CEO’s Message

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 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

Manager's Message

CEO Message — October 2018

Headshot of Clay FitchThe future is in your hands. For months, Wells Rural Electric Company (WREC) has worked with a large and growing coalition that has been providing information about Ballot Question 3. We have been diligently urging everyone we encounter to vote “NO”. This massive education effort seems to be working. You may remember that Question 3 passed in 2016 with 72% in favor and 28% opposed. A recent poll by the Reno Gazette Journal (RGJ) found that 51% of likely voters now oppose Question 3. However, the only poll that really matters is the election that ends November 6.

While 51% now opposed gives me hope that your electric cooperative will still be able to deliver safe, reliable, clean and affordable electricity after this election, the margin of error for the poll is 4.4%. Statistically, this election could easily go either way. From a practical perspective, it means that the passage or failure of Question 3 will be determined by who actually votes. Your vote will make a difference.

You can check if you are registered to vote on the website for the Nevada Secretary of State. If you are not registered to vote, please consider registering at the Registering To Vote page on the Nevada Secretary of State website. Online registration is available through October 18. You can also register by mail and at some state agencies, including the Department of Motor Vehicles, through October 9. Registrations can be completed at the County Clerk’s Office until October 16.

Early voting opens Saturday, October 20 and ends Friday, November 2. Election Day is Tuesday, November 6. Vote at your convenience, but please vote!

The RGJ poll also found that about 16% of voters were unsure about how to vote. If you are undecided, I again urge you to vote NO.

The article “Question 3 Threatens Rural Nevada” contains a partial list of organizations opposed to Question 3. A full list of organizations, local governments and individuals urging everyone to vote NO on Question 3 can be found on While some of these organizations often take very different positions on other issues, they all agree that Question 3 will be bad for their members.“Question 3 Threatens Rural Nevada” provides some compelling reasons why each of us should vote NO on Question 3.

The mayors who serve our communities in Nevada have heard the arguments both for and against Question 3 in several forums. Most notably, both sides of Question 3 have been presented three times at the Nevada League of Cities. Messages from the mayors of Carlin, West Wendover and Wells are in the article “Local Leaders Say No on 3”.

AARP has 342,000 members in Nevada. A letter urging AARP members and all citizens of Nevada to vote NO appears on page 25.

A letter outlining why the Nevada Mining Association is opposed to Question 3 has been printed in “Nevada Mining Association Testimonial Regarding Question 3. The positions of the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association and the Nevada Farm Bureau appear in “Nevada Cattlemen’s Association And Nevada Farm Bureau Testimonials Regarding Question 3”.

These organizations, and numerous others, have been instrumental in spreading the word about the damage Question 3 could cause.

Please help us ensure that all WREC members understand Question 3 and are registered to vote by talking with your friends and neighbors, putting up yard signs, wearing buttons or by putting a bumper magnet on your car. Pick these items up at your local office or click the “request a yard sign” button on

Vote to keep electricity safe, reliable, clean and affordable by voting NO on Question 3.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO Message – September 2018

Headshot of Clay FitchAn advertisement for Question 3 suggests that you “break-up” with your power company if you don’t like the rates or the service. The ad makes it sound so simple. But Question 3 won’t lead to a break up, it will lead to a divorce—a long, nasty and expensive divorce. Question 3 raises three difficult questions similar to those that must be settled in a divorce: Who will have custody of the children? What about our house? How will we manage holidays and family events?

Let’s consider custody first. As members of Wells Rural Electric Company (WREC), you have always had access to safe, reliable, clean and affordable electricity. If Question 3 passes, WREC will probably be forced to terminate—or be prohibited from extending—our long-term wholesale power supply contracts. That will force you to find a new electricity provider. Question 3 advocates claim competition will drive rates down. In your case, you will be forced to leave your not-for-profit, tax-exempt, cost-based electric cooperative for profit-driven electricity providers subject to income taxes. I can’t see how that will reduce your costs. You might even begin to receive two bills: one for electricity and a separate bill for delivering it to your home or business.

Next, a judge will likely decide how we will split the house. In the case of Question 3, the “house” is the value of all of the generation plants and long-term contracts held by all of the utilities. It’s a really big house because some of those contracts were intended to provide stable rates for as long as 50 years. Consumers will be stuck either with the cost of fulfilling those contracts or paying the termination costs. That cost has been estimated somewhere between $4 and $7 billion. That’s not a misprint. It’s billions. The range is so varied because no one can accurately predict the sale price of the house since there are no comparable sales. The sale price will also be heavily influenced by an arbitrary deadline to close the deal.

When California deregulated, that cost was about $20 billion, which had to be financed like a mortgage. Sixteen years later, Californians are still paying an approximate 10% surcharge for the mortgage. You could think of that surcharge as alimony.

More often than not, the divorced couple still has to get along for the sake of their children. Question 3 will create a similar situation in that the wires from your existing utility will still be connected to your home or business. Those wires will be delivering electricity from another provider. Not only will you have a new relationship with a new spouse, your electric cooperative will have to have a relationship will all of those new spouses.

Question 3 attempts to address several issues important not only to Nevada, but to the nation. Those issues include incorporating more clean energy, consumer protections, rate fairness, self-generation, energy supply and pricing, and the role of legislative and regulatory bodies. These are not simple issues and there are no simple answers.

These questions, and many others Question 3 will raise, will require the kind of compromises that must be negotiated through the mediation only the legislative process can provide. If we, as a state, decide deregulation is the correct path for Nevada, that process should begin in the legislature, not with a constitutional amendment. Instead of reconciling any differences, passage of Question 3 will drag us all into divorce court. Please vote no on Question 3.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO Message – August 2018

Headshot of Clay FitchQuestion 3 is weighing on me like no other issue I have ever confronted. In my entire career, I haven’t had to deal with a threat to your supply of safe, reliable, clean, affordable electricity that comes anywhere close.

Proponents for Question 3 claim that retail competition will provide more choices and lower rates. One advertisement says, “If your power company raises your rate, break up with it.”

Consumers in Texas are finding out that it isn’t that simple. A headline in the Houston Chronicle on June 7, 2018 read, “Electricity prices expected to skyrocket this summer.” The article which followed explained, “Consumers hoping to find better deals when their electricity contracts expire are in for a shock as retail prices have soared in anticipation of hot weather, potential power shortages and spikes in wholesale electricity prices. The low teaser rates for consumers available just a month ago have disappeared.”

If Question 3 passes, I worry that we will read that same headline in the High Desert Advocate, the Wells Progress, the Wendover Times and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Consumers in Massachusetts have had their own problems with deregulated power marketers. According to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, “Competitive electric suppliers promise big energy savings but are actually burdening customers with hundreds of dollars in extra costs. In two years, Massachusetts residents lost over $176 million to these predatory companies. I’m calling for an end to this industry because that’s the best way to protect our seniors, low-income residents, and minority communities from these persistent scams.”

I personally heard the most damning quote of all in January. The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada held ten days of workshops to gather information about implementation of Question 3. Since it was a workshop, anyone and everyone was welcome to testify, and many did. Joe Reynolds, Chair of the PUCN, asked a lot of pointed questions. One was, “Will Question 3 guarantee lower energy costs?” The hesitant response from a proponent was, “[Question 3] doesn’t say that it guarantees reduced prices … I want to be careful that we’re realistic about what can happen.”

There is an adage which says, “We are free to make choices but we are not free to choose the consequences.” If that is true, and I believe that it is, then I urge you to make the choice that will have the best consequences.

When it comes to ballot question 3, Wells Rural Electric Company already delivers on all the promises “Energy Choice” proponents are making to get you to vote yes. While I admit that “choice” is a great buzzword, I think you should consider making these choices instead by voting no on question 3.

Choose your bank account.

If Question 3 passes, monthly bills will go up, especially for residential members.

Choose the constitution.

“Energy Choice” doesn’t belong in the state constitution. Voting yes means it would take a minimum of six year to implement changes.

Choose your cooperative.

WREC formed 60 years ago because other utilities couldn’t deliver electricity to our territory at affordable rates and still turn a profit. That remains true today. Voting no on Question 3 is a vote to keep cost-based power in your hands.

Protect the choices that really matter. Vote no on 3.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO Message – July 2018

Headshot of Clay FitchIn her book, “Out of Africa” Isak Dinesen wrote, “… the Earth was made round so that we would not see too far down the road.” At the moment, I wish I could see so much further.

Question 3, also known as the Energy Choice Initiative, asks you to approve a constitutional amendment giving every citizen of Nevada the right to choose where you buy electric energy. While I can see how the amendment can guarantee that right, I can’t see how it can guarantee that ability.

What’s the difference? The constitutional amendment can’t force anyone to sell you electricity, so you might not be able to choose another provider. You might also lose the one choice that has been providing safe, reliable, renewable and affordable electricity for the last 60 years, Wells Rural Electric Company (WREC).

Before anyone accuses me of using scare tactics or just looking out for myself, please let me show you what I can see at the moment.

Question 3 will, “… provide by law for the establishment of an open, competitive retail electric market that prohibits the granting of monopolies and exclusive franchises for the generation of electricity.” (emphasis added) At face value, the amendment shouldn’t impact WREC’s daily operations because your electric cooperative doesn’t generate electricity, it delivers electricity.

WREC obtains some of the most affordable electricity in the nation from the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and delivers it to you at cost. Regardless of whether Question 3 passes or fails, the poles and wires you own as a member of your cooperative will probably deliver any electricity you might be able to purchase. If so, WREC will still need all of its existing employees, facilities, vehicles and equipment to deliver electricity.

So how could Question 3 jeopardize your access to low-cost electricity from BPA? Question 3 promises a, “meaningful choice.” That term isn’t defined, but in other States that have deregulated, incumbent utilities were forced sell their generation assets and cancel their power supply contracts because new providers couldn’t compete initially.

If you’re scratching you head at this point, you’re not alone. Backers of Question 3 claim that “competition” will result in lower rates, but if your current supplier has to be pushed out of the market so new competitors can get a foothold, doesn’t that indicate that new “competitors” are more expensive?

WREC was created as a not-for-profit cooperative because for-profit competitors weren’t interested in operating the poles and wires to deliver electricity to rural areas. Even though 60 years have passed, I can’t see that those economics have changed.

Nationwide, rural electric cooperatives average 7.4 members and collect $16,000 per mile of power line. That might seem like a great business opportunity until you compare it to other utilities. For-profit utilities average 34 customers and collect $75,500 per mile of power line. Municipal utilities average 48 customers and collect $113,000 per mile of power line.

Now, if you were a for-profit competitor, how much time would you spend looking for customers in Carlin where you would have about 15% as many potential customers or in South Fork with 14% as much potential revenue? I can see potential competitors looking for customers in Las Vegas. I can even see some slick marketing promising cheaper rates, but I can’t see potential competitors actually delivering a lower bill in West Wendover. If Question 3 passes, all I can see are higher bills no matter how far down the road I try to look.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO Message – May 2018

Photo of Clay FitchConstruction of a new grocery store in Carlin reminds me how much I appreciate the businesses that serve our small, rural communities. Not only do our local merchants deliver essential services in isolated markets, they provide jobs, places to see our friends and neighbors, and generously support so many community and school organizations. In essence, our business members make it possible for all of us to enjoy a great quality of life.

We certainly welcome new business members into your local electric cooperative, but I miss the businesses that once lined our main streets: the car dealerships, the movie theater, the bowling alley and the pharmacy, among others.

For those businesses that remain in our small towns, it’s quite an achievement to carve out a market niche and to stay competitive in an increasingly global and online economy.

You have probably noticed, unless the business is a travel plaza, a fast-food restaurant or a casino that also serves tourists, we rarely have more than one business fulfilling a local need. For example, we only have one pizza parlor, one dentist, one clinic, one auto parts dealer, one florist, one hardware store and one bank. In many cases, competition just isn’t feasible because there simply aren’t enough customers in a rural community to support two similar businesses.

Las Vegas, on the other hand, is an entirely different world. There may be dozens, or even hundreds, of options for some services. Few cities in the world can support some of the businesses that thrive in Las Vegas.

In such a vibrant economic climate, it may be possible to create a competitive electricity market. Several large consumers have demonstrated that market purchases are feasible.

In smaller communities like ours, where we’re lucky to have even one grocery store, it’s hard to imagine that for-profit electricity providers will be interested in serving many of our members. Remember, the primary reason the members formed Wells Rural Electric Company (WREC) in the first place is that it was not profitable for investor-owned utilities to serve so few consumers spread over such a large area. Only the not-for-profit coop business model has proven it can affordably bring safe, reliable and renewable electricity to you.

Through hard work, board, manager and member involvement brought hydroelectricity generated in the Pacific Northwest to north- eastern Nevada. Hydro has historically been the least expensive, clean, renewable generation resource.

Your locally-elected Board of Directors and your employees work hard every day to keep electricity affordable. While many of your employees focus on controlling the cost of reliable operation of the local distribution grid, I spend the majority of my time working to keep the cost of wholesale electricity down. That requires a strong working relationship with our wholesale power provider, Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and constant attention to laws and regulations that could increase wholesale power costs.

As a hedge against BPA rate increases, WREC is also a founding member of a cooperative purchasing pool that makes wholesale electricity market purchases on your behalf. Not only do supplemental market purchases help us control costs, it also provides tremendous insights into wholesale power market pricing and the costs of getting electricity to our community. If a lower price for whole- sale electricity was available, WREC would have already bought it and passed those savings through to you. That’s what rural electric cooperatives do. That’s the only reason WREC exists.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO Message – April 2018

Robert Fulghum is probably best known for his book, “All I Really Need 
to Know I Learned In Kindergarten.” More than 30 years since its first publication, I think that message still resonates with people.

We all recognize that there are some fundamental principles that serve us well regardless of changing circumstances. Fulghum’s list included: “Play fair. Share everything. Wash your hands before you eat. Clean up your own mess.”

If I were to write a similar book from the rural electric cooperative perspective, my list of fundamental principles would begin with, “Local control.”

I suspect that local control resonates with you as well. In our own lives, our families, our communities and even our state, we want to be able to make decisions in our own best interest. Wells Rural Electric Company (WREC) honors that principle with annual elections for members of the Board of Directors. WREC has used the resonating message of local control many times to protect your interests in the Legislature and even in Congress.

My list of fundamental principles would also include: “Ask members what they want.”

In light of these principles, I find Question 3, also known as the Energy Choice Initiative (ECI) to be fundamentally flawed.

First and foremost, the proponents of ECI never asked you, our members, if you wanted to be included. The amendment to the Nevada Constitution that they proposed doesn’t recognize that WREC exists because members chose to create a cooperative. Competition often leads to lower prices, but the most effective way to bring safe, reliable and affordable electricity to rural Nevada is through an electric cooperative.

“Restructuring” or “deregulating” the electric utility industry isn’t a new concept. Multiple states have enacted similar laws. Even Nevada started down that road in the early 1990s. However, every other state recognized the importance of local control. Their laws allowed individual cooperatives to “opt in” if retail competition was good for their members. Despite “choice” being part of the title, the Energy Choice Initiative eliminates that choice for you.

Second, no state has ever attempted to implement restructuring through a constitutional amendment. I understand why the proponents of ECI chose to bypass the legislative process. It’s slow, difficult and rarely can you get everything you want. However, as Winston Churchill so wisely observed, “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried from time to time.”

The legislative process is slow because there are so many consequences to be considered. It’s difficult because there are competing interests. It’s rare to get everything you want because it probably comes at the expense of someone else. Yet that deliberative process usually yields a compromise we can accept.

The backers of ECI made another fundamental error by ignoring the fact that four of the 11 utilities that serve Nevada’s consumers are based in neighboring states. Additionally, three utilities based in Nevada serve into other states.

Lastly, ECI has a fundamentally flawed time frame. All of the laws necessary to preserve reliability, protect consumers, create wholesale and retail markets, recruit providers, enable consumers to comparison shop and deploy a standardized billing system must be written by the Legislature by 2023.

There are too many fundamental flaws for the Energy Choice Initiative to become part of Nevada’s Constitution.

Clay R. Fitch,
Chief Executive Officer