CEO’s Message – January 2023

A Steady Hand On the Wheel

Les Moreland headshotAs we start a new year, it’s always wise to plan for the months ahead. Many of us consider our finances so we can budget for anticipated expenses. We also set personal and professional goals, creating a roadmap we can follow or adjust as needed.

That kind of planning can be difficult when there’s economic uncertainty. Something as simple as a grocery budget can be hard to nail down when we can’t predict the price of basic goods. As a cooperative, we face the same challenges when it comes to budgeting for the supplies and equipment needed to keep our electric system humming.

Fortunately, we anticipate some relief on the horizon, at least when it comes to natural gas prices. Between increased demand in Europe during the war in Ukraine and labor issues around transportation here at home, the natural gas market has been unpredictable. That volatility has made it difficult for electrical power providers, like our wholesale energy supplier PowerSouth, to lock in fuel prices for their natural gas facilities. As a result, costs increased.

Now, with demand dropping as many of us cut expenses in the face of economic uncertainty and some major electrical suppliers coming back online after maintenance, there is hope for market stabilization. We aren’t likely to get back to where we were before inflation spiked as the wholesale market is still some uncertain right now, but we can all be hopeful that prices are coming down in this unpredictable and uncertain time.

That doesn’t mean everyone at WEC won’t still seek ways to make your electric service more affordable. Even during the best of economic times, we are charged with being good stewards of the money our members entrust to us. That’s a responsibility we take very seriously, and it informs our daily operations as we run this cooperative in a lean, effective manner. For example, we keep the lights on for tens of thousands of members with just 62 employees. That’s one person for every 400 meters we serve.

It’s that kind of efficiency that helps us not only provide reliable power for people across five counties, but also keep your rates affordable. Maintaining a financially healthy electric system also means finding new ways for it to grow, and that’s exactly what we do through our economic development efforts.

When the Wiregrass adds an employer, it brings prosperity to everyone in our community. But it also helps strengthen our electric system. A prime example is ISA Alabama Corp, which just moved into the speculative building in Geneva, a facility made possible with financial commitments from WEC, PowerSouth and the Geneva County Commission.

Such large commercial customers demand more from our electrical grid, but they also pay into the cooperative in a proportionate manner. That load balance helps our margins, which in turn means lower costs for our residential and small business members. It’s all part of our mission to give everyone the affordable and dependable service they deserve.

As we approach 2023, we will continue to follow a roadmap first drawn decades ago. While the turns may look a little different and the conditions might not always be ideal, our members can be confident we are prepared for wherever the road leads.

Les Moreland
CEO Wiregrass Electric Cooperative