CEO’s Message – February 2023

Power in Planning

Headshot of Clay Fitch

Although Wells Rural Electric Company (WREC) prides itself on our record of 99.9% reliability, outages can and will happen.

Outages are most often caused by unexpected equipment failure, lightning or something  contacting one of our power lines. Usually, our highly-trained crews perform maintenance with the line energized to minimize the impact on our members. When work cannot be safely completed energized, WREC faces the difficult decision of scheduling an outage.

There is never a good time for an outage and we try our best to minimize impacts. Unfortunately, the best time for an outage for one member is often the worst time for another. For instance, the best time for an outage for our schools is at night or on the weekend. In contrast, weekends are the worst time for an outage for the travel plazas, hotels, restaurants and resorts.

The outages scheduled in November and December are still on the minds of some members. Idaho Power Company (IPCo) owns the transmission line and substation that delivers wholesale electricity to the Wells area. For several years, WREC worked with IPCo to improve voltage and reliability. Those efforts led to a decision by IPCo to build a new substation with state-of-the art equipment. IPCo also decided to include the cost of the new substation in its capital budget so there was no direct cost to WREC members.

Good news often comes with bad news. In this case, the bad news was that three planned outages would be required to build the new substation.

The first outage, scheduled in July 2022, bypassed a portion of the old substation so crews could work throughout the summer. During a second outage in November, a temporary substation was installed so parts of the old substation could be rebuilt. The final outage to remove the temporary substation and connect the new substation was scheduled in December.

For the past several years, winter weather has been warmer and drier than average, but winter returned with a vengeance in early December. WREC staff made repeated requests to delay the outage until spring. Unfortunately, IPCo needed its temporary substation for other projects and couldn’t delay the outage, even a few months.

The cold weather intensified and WREC made additional pleas to delay the outage. Then on the morning that the outage was scheduled, IPCo postponed the outage until December 29 when somewhat better weather was expected.

Although postponing was the best decision at the time, we know it was a huge inconvenience to our members. We appreciate your patience and understanding during December’s outage.

Our co-op strives to provide information to help you deal with an outage. Follow WREC on Facebook for the latest information and ensure we have a valid phone number on your account. We will never disclose your contact information to an outside entity. However, a valid phone number enables WREC to deliver outage information specific to you. For the December 29 outage, we delivered a message by phone to 86% of the 1,059 affected members in about 50 minutes. This level of outreach is only possible with accurate telephone numbers so please use the SmartHub app to update your account, or contact your local office, whenever your contact information changes.

Clay R. Fitch
Chief Executive Office