CEO’s Message

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

Manager's Message

CEO Message — January 2019

Headshot of Clay FitchI could have easily closed a pop-up ad I recently encountered, but the headline was troubling. The banner read, “Secrets your electric company doesn’t want you to know …”

I know better than to fall prey to click bait, but in the aftermath of Question 3, I’m unusually suspicious of propaganda against electric companies. Essentially, the ad claimed that your electric company doesn’t want you to install solar panels because it would cut into its profits.

While that claim may be true in some cases, it’s not true for your member-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperative. In fact, Wells Rural Electric Company (WREC) adopted a net metering policy long before such policies became an industry practice or were required by legislation.

WREC’s net metering policy enables members who generate less than 50 kiloWatts to offset their usage with electricity they produce. In rare cases where a member produces more electricity than they use, WREC will purchase the excess electricity at the wholesale rate.

Only eleven WREC members currently utilize the net metering policy. While I don’t know all of the reasons why there has been limited adoption of solar in our service area, I do know that our low cost for electricity yields a longer return on investment, and our access to clean, renewable hydroelectricity already provides the same environmental benefits.

As is often the case with technology, we will probably see more members install solar as the industry matures and the costs come down. However, it’s no secret that you can reduce your monthly bill, and you don’t have to wait until you can install solar panels. Start saving today with energy efficiency and conservation.

One of your employees likes to say, “Our best kept secrets have been published.” In the case of energy efficiency and conservation, we were promoting those well-established programs when I began my career 37 years ago.

Our programs have evolved over time, but the philosophy behind them has remained constant: WREC provides safe, reliable, clean and affordable electricity. Energy efficiency and conservation immediately reduce your individual usage. When adopted by many consumers, energy efficiency and conservation help keep wholesale prices affordable.

As I write this column, we are just a couple of days away from the winter solstice and the longest night of the year. Our use of electricity for light and heat often increases during long nights and cold days. While I don’t want to discourage anyone from enjoying the comfort and convenience of electricity, I do want you to get the most from your energy dollars.

Visit www.wrec.coop for a complete list of rebates available to qualifying members for installing energy efficient-lighting, appliances, windows and insulation. Even if you have taken advantage of WREC’s programs in the past, advancements in technology—especially in LED lighting—probably make it worthwhile to upgrade some of the devices around your home or business.

Best wishes for a bright and prosperous New Year!

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO Message — December 2018

Thank you for keeping electricity safe, reliable, clean and affordable by voting No on Question 3. We appreciate your overwhelming support!

Best wishes for a joyous holiday season!

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Text over outline of state of Nevada: WREC thanks all who voted No on Question 3. Your voice made a difference.

Manager's Message

CEO Message — November 2018

Headshot of Clay FitchThe job of providing our members with safe, reliable, clean and affordable electricity is your cooperative’s top priority. But this job requires a lot more than stringing and maintaining power lines throughout our service territory. It requires political engagement. That may seem far removed from our core mission, but it is absolutely essential to serving you, our members.

This has never been more true than now. The 2018 election will change the political landscape and the way we serve you, our members.

In addition to encouraging members to vote in the annual election for your Board of Directors, I have always encouraged cooperative members to participate in national, state and local elections. Educating voters, political candidates and elected officials about the important role played by electric cooperatives in their communities is critical to your cooperative’s continued success.

Electric cooperatives have a unique advantage. As cooperatives, the civic virtue of voting is in our DNA. We show Concern for Community—one of the Seven Cooperative Principles—through participation in our democracy.

Cooperatives have another advantage. Elected officials and decision-makers across the political spectrum trust us because the goals of the cooperative and the needs of the members are the same. When we all get involved, we can make things happen politically and in our local communities.

No on 3. Risky and Costly.Your participation in this election will help ensure rural issues remain part of the local, state and national discussion and are supported by our elected officials. However, I’m not asking you to get involved just for your cooperative. This election is about protecting your rights as a member of your electric cooperative by voting No on Question 3.

By the time you read this article, early voting will have been available for a couple of weeks and should still be available for a few more days. Election Day is November 6. Please commit to voting this year.

We look forward to seeing you at the polls.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer