratterman

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message – January 2023

We Ask for Your Vigilance

Ned Ratterman headshotIn early December, two substations in North Carolina were damaged, leaving tens of thousands of homes without power. According to law enforcement, an unrelated incident occurred in South Carolina days later when a shooter attacked another substation.

Closer to home, infrastructure in Washington and Oregon has been targeted by criminals whose motivation is yet unknown, but obviously includes intention to cause large-scale power outages.

The question of what can be done to protect the electric grid is not an easy one to answer. For example, a person with a high-powered rifle can shoot from great distances into facilities and have major effects on equipment while going unseen.

How, then, can we protect against that? The entire U.S. electric grid is vulnerable. Even with remote cameras, preventing criminal activity is relegated to after-the-fact investigations.

Wasco Electric Cooperative has safeguards in place to protect unauthorized individuals from entering substations or interfering with other electric equipment, but nothing is foolproof.

Potentially the greatest resource we have to combat this act is one another. We ask you to report any suspicious activity near electric lines and equipment. If you see something, say something. Report any suspicious activity around electric facilities to law enforcement.

If you hear something, please report any information that may result in a lead for law enforcement. It is not uncommon for unsavory individuals to eventually tell others about their past deeds. This could result in their downfall if their admission is reported.

If you have any information that may help prevent or prosecute against damage to any electric equipment, immediately contact local law enforcement with details.

Happy New Year!

General Manager
Ned Ratterman 

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message – December 2022

More Than an Inch Deep

Ned Ratterman headshotThere is an expression describing an important characteristic necessary to be a successful politician, and it goes something like this: “You need to have an understanding of issues that is an inch deep and a mile wide.”

Being able to speak to a variety of people about differing topics is critical for anyone wanting a political career. Society’s lack of demand for reference checking or validation of truth makes this hazardous.

This lack of knowledge and understanding of consequences is extremely dangerous in the electric utility world. To many, if someone says something a lot, it is true.

We hear politicians say that removing dams is possible because wind and solar can replace hydroelectric output. “Remove the dams” is a mantra for environmental groups. Many believe the narrow focus attached to taking out dams is limited to restoration of ecosystems because there is a solution to the lost electric generation, which is easily replaced by wind and solar sources without trepidation. Wouldn’t it be great if it were this simple? It’s not, and the public needs to know the truth before being asked to support removal of critical pieces of our infrastructure and security.

Hydroelectric dams produce electricity 24 hours a day in a predictable, controllable fashion based on snowfall and stream flows. Those models are created and confidently used to calculate generation months in advance of when the power is needed. The snow or water stored behind the dams is fuel to be used in the coming months.

If the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining, no electricity is generated, nor is there a captive fuel source for future generation. Large-scale battery storage is neither economical nor readily available to meet the needs of present-day use. Having a guaranteed resource to be used in the future is critical to prevent massive power outages and only baseload generation—sources available without interruption—can provide that need.

Getting a bit deeper, wholesale electric systems are sensitive and specifically calibrated to operate synchronously with one another throughout the grid in a tight bandwidth. That means there can’t be large swings produced by different generators.

Wind and solar are inconsistent, which creates problems only protected against by having baseline sources acting as backups, such as coal, hydro and nuclear. Why have 2 if 1 will suffice? That is extremely inefficient and expensive. Even if wind and solar power were viable via battery storage, there is no practical way to deliver grid-level resilience without another form of production as insurance to regulate power. Again, that redundancy negates the argument that wind and solar alone are viable options as sole sources of grid level power.

According to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the interconnection of large, distributed energy resources —wind and solar—can cause significant voltage issues in terms of out-of-limit voltages and voltage variability. That says generators are either capable of doing their jobs predictably or they need to be backed up by expensive sources.

In the end, we can’t remove dams without having a baseline generation source to take their place. Only generators with guaranteed fuel sources can meet that requirement, and we have them in the form of dams. That is more than an inch of information, but not nearly the whole discussion.

To be continued.

General Manager
Ned Ratterman 

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message – November 2022

Preventive Measures

Ned Ratterman headshotWhat is the difference between preventive and preventative? Nothing. Both are adjectives meaning “to stop something bad from happening.” When associated with work, the word used isn’t important. It is action that matters.

Teddy Roosevelt said, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

While debatable in some instances, it is generally true.

We are at a time in history when electric reliability is in jeopardy. Unbelievable as that sounds, it is hauntingly accurate. We may have little control over decisions that can place us in this position.

Historically, Wasco Electric Cooperative has provided electricity 99.98% of the time. That amounts to members having electricity every moment throughout the year, minus 1.75 hours. In greater terms, that is 1.75 hours off and 8,758.25 hours on.

Your annual reliability includes every minute of the year and deducts the combined total of all minutes your power is off. A lot of these minutes are often spent sleeping. That is excellent reliability, especially given the miles of difficult terrain we serve.

Why is this important public necessity facing an unsure future? It is because of climatic changes, especially a huge increase in wildfires. In response to fires that destroyed huge swaths of forest, leveled thousands of structures and ultimately took the lives of citizens in California, Oregon and many Western states, there was a drastic call for change.

Locally, the Oregon Public Utility Commission requires electric utilities to create and implement preventive vegetation management and associated wildfire mitigation plans to help address the recent past and an uncertain future. Utilities have shifted resources toward a more aggressive role in anticipating when and how to prevent fires and how to respond when they occur.

We have always held fire prevention as a high priority. Now, with longer fire seasons and fires growing to immense sizes on an annual basis, we are doubling down our efforts.

Keep in mind that Wasco Electric is a customer, too. We receive power that can be turned off when the Bonneville Power Administration has decided it is more responsible to de-energize its lines than to risk starting fires or having its energized high voltage lines fall to the ground if its structures burn down.

The discussion is one of risk and safety. It is hard to criticize a utility for turning off power if it is concerned about causing greater harm by keeping the power on. PacifiCorp implemented Public Safety Power Shutoffs in early September that lasted more than 48 hours in the Portland area. Those customers never expected those outages to occur and neither did we. Things are changing quickly.

We are required to consider many decisions during fire season. Help us minimize hazards by supporting our tree-trimming efforts and developing a contingency plan for yourself when a PSPS is necessary.

Be safe,

General Manager
Ned Ratterman 

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message – October 2022

Interactions, Discussions & Suggestions

Ned Ratterman headshotI always enjoy meeting our members in social settings. We had this opportunity in August at the Dufur Threshing Bee and the Wasco County Fair.

Dufur exploded with happy faces and friendly greetings. The community could not have done a better job of hosting locals and visitors. Our employees drove and rode in a new bucket truck in the parade. Others walked along, offering candy and prizes to spectators.

In Tygh Valley, Wasco Electric Cooperative bought and helped serve lunch to seniors, as originally anticipated. But we also happily extended an invitation to anyone at the fairgrounds who needed a bite to eat. We were thrilled to receive many thanks for the delicious food. At functions such as these, we learn more about one another and discover our members’ family histories. It is priceless to interact on this level.

We also offer opportunities for you to share your suggestions of how to better serve our communities when we are together. In one such situation at the fair, a gentleman suggested we talk with the counties and highway department to ask permission to remove trees in the rights-of-way instead of trimming them every few years. This suggestion was wise to point out the efficiency of performing work once when possible and saving money to be better used elsewhere.

I am happy to report these discussions have happened. We can now be more judicious about what trees we should not trim repeatedly and risk having them grow into our lines between trimming cycles. With the increasing risk of wildfires, we want to avoid all vegetation-to-line contacts.

Another important topic I would like to share is our ongoing effort to maintain and improve our electric system. We have identified areas most in need of attention to provide not only reliability but increased capacity on our lines.

One example is our feeder line extending south into the Cherry Heights area that serves many large loads. These members soon will be able to add greater processing and irrigation projects if they want. The entire area fed from this line will benefit from greater power availability, thus enabling economic development and reliability enhancements.

It is this kind of forward-thinking that our staff proudly and conscientiously considers when we decide what work is most pressing. We strive to spend cooperative dollars well.

Our future is bright due to our commitment to our members. The interactions we have with you strengthen our organization and entire membership. We love to hear your insights.

General Manager
Ned Ratterman

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message – September 2022

The Repercussions of Dam Removal

Ned Ratterman headshotA significant number of people are interested in removing the four lower dams on the Snake River. This movement is especially frightening because the players involved are politicizing something they have not researched well and would have serious consequences if moved upon.

Several primary topics are included in this discussion, including wildlife, carbon emission, economic impact and electric reliability.

One reality not discussed is the massive effort the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) puts forth toward wildlife mitigation. Did you know that between one-fourth and one-third of your wholesale power bill goes directly to fish passage improvement, habitat restoration, hatchery funding and predation control? BPA does not draw attention to the plethora of positive efforts expended toward fish and wildlife, but you should be aware of their priority and offer these insights to those who claim the dams only harm our ecosystems. They’re incorrect.

If the dams are removed, the transportation of goods and materials through the Columbia and Snake River region will default to trucks and/or rail. In either scenario, the net carbon differential between using barging for commerce or alternative methods is enormous. Ironically, Governor Jay Inslee and Senator Patty Murray from Washington state spearheaded a study to explore the environmental consequences of dam removal. The results stated they failed to consider all environmental impacts. Not to be deterred, they intend to push forward with additional studies to strengthen their positions advocating removal of the dams.

The Columbia River is an economic driver for a major segment of the Pacific Northwest’s employees. Irrigation services, power production, flood control, recreation, domestic water supply and agricultural production factor into the foundation of the region’s economy. Without the dams, these sectors are jeopardized.

Retail power pricing in our region is among the lowest in the nation. This is a result of the engineering masterpiece we know as the Federal Columbia River Power System and the BPA. With the foresight to conceptualize a stable power supply made possible by the dams and with the critically important value of job creation in the face of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt afforded us a gift we should not spurn after decades of benefiting from it.

Not only did the government forge pathways to create one of the most reliable electric generating projects on the planet, but Congress further protected those most vulnerable by creating preference for public utilities. The 1937 Bonneville Project Act specifically declared that preference be provided to consumer-owned utilities.

With a brief overview of the benefits we enjoy due to our power supply and a historical perspective of our forefather’s abilities to position ourselves in a stable energy environment for years to come, why would we seek alternatives that cannot begin to deliver benefits on the scale of our current model?

General Manager
Ned Ratterman

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.


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.


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.


Ned Ratterman
General Manager