CEO’s Message

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message – December 2022

Christmas Came Early

Headshot of Clay FitchWhile our political process certainly has challenges, sometimes a bit of common sense emerges and gives us hope.

In late 2021, Washington state Governor Jay Inslee and U.S. Senator Patty Murray announced a process to examine if reasonable means exist for replacing the benefits provided by the lower Snake River dams. These dams are a critical energy source for your electric cooperative, so we actively participated in online forums, worked with industry allies and submitted written comments.

Governor Inslee and Sen. Murray commissioned studies from outside experts to assist their decision-making. These experts confirmed what Wells Rural Electric Company and other electric cooperatives have said for years: breaching the safe, reliable, low-cost, carbon-free lower Snake River dams would cause severe rate shock for members, obliterate regional climate goals and create a high likelihood of blackouts because rapid replacement of these resources is just not practical.

After extensive review, Gov. Inslee and Sen. Murray recently released what we consider commonsense recommendations. They concluded that while it is technically possible to breach the dams, it is “not a feasible option in the near term.” Furthermore, they were adamant that before pursuing any breaching option, “the replacement and mitigation of the benefits must be pursued.”

I couldn’t have been more surprised if Santa had signed the study himself and left it in my Christmas stocking!

Governor Inslee and Sen. Murray also said U.S. Congress would need to spend approximately $31 billion to conduct a Herculean infrastructure program to replace the benefits of the lower Snake River dams. This expenditure of scarce taxpayer dollars would go a long way toward other pressing needs: repairing roads and bridges, ensuring Americans have access to broadband and delivering clean water to American families.

The debate about the lower Snake River dams is not over, and other issues are always around the corner. WREC will continue to engage in any process that affects our members and the reliability of the electric grid.

Together, as cooperative members, we need to ensure our voices are heard on energy policies that affect our ability to deliver safe, reliable, affordable, and clean power and the communities we call home. This will be especially true as the Nevada Legislature begins its 82nd session on February 6, 2023. Please join the National Rural Electric Association’s Voices for Cooperative Power and become part of a growing team of electric cooperative member-advocates working together in Nevada and across the country. Sign up today by visiting Voices for Cooperative Power.

I hope the holiday season brings equally pleasant surprises to you and the new year is filled with even greater successes.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message – November 2022

A Seat at the Table

Headshot of Clay FitchThere is an adage in politics, “If you aren’t at the table, you’ll be on the menu.” Advancing the interest of our members requires your board of directors and staff to be at the table whenever issues that could affect you are debated. Often, we need you at the table as well.

The battle to defeat Question 3—also known as the Energy Choice Initiative in 2018—is a classic example. Board members and employees attended countless meetings, wrote articles, participated in interviews, produced advertising, built alliances and talked to anyone who would listen in every forum that would allow it. Ultimately, the decision was in your hands. What seemed inevitable after 72% of voters approved Question 3 in 2016 was overturned in 2018. After a hard-fought battle, 67% of voters opposed that misguided attempt to address an incredibly complex issue through a constitutional amendment.

Although there isn’t a 2022 ballot initiative aimed at electric utilities, your vote affects the future of your cooperative. From races for the Nevada Senate and Assembly to the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, the choices made this November will impact how electricity is generated and how much it costs. Regardless of your party or views, I urge you to vote.

We respect our members’ opinions and recognize your interests cover the political spectrum. Given the diversity of those opinions, it would be too controversial to use the money you pay for electricity to make campaign contributions. To bridge that gap, members of your board of directors and staff make personal contributions to two nonpartisan political action committees.

The Action Committee for Rural Electrification raises funds to support candidates in federal races whose views align with rural electricity consumers’ interests. At the state level, Rural Electrification Advocates of Nevada raises funds to support like-minded candidates in Nevada Senate and Assembly races.

When the election is over, your board and staff will be at the table on your behalf. However, making sure your voice is heard requires allies. In Utah and Idaho, you are represented by the Utah Rural Electric Cooperative Association and the Idaho Consumer-owned Utilities Association, where the combined strength of consumer-owned utilities influences legislative and regulatory matters.

Since 1974, the Nevada Rural Electric Association has represented the consumers served by 5 electric cooperatives, 2 power districts and one municipality. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association has your back at the federal level.

When it comes to wholesale power supply, we rely on a network of associations that focus on specific issues. Northwest RiverPartners is a collaborative effort among electric utilities, sportsmen, irrigators and transportation companies that rely on the Columbia and Snake rivers and lobby for efficient river operations.

Northwest Requirements Utilities represents consumer-owned electric utilities that are all-requirements customers of Bonneville Power Administration. Consumers served by public power utilities rely on the Northwest Public Power Association and the Public Power Council to manage legislation and regulation in multiple forums across the Pacific Northwest.

While allies are important, our most valuable ally is you. Again, I encourage you to vote.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer 

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message – October 2022

All of the Above

Headshot of Clay FitchMy late father-in-law taught history at Wells High School for many years. When he gave multiple choice tests, he would ensure that his students weren’t just getting by with lucky guesses by including “All of the above” among the possible answers.

For most of my career, answers to questions about wholesale power supply were largely driven by practical considerations. Wells Rural Electric Company (WREC)’s proximity to the Columbia River drainage basin made hydroelectric generation an excellent choice for safe, reliable, affordable and clean electricity. The decision to purchase our wholesale power supply from Bonneville Power Administration—which markets the 99.9% reliable, clean electricity generated by Columbia River dams—combined with consistent efforts to control costs locally, has given our members more than 50 years of affordable electricity and five years without a rate increase.

In Utah and Wyoming, abundant coal supplies made that fuel a reasonable choice for generation, while natural gas was the leading fuel supply for generation in states such as Texas. Utilities in other states opted to include nuclear power plants in their energy production. Wind and solar resources are becoming an important part of the electricity supply mix, but there are limits to how much intermittent generation can be integrated without compromising reliability and affordability.

Utilities often use a mix of generation resources to achieve the ideal combination of reliability and affordability. Essentially, many utilities—and the electric power grid in general—operate on all of the above.

The heat wave in late August illustrates the wisdom in an all-of-the-above approach. Although our members weren’t directly affected, consumers across the West were asked to reduce their energy use, especially in the late afternoons and early evenings. The need for reduced use was driven by a combination of solar production falling off as the sun sets and air conditioning and other appliance use picking up as people returned home from work. Fortunately, a mixed generation system built on a base of hydroelectricity, supported by a large-scale nuclear plant, and supplemented by wind, solar and natural gas generation was able to meet the demand.

The pressure on the grid was certainly a concern for utilities like WREC, which focus on reliability. But there was also an upside: it renewed the discussion about the importance of a diversified electricity supply mix. All of the above is being given renewed attention as a possible strategy for transitioning to a cleaner energy future, as it should.

Clay R. Fitch, CEO 

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message – August 2022

The Reliable Energy Source to Hit Back at Inflation

Headshot of Clay FitchGlobal supply chain disruptions combined with labor shortages and skyrocketing inflation have dramatically increased the cost of goods and services. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of June, the consumer price index had risen 9.1% over the past year. This is the largest increase since 1981.

Wells Rural Electric Company has not been immune to the impact of these price increases. Compounding the problem are growing supply chain delays. Some of the items WREC relies on for day-to-day operations, such as transformers, have been increasingly difficult to acquire. Lead times for new transformers—essential to bringing power to homes and businesses—have grown to more than a year in some cases.

To help offset these impacts, we are proactively managing the costs we can control and adapting our business. We recognized during the height of the pandemic that materials and manufacturing would slow, even before the explosive rise of prices and supply chain complications. We have secured additional stock of materials and equipment and formed a strategic alliance with a regional electrical equipment supply cooperative to keep our daily operations flowing smoothly and to try to minimize negative impacts to our members.

However, even the best planning is contingent on improvements in the global manufacturing and transportation sectors. We are not confident the elements impacting all aspects of supply chain issues and related cost increases will improve soon. Some indications signal we can expect the situation to extend into 2023.

Out of the darkness of the current economic situation is one bright spot: hydropower.

Because of hydropower and the dams that produce it, utilities around the Northwest—including WREC—have an edge to keep our rates competitive. Unlike the rising cost of natural gas, which powers 30% of the United States, we do not have volatile fuel costs with hydropower. That is a major reason WREC’s rates, and many in the Pacific Northwest, remain some of the most competitive in the nation.

But the state of hydropower is under constant attack. A recent draft report from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Sen. Patty Murray says breaching the four lower Snake River dams to allegedly help endangered salmon populations recover and replacing the benefits the dams provide could cost up to $27 billion. While the report does not make specific recommendations on whether the dams should be breached, it still understates the considerable benefits the dams provide: safe, reliable, affordable and carbon-free hydroelectric power, flood control, irrigation, low-carbon transportation benefits and regional power adequacy.

At a critical juncture in our nation’s history, maintaining clean and affordable power is paramount to ensure our local economy and livelihoods. While there are challenges ahead, we should celebrate and defend hydropower as a natural resource that has served us reliably for decades.

To learn more, please follow WREC on social media, and visit our website and the Northwest River Partners website.

Clay R. Fitch, CEO

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message – July 2022

Wildfire Season Is Coming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message – June 2022

Nominations Open for WREC Board

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message – May 2022

Beware of Scams; Call WREC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clay R. Fitch, CEO

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message – April 2022

Giving Money Back to Our Members

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clay R. Fitch, CEO 

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — March 2022

Cybersecurity and Your Co-op

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer

Manager's Message

CEO’s Message — February 2022

Don’t Keep Us in the Dark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Officer