Year End Message from EnerStar CEO Brent Reyher
As each year draws to a close, we often find ourselves reflecting upon the past 12 months. Given all that has taken place since we first learned the term COVID-19 in early 2020, for me this year is a bit different. Who could have imagined how our lives would change? But if there is one consistency in adversity, it is that Americans are resilient. We know how to “weather the storm.”
“Storms” such as the COVID-19 pandemic can take us by surprise while others can be prepared for in advance. Take, for example, the work done by staff at your electric cooperative. At the heart of our mission statement, EnerStar is focused on providing reliable power to our membership. This requires planning, training, and timely execution of a game plan. We often refer to this internally as “the work plan.”
At EnerStar, we develop a work plan that enables us to and plan for contingencies. This year, we replaced two aging substation transformers that were showing signs of accelerating internal deterioration. Based upon timely test results, we elected to remove both units from service with spares that were available to us. By scheduling this work, we believe we avoided unplanned and potentially extended outages. Upon completion of routine engineering analysis, equipment is commonly installed that increases service reliability but also gives the co-op the capability to serve members from alternate facilities. This allows for more timely restorations when a weather event or system contingency occurs. By switching to an alternate line or sub, it is our goal to restore as many members as possible while isolating the section of the system that requires repair.
Another example of our ongoing efforts to improve the reliability of the distribution system, this past summer, EnerStar utilized for the first time an aerial-mounted saw to trim vegetation in areas difficult to maintain with terrain-based equipment. Although the trimming was completed in less than a week, the saw was so efficient that it required several weeks for the ground crew to process all the material left behind. If you were unable to witness the saw in person, I would encourage you to go to our website and watch a video of it in action. It was quite a sight!
This year EnerStar reached an exciting milestone. Partnering with one of its key lenders, CoBank, the two have collectively given over $125,000 to local organizations such as volunteer fire departments and food banks via a program entitled “Sharing Success.” As a member, you have helped EnerStar provide much-needed resources to organizations in our area. We look forward to continuing this tradition of giving. See a list of organizations on 20C that have benefitted from grants.
As we prepare for the future, EnerStar is working alongside its power supplier, Wabash Valley Power Alliance, to ensure that our rates provide the membership with the ability to embrace emerging technologies such as electric vehicles or smart appliances. Possible rate enhancements being discussed include time-of-use (TOU) rates, a “super” off-peak rate, as well as potential incentives for those who can shift peak consumption away from high cost and into periods of lower cost. The overall goal would be to provide members with opportunities for reducing energy costs by providing pricing which more accurately reflects the variability of the cost of producing and delivering energy.
Rate reviews are wisely coupled with a cost of service study (COSS). Such a study provides detailed information regarding cost contributors and sets a roadmap as to which member groups are receiving the benefits of each set of costs. The current COSS was completed in 2018, however costs contributors often change over time, so it is wise to update this key study from time to time. I’m pleased to say that EnerStar has begun the preliminary steps of an updated COSS, with completion expected mid-2022. As these are detailed studies, the update will again be completed with key contributions from CoBank, a trusted business partner. While it’s difficult to predict with certainty how rates may change in the future, one thing that is certain is your board of directors will first carefully consider the financial health of the co-op before implementing any changes. And it is the COSS that will provide them with the information needed to make informed and timely rate decisions.
EnerStar has long been blessed with hard-working employees who live and serve within our community. Some of those individuals are beginning to reach a point in their career when retirement becomes a near-term option. We certainly have benefitted from their years of dedication and hard work, however as they embrace a new chapter of their lives, we must focus on finding their successors. Throughout the next few years, we will be hiring talented individuals to help fill those shoes. While the faces you see at the co-op may begin changing, the goal of providing low cost, reliable power to our neighbors and friends will never change.
Stay safe and hopefully we will all be together again at our 2022 Annual Member Meeting!