Planning for future growth
At Wiregrass Electric Cooperative (WEC), we aim to provide our members with quality service at affordable rates. We hope every action we take strikes that critical balance.
One of the ways we accomplish this goal is through strategic planning meetings that involve our board of trustees and leadership. During these meetings, we look at many factors that can challenge the balance we want to strike. Then, we plan how to address them.
Not all of the challenges are bad, but they are factors we must consider in order to keep our service great and our rates — which haven’t changed since 2010 — economical.
For instance, the Wiregrass is growing, as recent census data indicate. We see new home construction in many of the areas we serve. New businesses are coming, and WEC certainly hopes to help economic development officials attract more. More jobs equal more opportunities for ourselves and the next generation.
We also must account for changes in technology and power usage. While homes and appliances are more energy-efficient than before, the rising popularity of electric vehicles will present more demands on our electrical grid in the near future.
Demand is a key word for electrical providers, especially not-for-profit ones like our cooperative. Power rates are heavily influenced by demand. We must have the infrastructure in place to handle all of the power needs of our members on regular days plus any extra demands that might stem from extremely hot or extremely cold days.
We must also have access to enough power resources to meet that demand, which we get through our wholesale power supplier Power-South Energy Cooperative. Otherwise, we have to purchase power on the open market, which is a costly endeavor in extreme weather conditions.
All told, the costs related to demand represent more than 60% of our total wholesale power cost — and the number is growing. Our membership is heavily residential. That subjects our demand to higher peaks during severe temperatures.
While WEC is efficient with its financial management — our members do not pay the highest rates in the PowerSouth Energy Cooperative group despite our challenges — the cooperative must find ways to reduce or recoup our costs as a not-for-profit utility. This is where you, our members, can help.
By the time you read this, some of you will have noticed a line item called “demand” on your WEC electric bill. For others, you will see it soon. This item is informational. We want you to know how your power usage affects demand, which is a large portion of our costs. The more demand we have on our peak times, the higher our power costs will be.
The goal for WEC is to manage demand and therefore lower the demand during peak periods, which are the basis for the rate we pay for wholesale electricity, if we use electricity wisely. Peaks typically happen during the hours of 6 to 8 am in the winter and 3 to 6 pm in the summer. If you avoid major electricity usage during those times, your bill will reflect little demand. But if you wash clothes, shower, or complete other energy-dependent activities in those periods, your bill will display a larger demand. Larger demands during peak times drive costs higher than lower demand at peak times.
Some planning and habit changes will help you, your fellow members and the cooperatives account for changing times in the utility industry. Many energy tips can be found on our website and we will be giving you many more tips in coming editions of this magazine.
Through a cooperative effort, you can still experience affordable electricity at the same great service we provide. That’s our commitment to you.
CEO Wiregrass Electric Cooperative