Manager’s Message

Hi, I’m Debi Wilson, General Manager of Lane Electric Cooperative. Every month, I will report on some of the issues facing Lane Electric and share important news and updates with you, our members.

Sometimes, I may write about poles, lines and wires, our power supply, service interruptions, emergency preparedness, or rate changes. Other times, it might be about member meetings and community service. And sometimes, it’s simply to keep you informed about what goes on at Lane Electric, your cooperative.

Be sure to check out “Recent Stories from Ruralite” (to the left) for other information you might be interested in, too.

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — April 2020

Lane Electric Cares During Uncharted Times

Debi WilsonDear Co-op Community Members:

These are definitely uncharted times for our community and nation. News of COVID-19 has been extremely dynamic. Suggestions, as well as mandates, are changing daily. At Lane Electric, we care about our members and employees’ health and safety. To continue providing service you can count on, it was imperative we adjust our daily procedures.

Main Office

Our main office is closed to the public. We plan to keep the office closed through Tuesday, April 28. This date could be extended or shortened as information changes. We will continue to be available by phone or email during normal business hours.

Phone/Email Hours:

Monday-Thursday 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Outage Calls: 24/7

Phone: 541-484-1151

Email: comment.question@laneelectric.com

Although our offices are closed, we are still available to provide service and our expertise. If you need assistance with billing, engineering or energy conservation, we are here to help!

Payments

As a member-owned utility, we pride ourselves on doing what is best for all members. Lane Electric does not have a one-size-fits-all approach to our service. Since we aren’t able to visit with you in person, we have provided several options to make payments. We are also available to make necessary arrangements. With the changes and uncertainty around the country, our flexible service remains unchanged.

If you are faced with serious illness or job loss, we help our members when they call. Our team can help avoid disconnect for nonpayment, make arrangements that fit your budget or find resources to help you pay your bill.

Spirit of Giving

During challenging times, there are many members who want to know how they can help. Contributions to our Member Assistance Program help less fortunate members pay their utility bills. Members can round up their monthly bill or make a one-time contribution to this fund.

As we focus on our community’s health and safety, we may need to make other temporary adjustments to our business practices. We will continue to keep you updated and informed during this challenging time. Please check our webpage and/or social media sites for updates. We appreciate your patience and understanding. Stay healthy and safe. We look forward to seeing our members in person soon!

Sincerely,

Debi Wilson
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — March 2020

2020 Rate Changes

Debi WilsonDear Co-op Community Members:

Rate changes are always a difficult discussion. Last fall, your board of directors faced the tough decision to raise rates. The rate change was effective January 1, 2020. In your January statements, we notified you of the changes to your bill, but I want to follow up with you, our members, on how we came to this decision.

Increasing Fixed Costs

Lane Electric has fixed costs that continually increase and do not vary with energy use. Examples include utility equipment, maintenance, outage restoration, tree trimming and general administration. Another factor impacting our budget was the 2019 February snowstorm. This storm was costly.

While we are able to have 75% of our costs reimbursed by Federal Emergency Management Agency, the remainder is funded by members.

For Lane Electric to be more resilient during extreme weather events, it is necessary that we also continue to invest in our infrastructure to improve the reliability of our system.

Average kWh Consumption Declining

Our annual kilowatt-hour consumption is trending downward. About 78% of our total kWh sales come from residential members.

Our co-op needs a more dependable source of revenue to cover operating costs. This is why you see increases in the basic charge. The basic charge is our most predictable revenue source, but currently makes up only 21% of our electric revenue.

Declining kWh sales could be offset by increasing the number of members we serve. Unfortunately, growth in new accounts has been flat for many years.

The good news is through the years, energy efficiency is more a part of our daily lives. We are surrounded by new homes, appliances, and lightbulbs that help keep our energy consumption low. Lane Electric is proud of the energy conservation programs we offer, and will continue to offer, to our members.

Rate discussions are difficult because we know increases are a burden to our members. We believe predictability—for the co-op and for you—is important and is best achieved through the basic charge.

Winter temperatures vary from year to year. An increase to only the kWh charge in a colder winter could result in the unintended consequence of a windfall of revenue not needed by the co-op and high electric bills for our members.

Lane Electric is owned by you, our members. We are a not-for-profit organization that does not collect money for shareholders. Meeting operational needs with affordable rate structures has been, and continues to be, a focus of the board of directors. The board and all Lane Electric employees are committed to operating efficiently to provide you with reliable electric service.

Sincerely,

Debi Wilson
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — February 2020

Disaster Avoided!

Debi WilsonAs we are now in midst of winter, and weather forecasts have been predicting snow, many of us are remembering the debilitating 2019 February snowstorm, the power outages and the damage that came with it. It was a costly disaster, and tax changes by the Internal Revenue Service threatened to make it even more costly to Lane Electric and our members.

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act presented unintended consequences to Oregon electric cooperatives, including Lane Electric. The tax law changes made government aid and grants taxable, whereas previously they were tax-exempt.

For Lane Electric specifically, it meant the Federal Emergency Management Agency grants we will receive for the 2019 snowstorm to offset 75% of storm damage repair costs could have been taxable. The money we will receive would have caused us to exceed the percentage of revenue we are allowed to maintain our tax-exempt status. In other words, under the 2017 tax law, we would have to pay taxes.

Lane Electric directors and staff, along with electric cooperatives across the country, emailed and visited with our elected officials in Washington, D.C., asking them to support the Revitalizing Underdeveloped Rural Areas and Lands Act, which would correct the 2017 tax law. In August, we also did a call to action to you, our members, encouraging you to contact your elected officials and visit our grassroots webpage urging Congress to support the RURAL Act.

This act needed Democrats and Republicans alike to support our rural constituents and work together. As it turns out, there was excellent bipartisan support (see page 28), but not enough to ensure it would be included in the 2020 spending bill. For the RURAL Act to pass, it was essential to have the backing of Sen. Ron Wyden, who sits on an influential committee. Lane Electric, along with our fellow electric cooperatives, is thankful this disaster was avoided.

We are grateful our elected officials set aside their differences, were nonpartisan, and came together to support electric cooperatives across the country. This change would not have happened without Sen. Wyden supporting electric cooperatives and taking it across the finish line. Lane Electric expresses our deepest thanks and appreciation to Sen. Wyden for his support of the RURAL Act and rural Oregon.

Thank you, too, to all of our members who contacted our elected officials. You made a difference!

Debi Wilson
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — January 2020

A New Year, A New Decade

Dear Co-op Community Members:

Debi WilsonAs we rang in 2020, we also rang in a new decade of opportunity. Welcome to the 2020s. A new year brings opportunity for reflection on our past and optimism for our future. As we close out 2019, I want to reflect on some highlights from this past year.

February brought us a storm for the decades. When we thought the ice storm of 2016 was the worst we had seen, Mother Nature had to close out the 2010s with a bang. The February storm caused widespread damage to 77% of our electric system. It impacted 10,120 members and our small line crew of 16 increased to a crew of 111 linemen. As a utility, we learned the importance of preparedness and shared the message with you all year long.

In April, I was honored to be hired as your general manager. After serving Lane Electric members in various roles for nearly two decades, I was thrilled to be chosen to lead your cooperative. Being in this new role has been a highlight of the year and a true honor.

In May, I visited with you at our five district meetings. We updated members on the broadband feasibility study, Bonneville Power Administration rates, our financial and legal reports, and our distribution system report. We look forward to seeing you at our 2020 meetings.

I visited Washington, D.C., on behalf of our members and cooperatives to advocate for the RURAL Act, which will help us maintain reasonable rates by protecting our tax-exempt status.

During the summer, line crews and tree trimmers worked to improve reliability. We also changed out reclosers to do our part to reduce fire risk to our beautiful community.

I am proud we continued supporting our local youth. In 2019, we distributed scholarships totaling approximately $20,000 to seven deserving students. We also offer a scholarship for a trip for one high school junior to visit our nation’s capital. Lastly, we continued our support of FFA and 4-H.

Lane Electric supported local communities through local events, celebrations, and parades. We also donated to local schools and grad parties. And very dear to our cooperative, we provided lunch to our veterans.

Lane Electric celebrated 80 years of service. We went from serving 650 members in 1939 to the nearly 13,000 we proudly serve today.

As we ring in 2020, we are proud to serve you, our members. We hope you enjoyed a wonderful holiday season with family and friends.

From our families to yours, Happy New Year!

Sincerely,
Debi Wilson

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — December 2019

Do You Know a High School Junior?

Dear Co-op Community Members:

Debi WilsonLane Electric is proud to provide another opportunity for one lucky high school junior to attend the 2020 Washington Youth Tour. I can’t think of a better way for a student to learn about U.S. history and government than to visit our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.

As many as 1,800 students across the United States will get this incredible opportunity to learn more about our nation, develop leadership skills, gain knowledge of electric co-ops and make new friends. Students will spend one week touring Washington, meeting congressional leaders and visiting Capitol Hill. There is a packed schedule, with built-in educational opportunities and fun social events.
You can get a glimpse of some of the many places the students will visit on page 8 of this edition of Ruralite magazine. The students will fly out of Portland and spend five full days visiting memorials, museums, a baseball game and enjoying many meals together.

While enjoying the rich history, students will also get to learn about cooperatives and their people-focused business model. Cooperatives are a prestigious group of organizations that truly care about their local community. We are proud to be a nonprofit organization owned by our members and governed by an elected board of directors. Cooperatives across the nation help keep money local and in the communities they serve. We love sharing our model with others!

Aside from our business model, we are also proud to be a part of the history of electrifying the United States. Providing electricity to rural communities was, and still is, not profitable. Rural areas are difficult and expensive to reach. In 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made it possible to get electricity to our low-density areas when he signed the Rural Electrification Act, which provided loans to reach rural America. Today, 99% of our rural consumers receive electricity. The history of providing electricity to consumers is a fascinating lesson in itself.

Parents and guardians: This is an all-expense-paid trip. The only cash students may need is for souvenirs. To apply, students must be a high school junior and their parent or guardian must be a Lane Electric member. Applications are due Thursday, January 23. There is still plenty of time, but don’t delay, especially with the busy upcoming holiday season.

I am delighted Lane Electric is able to provide this enriching and immersive educational opportunity!

Sincerely,
Debi Wilson

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — November 2019

Honor and Reflection

Dear Co-op Community Members:

Debi WilsonIt is hard to believe 2019 is nearly over and in two short months we will welcome a new year and new decade.
Before many of us begin to formulate resolutions and goals for the new year, November reminds us to pause and reflect on the things we are grateful for. November provides us with two significant opportunities to reflect: Thanksgiving and Veterans Day.

On November 28, Thanksgiving Day, many of us will pause and give thanks with loved ones. We will take time to enjoy food with family, friends and even strangers. Some of us will gather at homes and others will gather to give their time to serve others. Thanksgiving pro- vides many opportunities to spend a day with one another in an intentional way.

Another opportunity each year to reflect and give thanks is November 11. Our country would not have the freedoms it does without the sacrifice of our veterans. My first priority is to pause and say thank you to each of our members who have given their time to serve and sacrifice for our country in the military. At Lane Electric, we appreciate your patriotism, love of country and the sacrifice you made, or make, for the common good.

We also appreciate the sacrifice of each family that has a loved one who has served, or is currently serving, in our armed forces. You also are making a huge sacrifice with the absence of your loved one. We know many will celebrate both of these holidays while service members are away. So again, thank you for your service!

I am proud of our Lane Electric family that has provided service to our country and now chooses to give time serving their community. Please take the time to read more about their service to our country on pages 4-5 in this edition of Ruralite. I personally want to thank Blair, Jack, Hugh and Jerry for their service.

Our country and our veterans are important to us. That is why this year we will celebrate our third annual Veterans Day Luncheon. Please read more about this great idea from our employee, Julie, on page 4 and get all the details. We welcome any Lane Electric members in our service territory who have served in the armed forces. If we missed you, please call Julie at Lane Electric to be sure we get you on the list. We want to honor you.

In closing, while you take the time to think about the things you are thankful for, I want to thank you, our members who support public power. Thank you to those who have served, and thank you for allowing me to serve you. Enjoy the Thanksgiving season!

Sincerely,
Debi Wilson

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — October 2019

Celebrate Public Power and Cooperatives!

Dear Co-op Community Members:

Debi WilsonOctober is a month to be celebrated! October is National Co-op Month. Cooperatives are unique local organizations. This year’s theme, “By the Community, For the Community,” is a great motto that we strive for as your cooperative.

Lane Electric was founded by a group of McKenzie River community members 80 years ago. We were started by the community and today we are still here for the community, providing electricity to nearly 13,000 members.

In 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Rural Electrification Act was passed, providing loans designed to help electrify the United States. At the time, and still today, it is not profitable to serve low-populated, hard-to-reach areas of our country. Even with loans provided, the big investor-owned utilities
were not interested in extending lines to these hard-to-reach places. Still needing electricity, local rural residents—just like those Lane Electric pioneers—traveled door to door to seek support for electric cooperatives. It took a lot of time and energy, but by 1948, 40,000 consumers a month were being connected to co-op lines. Today, many years later, 99% of our rural communities receive electricity.

We are privileged to be part of such a prestigious group of organizations that care about their local communities. Some of these organizations include farmers, credit unions, housing co-ops, food coops and electric co-ops. Currently, more than 40,000 cooperatives in the United States serve more than 350 million members. Many people belong to more than one. We are proud to be a part of the 18 electric cooperatives in Oregon and more than 900 electric cooperatives across 47 states. Electric cooperatives account for more than one-third of the nation’s electric utility industry, serving 42 million Americans.

Lane Electric Cooperative is proud to:

  • Be owned by our members, so we can serve you and not a group of shareholders.
  • Be governed by a board of directors elected by you.
  • Be a nonprofit organization, helping us provide you at-cost electricity.
  • Provide jobs in our community.
  • Be part of the community, keeping money local and providing help in our communities.

Each day, we are proud to serve you. We appreciate that group of community members who had a vision to serve and electrify the rural communities in Lane County back in 1939. So this month, we ask you to celebrate public power, cooperatives and your very own Lane Electric.

Happy National Co-op Month!

Sincerely,
Debi Wilson

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — September 2019

Dear Co-op Community Members:

Debi WilsonWhile many are still enjoying the summer sun, the leaves are changing colors and fall is beginning to arrive. It is a beautiful time of year in our community.

During summer and fall, people don’t think much about unplanned outages, and neither do we—although we do think about how to better prepare for outages and what our team can do to reduce the number of occurrences and duration during the winter.

Throughout summer, Lane Electric crews work hard to trim trees and make line repairs. This is work done year-round, but with more daylight and favorable weather, crews can make great progress during this time.

I am sure you have not forgotten about this past February—and we surely have not. We have continued cleanup from the damage this snowstorm left behind. We hope we can all learn from our February experiences and become better prepared. So, while we continue to prepare our system for storm season, we also hope you prepare as well.

During the past two months, we have included a shopping list to build your own emergency kit. These lists are on page 8 of your July and August editions of Ruralite, as well as a new list in this edition.

I encourage you to take time to read a great article about preparedness, “Get Ready for the Next Disaster.” This article not only encourages you to be prepared for an emergency, it sheds light on other types of outages we have not yet
experienced on our system, such as earthquakes and widespread wildfires. Preparedness is key, as disasters not only impact your electricity, but the roads and communication infrastructures we are accustomed to.

In the unfortunate event of a disaster, do you know your first responders? When you make an emergency call, you are the first responder, as you are first on the scene. Many recognize police and firefighters as first responders, but the list includes any other organization or person that responds to emergencies, including you, our member. You can also count on your Lane Electric crew to respond, often making the area safe so others can do their jobs.

Should we have a natural disaster, are you prepared to respond?

Please read this month’s article and shopping list. If you have misplaced your July and August copies of Ruralite, visit laneelectric.com to find previous shopping lists. If you want more information, Ready.gov is another great resource.

At Lane Electric, we care about you and your families. We want our members to be disaster survivors, not disaster victims.

Are you prepared?

Sincerely,
Debi Wilson

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — August 2019

Protect Your Cooperative’s Tax Status—We Need Your Help

Dear Co-op Community Members:

Debi WilsonRecent tax changes by the Internal Revenue Service are having unintended consequences to Oregon electric cooperatives, including Lane Electric. The changes could threaten our tax-exempt status and Lane Electric’s use of government aid in the future, such as disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or broadband grants.

The IRS change states that no more than 15% of an electric cooperative’s revenue can come from nonmember sources. This means any government aid would be considered nonmember income and could impact the tax-exempt status of Lane Electric and other cooperatives.

Why would Lane Electric use government aid? This past February is a wonderful example. As many of you remember, Lane Electric’s system suffered tremendous damage due to a historic snowstorm. The hit to our electrical system continues to require system cleanup. During the storm, we had to increase staffing to restore power as quickly as possible to our members.

This storm was expensive and recently was declared a federal disaster. Five counties in Oregon received this declaration. Damage in Lane County topped $17 million. The cost to Lane Electric alone was approximately $5.6 million.

The FEMA grant money to Lane Electric would be a significant help to keep our rates down and offset storm damage costs, but the challenge is what will be the cost to our tax-exempt status if we accept the money as revenue?

Aside from government aid for disasters, another impact to our members would be our ongoing broadband feasibility study. In the June General Manager’s report, I noted Lane Electric had contracted with Pulse Broadband to perform a feasibility study. We know many of you need high-speed internet.

While we continue to determine needed equipment, coverage, services and cost, we now have to consider the costs of requesting a broadband grant. Lane Electric has a desire, if feasible, to help members needing these broadband services. In fact, that is how we got our start when a group of citizens in 1939 wanted electric power to their rural homes. But requesting this grant could now come with consequences to our members.

How can you help? First, I encourage you to educate yourself on the topic. You can read more about the RURAL (Revitalizing Underdeveloped Rural Areas and Lands) Act on pages 28 and 29 in the article titled The RURAL Act to the Rescue.

Secondly, take action! Visit our grassroots page, www.ORECA-Action.org, and urge your members of Congress to support the RURAL Act.

Please help us preserve our tax-exempt status and keep your rates low.

Sincerely,

Debi Wilson
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message — July 2019

Legislative Visits and Fire Prevention

Dear Co-op Community Members:

Debi WilsonIn late April, Lane Electric Co-op directors and I joined other electric cooperative representatives from around the state and throughout the nation in Washington, D.C., to discuss issues important to us with our federal legislators. These annual face-to-face visits are an important part of our efforts to continue providing you with safe, reliable and affordable service, and to maintaining local control of our operations.

We had a lot to talk about this year. We asked for help implementing legislation passed last year regarding maintaining our right-of-way across federal lands to ensure rules are coordinated with all of the affected federal agencies. We asked legislators to correct an unintended consequence of tax reform legislation passed last year that treats federal disaster relief payments as nonmember income that may endanger our federal tax-exempt status. We also thanked our legislators for firmly rejecting President Donald Trump’s budget proposal to sell the transmission assets of the Bonneville Power Administration.

Wildfire Risks High

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, residents along the West Coast should be ready for another busy fire season. The agency reports above normal potential for significant wildfires west of the Cascade crest in Washington and Oregon through August.

Fallen timber still on the ground following February’s snowstorm, coupled with sunny and warm days the last two months, has created more fuel and a hazardous situation. It’s getting drier and hotter by the day. Our service territory already experienced two fires in the past two months. As of June 14, outdoor burning in Lane County is prohibited until at least October 1.

Fire Safety Starts With Prevention

We are doing what we can to mitigate fires on our system, including changing our reclosers from three-shot to single-shot. Reclosers are circuit breakers equipped with a mechanism that can automatically close the breaker after it has been opened due to a fault, such as a tree limb falling on it. Single-shot means it will close the breaker—cutting power—after the first fault, not the third.

While this can reduce the risk of fire, it also means more outages and possibly more prolonged outages as crews patrol the entire line to find where the fault occurred. We are taking this extra precaution for your safety. As always, if you see potential fire hazards relating to utility wire, please give us a call.

To reduce risk of fire around your home, please visit www.firewise.org. If you plan to use fireworks to celebrate Independence Day, please take extra
precaution.

Let’s keep Oregon green for generations to come. Make fire prevention a priority in your life by following rules and regulations and being good stewards of the land.

Sincerely,

Debi Wilson
General Manager