CEO’s Message

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — December 2019

Making a Difference

Headshot of Clay FitchIn the Disney Pixar film “Up”, Carl and Ellie Fredricksen save money for their dream trip to Paradise Falls by drop-ping change into a jar. They end up breaking into the jar to deal with life’s little surprises, like medical bills from a broken leg, but as soon as an emergency passes, they resume dropping their change into a jar so they have a stash of cash when it’s important.

Think of the Next Dollar Foundation like a change jar for your whole community. For the past 24 years, some members of Wells Rural Electric Company (WREC) have been dropping the change from their monthly electricity bill into the jar. When their community had a need, funds were available for projects like grass for a baseball field, medical equipment or higher education.

Funding from the Next Dollar Foundation to purchase sod allowed the Wendover Wildcats to use their baseball field right away rather than having to wait a year for grass to grow from seed.

More than 120 projects have been completed with assistance from the Next Dollar Foundation. Students with career goals as diverse as nuclear engineering and nursing have received help to pay for their education. It’s likely some of those activities have made your life better, too.

Recipients of the 2019 Next Dollar Foundation Education Grants:

Herman Dorad

Herman Dorado of West Wendover

Valerie Murphy

Valerie Murphy of Wendover

John Gamble

John Gamble of Carlin

Jade Kelly

Jade Kelly of Wells

Beginning in January, the change jar will refill faster because all members of WREC will be automatically enrolled to donate the change from their monthly electricity bills to the Next Dollar Foundation. Discussions with members found wide-spread support for the change in enrollment. I hope that such support demonstrates the value all members have seen in projects and education grants funded by the Next Dollar Foundation. More information is available on page 8, inside. If you have any questions about contributing to the Next Dollar Foundation, have an idea for a project that would improve your community, want to apply for an education grant or opt-out, please visit the Next Dollar Foundation page.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message – November 2019

Headshot of Clay FitchMaking a Difference

No cold milk or hot coffee. No lights. Scrubbing clothes by hand in water heated over a fire. No Internet. No TV. It’s hard to imagine our lives without the convenience of electricity, but according to the International Energy Agency, that’s reality for 1.1 billion people worldwide.

Life without electricity was reality for much of rural America before the rural electric cooperative movement began in the 1940s. It was reality for much of Northeastern Nevada and Northwestern Utah until 1958 when Wells Rural Electric Company (WREC) began providing electricity.

That rural/urban divide persists today. About 84% of people who live without electricity live in rural areas with 95% of those people living in sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia.

One powerful option for bringing electricity to developing countries is forming new rural electric cooperatives. Since 1962, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) International Program has brought electricity to more than 160 million people in 45 developing countries. The International Program designs and implements successful, sustainable, scalable rural electrification programs that improve education, health care, safety and economic opportunity.

The NRECA International Program is supported by charitable donations of time, money and materials from more than 300 American electric cooperatives as well as private organizations and individuals. WREC is proud to be one of the electric cooperatives providing financial assistance to bring electricity to families in developing nations. There are also hundreds of electric cooperative directors, linemen, engineers, managers and other employees who have volunteered to bring first-time access to electricity. Volunteers train staff at new cooperatives to build, maintain and operate sustainable utilities to improve the quality of life in their own communities.

Closer to home, WREC members are improving their own quality of life through the Next Dollar Foundation. Since its creation in 1995, the Next Dollar Foundation has helped local organizations, communities and schools make badly needed improvements to sports fields, playgrounds, community buildings, senior centers, libraries, clinics, museums and a host of other facilities. The Next Dollar Foundation has also helped many students continue their education beyond high school.

While these efforts have made a lasting impact on every community we serve, pressing needs remain. As you look around your community, I suspect you have ideas for projects but don’t see a way to secure funding. With your support and collaboration with a local organization, the Next Dollar Foundation could help your idea become a reality.

You might also see a need for services in your community but people with the needed skills aren’t available. You may even be thinking about going back to school to build your own skills. An education grant from the Next
Dollar Foundation might help fill those needs.

Additional information about changes to the Next Dollar Foundation appears on pages 28 and 29 inside. To learn more about projects the Next Dollar Foundation has funded in your community, submit your own project funding request, or apply for an education grant, please visit https://www.wrec.coop/community/next-dollar-foundation.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — October 2019

Headshot of Clay FitchWhat would you do if your electricity bill suddenly went up 2,831%? Fortunately, the decision you made to vote no on Question 3 last November ensured that this is only a rhetorical question, at least for you.

But that question is all too real for consumers in Texas. In mid August, several days of temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit pushed electricity demand to a new record of 74,531 megaWatts (MW), which left a razor-thin 3% power reserve. To make matters worse, weak breezes sidelined hundreds of wind turbines. Texas usually relies on wind
generation for about one-fourth of its electricity supply. As a result, wholesale power market prices in Texas crushed a $9,000 per MW regulatory price cap. To put such a whopping price in perspective, Wells Rural Electric Company (WREC) could purchase wholesale electricity from the open market in the Pacific Northwest during that same time period for $31.80 per MW. Record electricity usage also forced the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) to declare an emergency. ERCOT pled with every available power plant to ramp up and every consumer to conserve.

A long-time friend of mine says that his name, Doug, is actually an acronym. Doug stands for Dumb Old Utility Guy. During the battle over Question 3, the advocates often painted the opponents as dumb old utility guys. They claimed that utilities were stuck in the past and that there was a much cheaper way to buy electricity. Texas was often cited as a shining example of the success of deregulation. To be fair, some Texans have benefited from energy choice over the past decade. This summer, however, was a horrific failure.

As we met with members throughout 2018, it was often difficult to warn of the potential dangers of Question 3 with little evidence to show that markets could go crazy. What the dumb old utility guys knew for certain was that no one had made any significant investment in base load generation or transmission in Texas since deregulation was implemented. We also knew that growth would eventually gobble up the available capacity and lead to higher prices and reduced reliability. We didn’t know that available capacity would be consumed so quickly or that markets would shoot through the stratosphere.

These unprecedented prices and slim reserves illustrate how the early retirement of large conventional power plants is straining the ability of utilities across the nation to integrate unpredictable renewable resources like wind and solar. Fortunately, dumb old utility guys even older than me made the very wise decision to invest in clean, renewable, reliable, predictable hydro electricity.

Last month, this page featured a guest editorial from Jo Elg on the numerous issues affecting salmon and steelhead populations. It was written in response to a conference focused on removing dams on the Snake River. One of the justifications for removing the dams is that they are no longer necessary because the electricity they produce can easily be replaced by wind and solar generation. If there is a lesson to be learned from Texas, it is that the hydroelectric dams are absolutely essential if society wants to successfully integrate increasing amounts of wind and solar generation.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — August 2019

Defending Reliable Electricity

Headshot of Clay FitchBillboards along Interstate 80 urge homeowners to create “defensible space” to reduce the risk of losing their home to fire. Simply put, defensible space means managing flammable materials to prevent the spread of fire. Defensible space is an important concept not only in fire safety but in other situations.

Your electric cooperative, Wells Rural Electric Company (WREC), creates a defensible space around the power lines that serve your homes and businesses for several reasons. First and foremost, all of our power lines comply with the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) to prevent accidental contacts and to ensure that WREC delivers reliable, affordable and clean electricity in the safest way possible.

Our “Commitment To Zero Contacts” safety initiative focuses on the human factor of electrical safety. Despite our best efforts to build an electrical system that meets or exceeds the requirements of the NESC, some people make dangerous decisions that risk severe injury and even death. Commitment To Zero Contacts is designed not only to keep our line workers safe, it’s intended to keep other employees and our members safe as well.

For decades we have trimmed trees to maintain a defensible space around our power lines to prevent accidental contacts and to prevent outages. Tree trimming crews strive to maintain the beauty of the trees, but appearance is second to safety. Scorching August temperatures may make Fall seem far away, but contract crews will begin trimming trees soon.

The growing threat of catastrophic fires has motivated your Board of Directors and employees to take defensible space to a new level. For the past few years, your Board of Directors has authorized a budget that includes removing low-growing vegetation from our rights-of-way. Initially, mowing brush and weeds growing under our power lines was only intended to prevent wildfires from burning our power lines down. It has since become a way to reduce the risk of starting a fire. Studies are currently underway by federal land management agencies to evaluate the effectiveness of using right-of-way clearing to create a line of defense for fire crews. Its a concept that WREC supports because it fits with our goal to provide the most safe and reliable service possible and it could protect the homes and property of our members.

The graphic below illustrates how you can create defensible space for your own home.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Graphic displaying how to create a defensible space for your home
Defensible space is the required space between a structure and a wlidland area that, under normal conditions, creates a sufficient buffer to slow or halt the spread of wildfire to a structure. It protects the home from igniting due to direct flame or radiant heat. Defensible space is essential for structure survivability during wildland fire conditions. For more information about defensible space zones and preparedness techniques, visit the Firewise Communities website at www.firewise.org.
Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — July 2019

Headshot of Clay FitchA lot has changed since Wells Rural Electric Company (WREC) built its service center in 1977. Among the greatest of those changes is how much electricity is used by the average member.

The following graphs illustrate how your not-for-profit, member- owned electric cooperative has grown to meet your changing needs.

To better serve those needs, your locally-elected Board of Directors broke ground for the new operations center June 18. Construction should begin in just a few weeks. In addition to protecting the inventory and equipment your cooperative uses, the new operations center will enhance our ability to serve you, increase efficiency, improve security and support our commitment to safety.

We appreciate the interest in the project from local contractors who submitted very competitive bids. Not only are our members getting a much-needed facility upgrade, a significant portion of the money invested in this project will stay in the local economy.

We look forward to keeping you informed about the progress of the new operations center through Ruralite, wrec.coop and on Facebook.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Energy use graph

 

Powerline graph

Number of connected accounts graph

Total energy sales in kWh

Square miles of service territory

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — June 2019

Headshot of Clay FitchNominations for four (4) seats on Wells Rural Electric Company’s (WREC) Board of Directors open Monday, June 10, 2019. 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 2019 Board of Directors Election Nomination Form available at all WREC offices and on www.wrec.coop. All mandatory questions must be answered in order for the nomination to be valid. Completed nomination forms must be received by Gary E. DiGrazia, General Counsel, by 5:00 P. M. Pacific Time Zone on Monday, June 24, 2019. Mail the completed form to Gary E. DiGrazia, 530 Idaho Street, Elko, Nevada 89801 or P. O. Box 1358, Elko, Nevada 89803; e-mail gdigrazia@frontiernet.net; 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.

Any member in good standing for a minimum of one (1) year as of June 24, 2019, may nominate another eligible member, himself or herself, (“the nominee”) for Director using the approved form. The nomination form must be signed and dated by both the nominee and the person making the nomination, if other than the nominee. Nominees must verify their membership by providing their name and contact information

To be eligible for election to the Board of Directors, non-incumbent nominees must attend a mandatory informational workshop on Wednesday, June 26, 2019 at 1:00 P. M. Pacific Time Zone at the WREC Headquarters, 1451 Humboldt Avenue, Wells, Nevada 89835.

Nominees must not have any felony convictions within seven (7) years prior to June 10, 2019.

The nominee must be of legal voting age prior to June 10, 2019.

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. No more than one (1) person may serve on the Board based upon any one (1) membership.

The nominee, or his/her entity, must not have an unpaid account with WREC that is outstanding for more than ninety (90) days. The nominee, or his/her entity, must not have an account written-off as a bad debt by WREC within seven (7) years prior to June 10, 2019.

The nominee must not be a current employee of WREC or a former employee of WREC within five years prior to June 24, 2019.

The nominee, or his/her entity, must not have been the subject of a Ruralite Feature Story article since February 21, 2019.

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

The nomination should 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.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message – May 2019

Visions of the Future

Headshot of Clay FitchThe vision a handful of leaders put in motion 61 years ago makes your life more enjoyable, safer and more convenient to this day. Wells Rural Electric Company’s original Board of Directors took an enormous leap of faith when they decided to unite our communities through the creation of a rural electric cooperative to bring safe, reliable, clean and affordable electricity to you, our members.

One example of how far into the future those leaders looked is the decision to contract with Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) for a long-term wholesale power supply. Senate Bill 358 is making its way through the Nevada Legislature at this very moment. If enacted, this bill will require every provider of electricity in Nevada to produce 50% of its electricity from renewable resources by 2030. Because WREC’s wholesale power supply is primarily produced by hydropower, the electricity you use every day is already 84% renewable and 96% carbon-free.

Because of another long-term vision, your Board members have lobbied the Nevada Legislature for years to count hydropower as renewable. The investment of both time and money in helping elected officials understand hydropower, rural issues, local control, electric cooperatives and cost-based rates has persuaded members of the Legislature to include hydropower as a renewable resource in this mandate. As a result, your electric cooperative will be exceeding what will be a distant goal for other electric utilities, as it has for decades.

Your current Board of Directors and management team are looking far into the future as well. On Thursday evening, April 11, WREC announced an investment in the future of your cooperative. More than 50 people were present and about a dozen watched on facebook live as WREC presented plans for construction of a new operations center.

With your support, your locally-elected Board thoughtfully invests the money you entrust to them. These investments include building and maintaining the power lines that reliably deliver electricity and technology that allows you to conduct business with your cooperative at your convenience. WREC also invests in energy-efficiency improvements in your homes and businesses and in the equipment and training your employees need to serve you efficiently and affordably.

This is the perfect time to invest in a new operations center that will not only meet current needs but enable your electric cooperative to provide the excellent service you’ve come to expect well into the future. Interest rates are low, and WREC’s financial health is rock-solid. Subject to any new developments, WREC does not expect BPA to increase wholesale power costs in October. WREC has controlled its cost over the past five years. As a result, we do not foresee a need for a rate increase for the next two years, even with the investment in a new building.

We are excited to share this important step in the growth of your electric cooperative with you. Renderings of the proposed operations center appear on pages four and five inside this magazine. Video of the announcement ceremony, additional drawings and frequently asked questions are available on www.wrec.coop.

evelopments will be shared with you at community organization and local government meetings, as well as through social media, our website and coming editions of Ruralite magazine.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message – April 2019

A Story in Just Six Words

Headshot of Clay FitchThere is a legend that Ernest Hemingway once bet his dining companions that he could write a story in six words. He reportedly wrote, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” and collected $10 from each person at the table.

The concept of flash fiction has inspired other powerful six-word stories such as, “Cursed with cancer, blessed with friends,” “I still make coffee for two,” “It did not go as planned,” and “She did it the hard way.”

I’m no Hemingway, but I can tell you the story of Wells Rural Electric Company (WREC) in six words: “People wanted electricity. They worked together.”

The sequel is just six words as well: “Working together is better for everyone.”It may seem like merely a philosophical statement, but we are actually working together in more ways than one.

For example, you have an opportunity in June of each year to nominate yourself or a fellow member to serve on the board of directors. As the top decision-making body, the board you elect creates policies and sets rates to ensure that safe, reliable, clean and affordable electricity keeps flowing to your homes and businesses. Your Board is working together for you.

As members, you are working together to invest in your company. It’s easy to think of your electricity bill as just another bill, but it’s more like a mortgage statement. While the majority of your bill is the cost of wholesale electricity, a portion of your bill pays interest and principle. Just like your mortgage, you are building equity in an asset. In this case, the asset is the cooperative that delivers electricity to you at cost.

Unlike your home equity, the money isn’t tied up until you sell your home or take a home equity loan. A portion of your equity is refunded each year through the capital credit check you receive. The capital credit system uses equity collected last year to refund a portion of the equity collected in previous years. In this way, even the newest members are investing in their cooperative while the investments made by earlier members are gradually repaid.

Not only is your equity invested in upgrading and maintaining the grid, it is invested in the equipment and buildings necessary for your employees to put your assets to work.

A few of us still think of the headquarters building on Humboldt Avenue as the “new building” because we began our careers with WREC in the “old building” on Lake Avenue. Through diligent maintenance and small renovation projects, this building has been serving your needs for 33 years. Parts of the distribution grid have been serving you for 61 years.

Your board and employees take pride in being good custodians of the assets you entrust to us. Your cooperative is financially sound. Physical assets are well maintained. Long-term power supply contracts help keep rates affordable. Budgets are wisely invested. Strategic planning prepares your cooperative for the future.

That future can also be summarized in six words, “Meeting the changing needs of members.”

My fellow employees and I thank you for the privilege of helping you create a more powerful future together.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message – March 2019

Caring About Our Community

Headshot of Clay FitchAuthor Anthony J. D’Angelo observed that, “Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.”

D’Angelo’s thoughts reflect Wells Rural Electric Company’s philosophy toward our members and the broader community we serve. As a not-for-profit cooperative, we have a different “bottom line.” While our priority is always to provide safe, reliable, clean and affordable electricity, there is another important part of this equation: your well-being and that of our friends and neighbors. To your Board of Directors and employees, you are not just a customer, you are a member and the only reason WREC exists.

WREC was founded to fulfill a vital need in our community that would not have otherwise been met. Concerned local leaders came together to build your cooperative.

At that time, nearly all members understood that WREC was different because they likely knew someone who helped create the cooperative. For many members, WREC’s founding and the circumstances of the time are unknown. Over the past 61 years, some members may have come to think of WREC as simply an energy provider. But WREC is so much more. WREC is a cooperative that is constantly evolving to meet the changing needs of the members and communities we serve.

WREC is always looking at changes in the energy environment, evolving technology and shifting member expectations. For example, one of your fellow members who became a drone pilot is featured in “An Eye in Northern Nevada’s Sky”. The use of drones to inspect power lines is quickly becoming an industry standard. “Save Energy With Easy Home-Improvement Projects” explains several easy do-it-yourself projects to help you reduce how much electricity you use for heating. This is especially important as cold winter temperatures demand more electricity to keep our homes and businesses warm. “SmartHub App Puts Power at Your Fingertips” has information about using our mobile app to manage your account when it fits your schedule. Finally, “YES Camp? Yes, Please” illustrate our long-standing commitment to our youth.

The founding Board of Directors in 1958 included, back row from left: Eyre Boies, John Moschetti, Charles Read, D. Vernon Dalton, Roger Smith, Blaine Sharp and Herbert Uhlig. Front row from left: Charles Ballew, James L. Ballard, Robert R. Wright and WREC’s first general manger, George Blackett. Wells Rural Electric Company Archive Photograph

As members, you guide the decisions we make to improve and enrich our communities. Your questions and comments help us better understand your needs. Most importantly, you have an opportunity every year to vote for candidates for the Board of Directors. The Board is comprised of members of the cooperative and community just like you.

As a local business, we have a stake in the community. That’s why we support local service organizations, charities and community events. When you support these efforts, you are also supporting the community and making it a better place for everyone.

While times may have changed, our purpose and outlook have not. By working together, we can accomplish great things for our community now and into the future.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO Message — February 2019

Ice falls in sheets and wires spring back after a lineman uses an insulated “hot stick” to knock ice off the power line. See more ice-storm photos in the article “The Ice Storm Cometh”. Photograph courtesy of Jacob “Magurt” Manning

Thick fog and bitter cold temperatures for days on end blanketed power lines in heavy ice. The weight of the ice not only took a toll on the power lines, it shredded branches from trees which often fell on the power lines as well.

It’s been a long battle for line crews fighting to keep electricity flowing despite unusual winter weather. Ice accumulation on power lines, as much as four inches thick, and nearby trees led to numerous “bumps” and several outages in mid-January.

In every column I write, my goal is to help you understand what is happening at your electric cooperative. One situation our line crew encountered illustrates why the ice buildup was such a challenge.

A member called our 24-hour customer service center at 1-800-566-6696 to report an outage. When crews arrived, they found that the weight of the ice on the overhead wires had pulled an anchor out of the ground. Without the anchor, the wires lost tension and slapped together causing a short circuit. Normally, crews would install a new anchor and restore safe clearances but the ground was frozen so hard that even our most powerful digger truck couldn’t drill through. Imagine that scene. The ground is so solidly frozen that crews couldn’t dig through it but the weight of the ice pulled an anchor out anyway.

Our crew had to come up with “Plan B”. They hauled in a 4,800 pound concrete road barrier to serve as a temporary anchor. They used trucks and winches to pull the wires back into place and connected the guy wire to the barrier. By morning, the ice had thickened so much that the weight bent the pole, drug the concrete block forward and stood it on its end. Time for Plan C.

In many respects, the power lines held up miraculously well under unprecedented conditions. In other cases, the ice exposed places where improvements are needed. For now, we are making essential repairs. Once the weather improves, we will focus on making the system even more reliable and resilient.

Keeping the grid on and making repairs required a Herculean effort. We appreciate our members who reported outages by calling 1-800-566-6696. Your calls helped crews pinpoint the trouble spots and restore power as quickly and safely as possible. Crews worked tirelessly, with support from office staff, to remove ice keeping your homes warm and your businesses open.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer