CEO’s Message

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message – July 2022

Wildfire Season Is Coming

Headshot of Clay FitchWhile some wildfires are caused by lightning, approximately 90% are caused by human error. Many times, wildfires occur when campfires are left unattended, debris is burned improperly or cigarettes are carelessly discarded.

A wildfire can grow rapidly out of control when the three following elements are present: oxygen, fuel, and a heat source. The fuel can be any flammable material near the wildfire, and the heat source can be campfires, cigarettes, or even warm winds. With the combination of these three things, a violent wildfire can ensue.

By taking a few extra precautions, campers and outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy the sights of nature without causing a wildfire. Here are a few tips from National Geographic to help prevent wildfires:

  • Never leave a fire unattended, and make sure you completely extinguish the fire when you’re done – Drench the fire with water and stir the ashes until cold
  • Play it safe when using fueled lanterns, heaters, and stoves – Lighting and heating devices should be cool before refueling. Keep flammable liquids and fuel away from appliances
  • Never discard cigarettes, matches, or smoking materials from moving vehicles – Do not toss them on the ground – Completely extinguish cigarettes before disposing of them
  • When burning yard waste, follow local ordinances – Avoid burning in windy conditions – Keep a shovel, water, and fire retardant nearby to keep fires in check

If conditions are right and you find yourself in the path of a wildfire, evacuate immediately. Listen to local emergency notifications for the most up-to-date information. Better yet, make a wildfire plan for you and your family before a fire occurs.

While your individual plans and actions can reduce the risk wildfire poses for your home or business, Wells Rural Electric Company has plans and takes actions to protect your power supply from wildfire. WREC relies on 1,421 miles of distribution power lines and an interstate network of transmission lines to deliver safe, reliable, affordable, clean energy to you. While we have been much more fortunate than other utilities, wildfires have destroyed sections of our lines and caused outages.

We take numerous steps to mitigate wildfire risk, including clearing rights-of-way of vegetation with mowing and herbicides, replanting with fire-resistant species, trimming trees, and maintaining and upgrading our system. We also train our crews to respond to accidental fires and have two fire trucks we can use in collaboration with first responders to protect our infrastructure.

Help us keep our service reliable by doing your part to prevent wildfires. For more information about wildfire safety and prevention, visit Ready.gov’s page on wildfires.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message – June 2022

Nominations Open for WREC Board

Nominations for four seats on Wells Rural Electric Company’s (Company) Board of Directors will open on Monday, June 13, 2022.

Director seats subject to election are currently held by incumbents Jon Dahl, Scott Egbert, Fred Montes de Oca and Jim Whited.

Nominations must only be made on the 2022 Board of Directors Election Nomination Form available at all Company offices and on our website. All mandatory questions must be answered in order for the nomination to be valid.

Any member who has not consistently (more than twice) been in violation of the Company’s Rates, Rules, Regulations or Policies within the 12 months prior to June 27, 2022, may be nominated for Director using the approved form. The nomination form must be signed and dated by the Nominee. Nominees must verify their membership by providing the name on the account and contact information.

Nominees must not have any felony convictions within 7 years prior to June 13, 2022.

The nominee must be of legal voting age prior to June 13, 2022.

The nominee must be a member or spouse of a member, or a local officer, director, partner, official or manager of an entity that is a member. An entity is a partnership, corporation, limited liability company, firm, association, business trust, personal trust, body politic or subdivision thereof, or other multiple ownership-type business structure. Documentation demonstrating that the Nominee is authorized to represent the entity will be required. No more than 1 person may serve on the Board based upon any 1 membership.

The nominee, or the nominee’s entity, must not have an unpaid account with WREC that is outstanding for more than 90 days. The nominee, or the nominee’s entity, must not have an account written-off as a bad debt by WREC within 7 years prior to June 13, 2022.

The nominee must not be engaged in, employed by, materially affiliated with, or have a material financial interest in an individual or entity directly or substantially competing with the Company or possessing a substantial conflict with the Company.

The nominee must not be a current employee of the Company or a former employee of the Company within 5 years prior to June 27, 2022.

The Nominee, or the Nominee’s entity, must not have been the subject of a Ruralite Feature Story article since February 27, 2022.

Completed nomination forms must be received by Lauren Landa, General Counsel, by 5 p.m. Pacific Time Zone on Monday, June 27, 2022. Mail the completed form to Lauren Landa, 530 Idaho Street, Elko, Nevada 89801 or P. O. Box 1358, Elko, Nevada 89803; email Lauren Landa; or Fax to (775) 738-4220. It is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure receipt of the nomination. Late nominations will not be placed on the ballot.

To be eligible for election to the Board of Directors, non-incumbent nominees must attend a mandatory in-person informational workshop held at the Company’s Headquarters at 1451 Humboldt Avenue, Wells, Nevada, 89835, on Tuesday, June 28, 2022 at 1 p.m. Pacific Time.

Additional voluntary information, including years of WREC membership, occupation and years on WREC Board may be included. Education and training credentials—not more than 300 characters and spaces— may also be included. The Company reserves the right to edit.

The nomination may be accompanied by a photograph of the Nominee suitable for use in preparing the ballot package.

General Counsel shall determine the eligibility of each nominee. Acceptable and approved documentation to confirm qualifications will be required by 5 p.m. Pacific Time Zone on Monday, June 27, 2022. Specific questions related thereto shall be directed to General Counsel at (775) 738-8091 or email Lauren Landa.

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message – May 2022

Beware of Scams; Call WREC

Headshot of Clay FitchThe recent trial of Theranos’ founder and former CEO Elizabeth Holmes in a U.S. court for fraud captured my attention. The level of deception, hundreds of millions of dollars bilked and the number of people scammed is stunning.

You can learn many lessons from the trial, but one, in particular, stuck with me: Always call to verify.

Holmes claimed to have revolutionized blood testing, developing a technology designed to take one droplet of blood and, from it, screen patients for hundreds of diseases. A key selling point was the technology’s accessibility and convenience to the public at a low cost with rapid results.

The technology never worked. Eventually, time exposed the sham.

The federal government prosecuted Holmes, and a jury found her guilty on four counts, including defrauding almost $1 billion from investors. Investors falling for the fraud included well-known names such as media mogul Rupert Murdoch, former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and Walmart’s Walton family.

Early on, biopharmaceutical company Pfizer refused to invest in the company because it didn’t believe the technology worked. That was a massive red flag.

As one reporter covering the case dryly noted, an investor needed only to call Pfizer to understand something was amiss. Just one call.

Why do I share this story with you? During the past few months, we have had reports from members receiving phone calls or texts from persons claiming to be Wells Rural Electric Company (WREC) employees. Typically, the scammer declares the member is behind on their electric bill. If they don’t make a payment via credit, debit card or wire transfer, their power will be disconnected within 15 minutes.

I appreciate the number of members who have called WREC to inform us they received such a call or to verify if the call or text was legitimate.

For members who may get such calls or texts in the future, know that if an account is past due, WREC always provides two written notices. Members with delinquent accounts first receive a “friendly reminder” followed by a past-due balance shown on the next bill. If the account remains past due, you receive an automated call asking you to contact your local office. Once we make that call, we allow the member a full business day to make a payment.

Likewise, as interest in green energy alternatives evolves, so do misleading sales pitches for rooftop solar. Members have reported receiving calls representing solar companies that claim to be partners with your electric company and offering incentives to install rooftop solar on their homes. I’ve even received ads on social media posted by solar companies implying WREC will pay you to go solar.

These ads are an attempt to get the member to call their salesperson. While we have members who have connected solar systems under our net-metering policy, WREC doesn’t currently have a partnership with any rooftop solar company, nor do we endorse any specific company.

If you get such a call or a visitor at your door, it only takes one call to your local office to verify its legitimacy. We are here to help you avoid becoming a victim of a scam.

Clay R. Fitch, CEO

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message – April 2022

Giving Money Back to Our Members

Headshot of Clay FitchFrom frequent flyer miles to fuel points, more and more businesses are implementing programs to reward customers for their loyalty. Wells Rural Electric Company (WREC) has provided similar benefits to our members for at least six decades. You don’t need to swipe a rewards card or enter your phone number— capital credits are accrued every time you pay your bill.

Despite all the challenges that many businesses—including Wells Rural Electric Company—faced these past couple of years, we have good news for our members.

First, WREC hires an accounting firm to conduct an independent audit every year. This year’s audit again confirmed that WREC continues to be well-managed and financially sound. The annual audit assures you that revenues and expenses are appropriate, transparent, in compliance with approved budgets and accurately recorded.

Second, like most businesses, we subtract expenses from revenues at the end of the year to determine if there is a margin. Since WREC ended 2021 with a positive margin, we will allocate those dollars back to you as capital credits. Allocation notices will be sent to all current members in August.

Third, based on that positive margin and a flawless audit, I am pleased to report your board of directors voted at their March meeting to return $621,428 to members through capital credit checks. Most of our members should receive a capital credit check refunding a portion of their allocations in early May.

If you, or someone you know, has not received a capital credit check by the middle of May, it is likely for one of two reasons: your refund does not yet total $10, or WREC does not have a current mailing address. Please contact your local office if you believe you should have received a capital credit check.

Fourth, for many years, WREC and 133 other consumer-owned utilities who buy wholesale power from Bonneville Power Administration have lobbied for sound financial policies and cost control. BPA has responded, and you have benefitted from stable electricity rates. WREC has not had to increase rates for five years because we have controlled costs at the retail level, and BPA has controlled costs at the wholesale level.

Lastly, in addition to stable, affordable rates for reliable, clean energy, BPA ended 2021 with funds in excess of its financial reserves requirement. WREC’s wholesale power costs were also less than expected. As a not-for-profit cooperative, WREC believes our members should benefit from those cost savings, and your board of directors voted to return those funds to you as well. Beginning in April, a “Power Cost Adjustment” line item on your monthly bill will give you credit for your portion of those savings based on your energy consumption. The Power Cost Adjustment credit will appear on your bill for the next seven months.

These refunds reflect the value of being a member of a not-for-profit, locally-controlled cooperative. We are pleased these funds will help families and our local economy during these challenging times.

Clay R. Fitch, CEO 

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — March 2022

Cybersecurity and Your Co-op

Headshot of Clay FitchLast November, a small electric cooperative in Colorado became the victim of a cybersecurity attack that paralyzed the co-op’s payment processing, billing, and other internal systems. Industry news reported the co-op suffered a massive data loss and likely was the victim of ransomware, a type of malware that threatens to publish or block access to data until a ransom is paid. It took the co-op weeks to bring its systems back online.

What transpired in Colorado is a sobering reminder that small and rural co-ops are targets, too. Cybercriminals have expanded their targets beyond big business as they realize enormous profits by casting an ever-widening and deeper net. As a result, small business security breaches are escalating.

The amount of potential money to be extorted proves too tempting. The cybersecurity industry reported victims of ransomware paid $18 billion in ransoms worldwide in 2020. Another study reported the average ransomware payment jumped to more than $300,000 in 2020 from $115,000.

First and foremost, Wells Rural Electric Company focuses on keeping members’ data safe. Our information technology team and software providers have implemented multiple layers of security protection to safeguard the co-op and members’ information.

A little more than 85% of data breaches involve a “human element” as cybercriminals prey on individuals to gain access to a personal or business computer system’s portal. The primary tactic deployed by cybercriminals is through social engineering—the attempt to manipulate an individual’s emotions to prompt them to take immediate action. The most common tools of their trade to do this are phishing (emails), smishing (text messages), and vishing (voice messages).

Phishing is the most prevalent. Almost anyone who has an email account has received a scam email. An email claiming a relative or friend needs money sent to them immediately or supposedly your credit card company urging you to take action because of fraudulent use are just two of countless scenarios. While some phishing emails are easy to detect, cybercriminals have become increasingly sophisticated in their deception and luring individuals to act before realizing their mistake too late.

While WREC employees are daily targets of numerous phishing emails, one rarely shows up in their inbox. Our information technology team and strategic partners have implemented extensive technological controls that scan and filter out malicious emails.

If, however, a phishing email breaks through, our employees—the human firewall—are trained year-round to recognize them and report them immediately to our IT personnel.

While past success is no guarantee for the future, members can take comfort in knowing we continually strive to go above and beyond to ensure our IT systems and your data remains protected.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — February 2022

Don’t Keep Us in the Dark

Headshot of Clay FitchAlthough elders are expected to be the source for wise words, we often hear wisdom from all ages of people. So often these days, proverbs and platitudes come from the inexhaustible well of truth and fiction provided by the internet.

A recent post rang true: “You can choose to be unhappy about having a lot of snow. You will have the same amount of snow, but will be a lot less happy.”

I have always liked snow, but with Wells Rural Electric Company’s focus on reliability, I have to admit the thrill of a good snowstorm has been tempered by the possibility of an outage, the inconvenience to our members, and safety concerns when our crews must go out in harsh weather.

New Year’s weekend saw a lengthy outage in the Jiggs, Lee, and South Fork areas. Restoring power took longer than usual because power lines were damaged in two locations. After repairs were completed in one location, crews attempted to reenergize the circuit only to find more damage further down the line. Two crews could have been working simultaneously had we known there was damage in a second location.

In this situation, and many others, you can help us turn the power back on faster by making sure the phone number we have on your account is accurate before we have a major outage. Not only does a current phone number help us deliver updated outage information to you, every call that comes in helps us map the extent of an outage and pinpoint the most likely source of the problem.

If WREC doesn’t have the correct phone number associated with your account, it could delay repair of your service.

One of the most powerful storms I have ever seen blew in on Tuesday, January 4. Despite our best efforts to build and maintain a safe, reliable system to deliver clean, affordable electricity to you, this storm knocked out power to Wells and the surrounding communities for about nine hours when the main transmission line went down.

Clover Valley and Ruby Valley were hit even harder. Snow and blowing debris from buildings that were destroyed by the wind left our members in the dark for about 16 hours. Five power poles were destroyed and several others were damaged. Crews from Carlin and Wendover were called in to assist, but the fierce wind and frozen ground made repairs extremely difficult. One veteran lineman said these were the worst working conditions he has ever experienced.

An outage of this magnitude is an all-hands-on-deck event. In addition to the crews working to restore power, our after-hours call center answers every call and provides updated information as soon as it becomes available. Our member service representatives do their best to answer your questions and make face-to-face visits to share news. Our communications team provides updated information through social media.

If you don’t already, I urge you to follow WREC on Facebook and install the SmartHub app on your phone. These are great ways for us to communicate with each other on those rare occasions when we are in the dark.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — January 2022

365 New Opportunities

Headshot of Clay FitchThere’s a certain poetry to opening a pristine calendar each January. The clean slate— absent of scribbled-in appointments and obligations—encourages reflection and a bit of personal accounting. The calendar’s empty grid represents promise—the potential for a fresh start in a new year.

At Wells Rural Electric Company (WREC), we like to take stock in the same way. Each year presents 365 new opportunities to earn your trust, and January 1 is a good time for all of us here to think about the best ways to do that.

As you know, your cooperative’s most fundamental mission is to provide you with safe, reliable, affordable, and clean electricity. That’s what your employees— from those at the front desk to the line crews to the engineering department to human resources and everyone in between— dedicate themselves to year in and year out. For their dedication, I’d like to express my gratitude. All of them come to work each day with the desire to provide safe, reliable, and professional service to our members in mind.

Our board of directors deserves a big thank-you, too. The members of WREC’s board have taken on the weighty responsibility of running a multimillion-dollar utility. The commitment they display in keeping up with the changing regulatory, technological, and legislative landscapes that affect our industry is commendable. Decisions made by the board aren’t undertaken lightly, as directors know that the outcomes of those choices affect thousands of their fellow members. Their diligence is appreciated.

In the weeks and months leading up to January 1, the board and employees engaged in strategic planning to prepare not only for the coming year, but for the foreseeable future. We examined the changing needs of our members and developments in both the utility and political environment to evaluate the challenges and opportunities ahead. This is not a new activity, but it took on added urgency in light of the ongoing pandemic and the resulting supply chain issues.

Fortunately, our long-term wholesale power supply contracts with Bonneville Power Administration protect your access to reliable electricity, and WREC’s relationships with vendors are minimizing shortages of critical materials. We are grateful for the partnerships we have built.

A final thank-you goes to you, our members, who make all our jobs possible. Your support and understanding when things don’t go quite right, and your input via suggestions, compliments or complaints, helps us do a better job for you.

Without you, there would be no cooperative. For you, for this co-op, and for ourselves, you can count on us at WREC to do our best to be worthy beneficiaries of 2022’s opportunities and promise.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — December 2021

Where Did the Time Go?

Headshot of Clay Fitch

While it sure feels like each passing year speeds by faster and faster, at least the calendar has a way of saving the best for last.

I always welcome December because it brings the holiday season, family, friends, memories, traditions, and good food.

As bewildering as the passage of time may be, December also has a way of slowing things down and recapturing the past, if only for a few days, before we have to flip the calendar and start over.

It seems human nature compels us to observe, in some way, the path we have traveled to get where we are. For you, that may mean a spiritual path, a treasured family tradition, favorite recipes from Grandma, the warmth of a family home, or all the above. We all carry with us reminders of our journey.

December’s holiday parades, festivals, music, food, and parties are how we, as a nation, have chosen to honor those memories and the people, places, and traditions that helped create them.

So many holiday celebrations center around food. And what are we celebrating? Each other, mostly, as well as those who have come before us and given us the traditions we observe now—and perhaps even those who will come along after and hopefully keep observing our family’s favorite customs for generations.

As a member-owned, not-for-profit part of a great tradition of neighbors helping neighbors and concern for community. Your cooperative has a rich history of delivering safe, reliable, affordable carbon-free electricity year after year. That’s a tradition started by those who came before us—one worthy of celebration today, and hopefully, one that will bless generations yet to come.

Happy holidays!

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — November 2021

The Water Makes It Green

Headshot of Clay Fitch

We are thankfully past the treacherous wildfire season and did not have a major wildfire within Wells Rural Electric Company’s (WREC’s) service territory. Autumn rains quickly gave way to an early snowstorm. Hopefully, the storm marks the end of a horrible drought and enough snow will accumulate in the mountains to provide a green spring and summer. Although I have shoveled my fair share of snow, I have come to accept and appreciate that the snow and rain make it green.

The same is true for most of the electricity powering our lives—the water makes it green. As a member-owned electric utility, WREC holds what are called “preference rights,” which enable your electric cooperative to buy safe, reliable, affordable, and carbon-free electricity from the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS). The system is comprised of 31 hydroelectric dams across the Columbia River drainage basin. Dams built primarily for flood control are owned and operated by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Bureau of Reclamation is responsible for the dams built to store irrigation water. Regardless of ownership, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) — another federal agency—is responsible for selling the electricity generated by the dams. BPA also owns and operates about 75% of the high-voltage transmission grid in the Northwest, which it uses to deliver green energy to utilities like WREC.

BPA is WREC’s primary source of wholesale electricity. We make only small market purchases to supplement our purchases from BPA. Affordable electricity is critical to many of the businesses driving the local economy. In addition to being an incredibly green resource, the hydro system enables the integration of thousands of megawatts of renewable wind and solar power. The flexibility of the FCRPS allows it to ramp down hydro generation when wind and solar generation ramps up, keeping generation in balance with consumption. Hydro acts as a giant battery providing electricity when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. It’s a remarkable synergy—all from our clean, renewable Northwest hydropower system.

We live in a beautiful place. Whether you admire the landscape or take for granted the electricity that powers your life, remember it’s the water that makes it green.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — October 2021

Celebrating National Cooperative Month

Headshot of Clay FitchWhen Benjamin Franklin signed the Declaration of Independence, he reportedly said, “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

That recognition of the need to work together may be why Franklin, in 1752, founded the first successful cooperative in the United States: the Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire, which still operates today.

The principles behind the Declaration of Independence that form the basis of American democracy also form the basis of cooperatives. A cooperative is owned and democratically controlled by the people who use its services. Each member has one vote, regardless of his or her stake; that is, members cannot buy more control than anyone else. This stands in stark contrast to investor-owned utilities where only shareholders have a vote in how the business is run and, even among shareholders, some have more votes than others depending on their shares of stock.

The distinction of the cooperative business model is important to all of us because Wells Rural Electric Co. (WREC) is owned by the people we serve. All of WREC’s efforts are aimed at providing safe, reliable, affordable, carbon-free electricity that enables members to enjoy the convenience of today’s technology and supports local businesses in providing products, services, and jobs that strengthen our communities.

In October, WREC is joining 30,000 other cooperatives nationwide to celebrate National Cooperative Month, which recognizes the many ways cooperatives help build stronger communities and a stronger economy. Nationwide, cooperatives create 2.1 million jobs, serve more than 130 million consumers and generate more than $650 billion in revenue.

WREC is not the only cooperative serving our communities. Our local hardware stores rely on supplier cooperatives, such as Ace Hardware and Hardware Wholesalers Inc. Some of our grocery stores belong to Associated Foods, which is a wholesale grocery cooperative. Shelves are stocked with products from grower cooperatives, such as Land O’Lakes, Welch’s, Tillamook, Sunkist, Ocean Spray, Blue Diamond, and many more. Credit unions also play an important role in local finance.

Being part of a cooperative is something special, unique, and strong. Cooperatives bring a variety of resources and services to their members, connecting rural families to resources that otherwise might not be available. These strategic partnerships keep communities thriving, even during difficult times like those we are experiencing now.

Your electric cooperative works hard to provide solutions that work for our members including:

  • Nest thermostats and other energy-efficient products, services, and rebates.
  • Budget billing to help you manage your payments.
  • Member advocates who connect you with other agencies and programs to help meet the needs of low-income families, seniors, and members enduring financial hardships.
  • SmartHub for secure and convenient account management.

For information about other products and services, and ways WREC is involved in our schools and communities, visit our website or contact your local office.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer