Since its founding in 1939, Wiregrass Electric Cooperative’s goal has been to provide affordable, reliable and clean energy to rural communities in southeastern Alabama that for-profit power companies found unprofitable.
Now, nearly 80 years later, WEC has continued that promise to our members, making sure they know that they are at the heart of everything we do. We now maintain 24,000 meters and serve 17,000 members. We service 3,100 miles of line, and our 67 full-time employees serve members at four offices — the Hartford headquarters and district offices in Dothan, Samson and Ashford.
WEC also implements the latest in technology and constantly monitors our financial responsibilities to provide you with safe, fast and reliable service.
One of the ways we do this is by monitoring our benchmarks and key performance indicators through Key Ratio Trend Analysis (KRTA) reports. These reports are an annual assessment of financial trends among electric distribution cooperatives nationwide. Looking at these trends allows us to see how we are performing compared to other cooperatives in the nation and ensures we are on a firm financial footing.
- Accounts Served: 23,000
- Service Area: Rural portions of Geneva, Houston, Dale, Coffee and Covington counties
- Density: Approximately six (6) meters per mile of line
- Annual Revenue (Calendar year 2010) – $50.9 Million
- Annual Payroll (Calendar year 2010) – $3.3 Million
- WEC Distribution Plant Value: $77 Million
As a member-owned utility, Wiregrass Electric Cooperative is focused on fulfilling the mission our founders envisioned more than 70 years ago: providing local, dependable electric service in an affordable manner. Those remain our priorities. And just like our founders, we face challenges today that impact our ability to serve our customers. These challenges can be summed up in three areas:
WEC buys its power wholesale from PowerSouth Energy Cooperative. Wholesale power equals some 70% of our expense. Therefore a very small portion of a member’s monthly power bill stays in our hands to be used for salaries, equipment, property, materials and other operating expenses. We are concerned about any regulations (EPA, renewable energy standards, etc.) that would drive up the cost of generating electricity, and therefore the price we pay for wholesale power.
Because of the rural nature of our service area, our member density is very low (see System Overview above). Therefore, the money we have invested in plant (poles, lines, equipment) per member is very high. We are concerned about any regulations that would 1) restrict our access to low-cost capital through RUS, or 2) increase our material costs (such as transformer efficiency standards or regulations that drive increases in commodity pricing).
At WEC, our people are our greatest asset. We are blessed with dedicated employees who are focused on our mission of reliability and service.
Focused on Energy Efficiency, Member Costs
Some 92 percent of our members are residential, with less than 10 percent of our revenue coming from commercial/industrial accounts. Because of this, WEC has what is referred to as a “low load factor.” This affects the rate at which WEC can purchase wholesale power. The typical power consumption habits for residential customers looks like this: 1) Wake up in the morning and adjust thermostat, take showers, run hair dryers, cook breakfast, etc.; 2) Depart for work and school, leaving the home to use very little electricity during the day; 3) Return home, cook supper, wash/dry clothes, use televisions/computers, wash dishes, etc.
This pattern sets a high demand for electricity that we must be prepared to meet with equipment, plant and manpower. However, that capacity is only needed a few hours per day.
In order to offset this challenge and have the lowest rates for all our members, WEC is focused on improving the energy efficiency of the homes and businesses we serve. Our efforts include:
- Creating an Energy Services department that provides in-home energy audits to our members at no cost, showing them practical steps they can take to improve their energy efficiency
- Forging a partnership with Habitat for Humanity, seeding a revolving loan fund to enable them to make energy efficiency improvements to the homes of low-income residents on our system who meet their eligibility requirements
- Coordinating community meetings with churches to teach them how to improve efficiency and avoid high demand charges
- Creating a dual fuel heat pump rebate program
- Establishing a loan program to help homeowners make improvements to increase efficiency
- Educating our members and promoting energy efficiency on a consistent basis through our strategic communications program