“Safe, reliable and affordable power remains our primary focus,” said General Manager Kevin Owens.
The right pieces are in place
“Power is 40 percent of our operating costs,” Owens told the crowd. “It’s a huge plus that we’ve locked up power supply so that over the next ten years we’ll have less than a one percent increase in those costs.”
With a stable power supply, the co-op can work on more efficient and streamlined operations.
“We’ll use technology to get us there, and innovative ways of doing things,” Owens stated.
He praised the co-op’s skilled, talented and dedicated staff.
“They have the heart, they want to be here for the right reasons. They want to go out and work 22 hours to get the power on, if that’s what it takes.”
On the horizon
New meters and software system
Owens also described a new advanced metering system the co-op will invest in over the next two years. Replacement of the co-op’s obsolete meters will also allow for better use of staff and resources.
“It will look like the same meter, but with internal technology for two-way communication. We’ll be able to turn a meter on or off with the press of a key rather than sending out a truck and lineman. A large flat screen monitor will display our electric system and each meter location. A 'red' meter dot on the screen will indicate no power at that location. Conceivably, we could know your power is out before you do.”
- The system is known as TWACS, Two-Way Automatic Communication System
- The TWACS metering system was installed at Owens’ previous utility in 2004—it’s been around a while.
- It is popular with other co-ops in our region.
- The meters should have a service life of 20-30 years.
- Current meters are obsolete; the most value we can get from them is recycling.
- Replacement is a two-year project, and meters will probably be in place toward the end of 2019.
Along with trustees of the co-op’s board, Owens also touted the opportunities ahead for distributed generation—wind, solar and other renewable on-site power.
“We’ll embrace member interest in distributed energy resources, while making sure we treat all members fairly and equitably.”
The co-op board and management have scheduled a strategic planning retreat in November that will address the co-op’s handling of member-generated power, net metering and rate structure, among other topics.