CEO’s Message

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — June 2020

Nominations for Board of Directors to Open

Headshot of Clay FitchNominations for four seats on the Wells Rural Electric Co. Board of Directors open Monday, June 8. Director seats subject to election are held by incumbents Gerald (Jerry) Anderson, Lois Nannini, Bruce Widmer, and Kirk Dahl.

Nominations must be made on the 2020 Board of Directors Election Nomination Form available at all WREC offices and our website. All mandatory questions must be answered for the nomination to be valid.

Completed nomination forms must be received by Lauren Landa, general counsel, by 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time Monday, June 22. Mail the completed form to Lauren Landa, 530 Idaho St., Elko, NV 89801, or P.O. Box 1358, Elko, NV 89803; email; 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 year as of June 22, 2020, may nominate another eligible member, himself or herself, 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, nonincumbent nominees must attend a mandatory informational workshop held electronically and/or telephonically on Tuesday, June 30, at 1 p.m. Pacific Time.

Nominees must not have any felony convictions within seven years prior to June 8, 2020. The nominee must be of legal voting age prior to June 8, 2020.

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 person may serve on the board based upon any one membership.

The nominee, or his/her entity, must not have an unpaid account with WREC that is outstanding for more than 90 days. The nominee, or his/her entity, must not have an account written-off as a bad debt by WREC within seven years prior to June 8, 2020.

The nominee must not be a current employee of WREC or a former employee of WREC within five years prior to June 22, 2020.

The nominee, or his/her entity, must not have been the subject of a Ruralite feature story since February 19, 2020.

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. 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 2020

Taking Care of Our Community

Headshot of Clay FitchMetropolis wasn’t always a ghost town. At its peak in 1912, Metropolis boasted 700 residents, a brick high school, a railroad depot, and the finest hotel between Salt Lake City and Reno.

Eleanor Hasenkamp Holland was a schoolteacher who left behind a wonderful collection of photographs detailing life in that once-bustling community just 12 miles north of Wells.

On the back of the photograph on the bottom right, she wrote, “Do you remember the flu masks? We didn’t use them in Metropolis, but Elko required them so Gertrude Hunt and I had to manufacture some before we took off for the weekend. We laughed over them, but it didn’t seem so funny when I came down with the flu and nearly died. Fortunately, none of the other teachers took ill, though they all helped take care of me.”

Eleanor Hasenkamp Holland
Eleanor Hasenkamp Holland

Eleanor was one of about 500 million people worldwide sickened by the influenza pandemic of 1918. Eleanor recovered, but about 50 million people died.

Even though this story is 102 years old, I suspect it sounds eerily familiar. But the part of her story that resonates with me is the final phrase: “They all helped take care of me.”

I have written many times about Wells Rural Electric Co. being created by neighbors working together to help each other get safe, reliable, affordable, carbon-free electricity. That sense of community still guides every decision made by your locally elected Board of Directors and your employees at WREC, including our strategies to help all of our members get through this pandemic together.

Two women wearing masks wearing fur coatsYour cooperative has made many changes to address the impacts of COVID-19, but the most significant is the creation of a new position called Member Advocate. Several existing employees are putting aside their usual responsibilities to focus on helping individual members deal with the financial hardships caused by COVID-19. If you are having difficulty making ends meet, please call your local office as soon as you can so your member advocates can help you access the range of tools we have available to help you manage your account and, hopefully, some of your other financial burdens. Those tools include the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), SmartHub, energy efficiency, Commitment to Community vouchers, payment arrangements, budget billing and more.

Other employees and your Board of Directors are working to develop more tools member advocates can use to help you and your family get through this very trying time.

Stay home, stay safe, stay positive and stay connected.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — April 2020

Together, We Shall Overcome

Headshot of Clay FitchFor more than 60 years, Wells Rural Electric Co. has taken pride in fulfilling our mission to provide safe, reliable, affordable and carbon-free electricity to our members. As our lives and society have changed immeasurably in that time, I’m constantly reminded that here, in rural Nevada, we still look out for our neighbors and protect each other, just as we always have.

As the global health emergency presented by COVID-19 affects life in our communities, I want to assure our members that WREC will continue to fulfill our commitment to reliability. Electricity remains at the heart of what drives our day-to-day lives.

These are unprecedented times, and the increased focus on social distancing measures has the potential to overwhelm. Because of modern technology and the devices we use on a daily basis, however, we now have the ability to remain connected to one another even while practicing social distancing. Electricity plays a central role in that process, and we are here to make sure you can still connect with loved ones, stay caught up on the news and enjoy the other conveniences electricity provides even during increasingly difficult circumstances.

I take very seriously WREC’s duty to act as a responsible citizen in our communities. We are supporting local, state and federal efforts to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the virus. We each have a responsibility to heed warnings from medical professionals at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and adhere to appropriate social distancing practices. It is our duty to help protect those in our society who are most at risk.

As a result, WREC has closed its offices to in-person transactions. Our commitment to reliability remains unchanged. Please continue to report every outage to our dispatch center by calling 1-800-566-6696.

Our efforts to provide excellent service require healthy employees. Those who are able to work remotely are being asked to work from home. These measures are meant to protect the health of WREC’s members and employees. That does not mean you should expect us to be any less responsive to your needs. Our drive-through windows and payment drop boxes remain open, and there are online and phone service payment options for those who wish to contact us or pay remotely.

Regardless of the circumstances, we are still actively engaged every day in providing the best possible service to our members. We are here for you.

Now, more than ever, it is important that we all remember the important roles we share in building our communities. Our daily functions may change, but WREC’s commitment to you will not. Even in isolation, electricity ensures we remain connected, we remain a community and we remain more powerful together.

We will meet these challenging times just as we always have: together.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — March 2020

$883 Billion Is a Lot of Money

Headshot of Clay FitchCensus data helped 55 federal agencies decide where to spend $883,094,826,042 in 2016. That same year, Nevada received $6,219,293,623, which funded federal programs including education, rural health care, housing, transportation, Community Development Block Grants, adoption assistance and many, many more. For comparison, total state tax collections in 2016 were $8,025,046,000.

The decennial census is the once-a-decade population and housing count for all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. The results of the census determine the number of seats for each state in the U.S. House of Representatives and are used to draw congressional and state legislative districts.

The census also measures the nation’s economy providing vital statistics for virtually every industry and geographic area in the country. For instance, census data is used to prove that the members of Wells Rural Electric Co. live in areas with a low population density. As a result, WREC qualifies for the Low-Density Discount from our wholesale electricity provider, Bonneville Power Administration, which saves you money on your electricity bill every single month.

Answering the census is safe, easy and important.

The law requires the Census Bureau to keep your information confidential and use your information only to produce statistics. To protect your safety, the Census Bureau cannot publicly release your responses in any way that could identify you. Your information will never be shared with law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI or local police, or with immigration agencies such as ICE. Census workers must pass a background check and will always have identification badges. If you have any doubts, you can contact the Census Bureau to verify their identity.

To make responding easy, households will begin receiving official Census Bureau mail in mid-March with detailed information on how to respond to the 2020 census. By April 1, 2020, every home will receive an invitation to participate. You can complete a census questionnaire by mail, by phone or online at 2020census.gov.

The goal of the census is to count every person once, only once and in the right place. An accurate count is so important to our communities that several local governments have formed “Complete Count Committees” to encourage every person to respond to the census.

If you haven’t completed a census questionnaire by June, census takers will go door-to-door to ensure everyone is counted. In northeastern Nevada, the Census Bureau has only been able to hire about 30% of the people needed to complete the count. If you are interested in working for the Census Bureau, additional information is available at 2020census.gov/jobs. If you are hired, the Census Bureau will provide all necessary training for free. Beware of any person who promises a job with the Census Bureau but asks you to pay for training.

As the 2020 census approaches, we will continue to share information about how you can make sure our community is fully represented. Visit 2020census.gov anytime to get the latest news.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — February 2020

Smart Management. Smart Life. SmartHub.

Headshot of Clay FitchLife is fast and sometimes hectic, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Managing your electricity usage and account with Wells Rural Electric Co.’s SmartHub app is easy.

You may have heard about SmartHub—our innovative tool for account management. SmartHub can help you take control of your WREC account like never before, giving you more time to focus on other priorities. SmartHub has several features that make managing your account as easy as possible. Whether through the web, your smartphone or tablet—Android or iOS—you can view your usage, contact member services, pay your bill, and get the latest cooperative news anytime, day or night.

As soon as you log in, you’ll be able to view your billing history and make a payment in just a couple steps. You can review your current bill or bills from the previous month or year if you want to compare costs. Not only will you see your billing history, you can view your kilowatt-hour use, which will allow you to take steps to lower your bill. Insights from your usage history can help you determine which energy efficiency measures would have the most impact. Then use WREC’s rebates to help pay for your energy efficiency upgrades.

Making payments through SmartHub is fast and easy. The first time you make a payment, you can securely store your payment information for future transactions. The next time you need to pay your bill, it will only take a couple of clicks.

You’ll also be able to see important notices from WREC with SmartHub. You can select how you want to be notified, including e-mail and text messaging.

You can contact WREC for member service requests or with any questions you may have. A few taps on SmartHub’s contact feature make it quick and easy to let us know about your questions or concerns.

Access SmartHub by visiting www.wrec.coop or by downloading the app on your mobile device through Apple’s App Store or Google Play.

If you need assistance with any of our services, contact your local office listed to the left of this column. We are always happy to help.

Plenty of things in life are complicated. Manage your WREC account with SmartHub, and simplify your life.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — January 2020

Changing Meanings

Headshot of Clay FitchCould it be that our world is changing so dramatically we need a new word to express our amazement every year or two?

I recently overheard a young man excitedly describing a new truck he had seen as “sick.” His enthusiasm left no doubt that “sick” meant the polar opposite of the flu. Another young man I know uses “insane” to describe things he really likes. Depending on how far back your memories go, you might have used words like “phat”, “radical,” “wicked,” “righteous,” “groovy,” “gnarly,” or even “the bomb.” Regardless of your age or the word that conveys that sense of amazement for you, there are a few things that I think are “awesome.”

Membership: Cooperatives harness the awesome power of community to bring safe, reliable, affordable and clean electricity to you. Because you—the members—own Wells Rural Electric Company, every decision we make is focused on your long-term interests.

The Board of Directors: Every year, you have an opportunity to vote in an election that determines which of your fellow members will represent you to ensure your interests are at the heart of every decision regarding policy, power supply and rate structure.

SmartHub: These days, there’s an app for everything. The SmartHub app allows you to easily track your electricity usage and manage your account.

Energy Efficiency Programs: Helping consumers use less of your primary product doesn’t make sense for most businesses, but it does when your business is a not-for-profit electric cooperative whose every decision is focused on increasing value for its members.

The Next Dollar Foundation: The power of community will be taking a big step forward in 2020. Beginning this month, your electricity bill will be rounded-up to the next dollar, and the “change” will be donated to the Next Dollar Foundation to fund much-needed community projects and education grants. If you don’t agree the Next Dollar Foundation is an awesome community resource, you can keep the change by sending an opt-out form to your local office.

Applications for project funding and education grants are available on our website. Education grants are open to graduating seniors and older students who want to further their education. For more information and to access the applications, visit www.wrec.coop/ community/next-dollar-foundation.

The New Operations Center: Your Board of Directors recently toured the new Operations Center. Construction is moving forward as planned, and the new facility will enable your employees to provide an even higher level of service. In addition to providing safer and more efficient workspaces, the new building will enhance security for materials and provide protection for valuable assets and equipment. We look forward to welcoming you into that facility when construction is finished this spring.

99.98% Reliability: Last, but far from least, excellent reliability drives our budgets, training programs and work plans. Our ever-growing reliance on technology is increasing expectations for reliability, and we think our record for reliability is absolutely awesome!

Happy New Year!

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

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.