Manager’s Messages

Why Are Rates Higher Here Than Elsewhere?

Sangre de Cristo Electric Association (SDCEA) serves about seven members per mile of line, compared to investor-owned utilities such as Xcel Energy, which averages 34 customers per mile of line; and municipal utilities, which average 48 customers per mile of line. It is not attractive from a revenue standpoint for investor-owned utilities to provide service to rural areas for this reason. While we work hard to keep costs as low as possible, SDCEA’s smaller number of consumers must cover the costs of delivering power over nearly 1,800 miles of line on our system. Our locations are rural, hard-to-reach, mountainous, and rugged.

At SDCEA, we don’t benefit from the revenue that dense cities generate for utilities, and we don’t have large businesses to speak of to help carry the cost of providing service in this territory.

As an electric distribution cooperative, we don’t independently generate power. We buy it from others. While we do all we can to buy power as cheaply and as environmentally consciously as possible, the cost of electricity is going up here and around the country for a whole host of reasons.

When it comes to delivering power to your home or business, we in rural America are largely on our own. This means that SDCEA and our members bear the expensive burden of engineering, erecting, and repairing power-delivery infrastructure ourselves. We are also responsible for maintaining the system. The equipment, materials, and employee hours to do this work are expensive. We cannot spread these costs among a high number of consumers, so that means we have to be very careful about how we use the resources we have.

We want you to know that we are members of the cooperative, too, and we hear that you are concerned about costs. We want to assure you that we share those concerns as a locally-controlled nonprofit organization, and we are working every day to support our communities and keep costs down while providing safe and reliable electricity for you, our consumers. It’s a big job, but it’s one we take pride in.

SDCEA’s bylaws, rates, policies, board contacts, and the like are always posted on our website for our members to review. Create an account through the log on on the upper right-hand side of the page. Once on SmartHub, you can access these items either from the menu on the left or from the My Documents dropdown on the landing page.

We also welcome you to call us toll-free during business hours at (844) 395-2412 with any questions you may have about the cooperative.

Update on Rate Structure Change

Sangre de Cristo Electric Association has been considering a rate redesign that would strengthen the overall financial stability of the cooperative. We had retained the services of a leading electric utilities consulting firm to review our current structure and propose modifications that the consulting firm believed would put the cooperative on better footing financially.

We have a duty to maintain the long-term viability of the organization, of course, but we also need to be mindful of the interests of all our members.

Upon further review of the rate redesign the consulting firm suggested, we have rescinded the April 1, 2022, implementation of the rate redesign and have asked the consultants to provide alternative rate redesign options that take our members’ concerns into consideration. We expect to receive alternative options sometime in late spring or early summer. Should we find the revised recommendations satisfactory, we will immediately inform our members of any changes. For now, the current rate structure remains in place and no changes will be implemented.

Census 2020

Have you participated in the 2020 Census? Sangre de Cristo Electric Association Chief Executive Officer Paul A. Erickson encourages you to do so. Being counted in the census helps make sure federal funding is granted to our region for economic development, wildfire mitigation and other public needs. Click below for more info.

On Outages: SDCEA Improves Communication to Members

By Paul A. Erickson, Chief Executive Officer

Headshot of Paul A. Erickson Chief Executive Officer
Paul A. Erickson, Chief Executive Officer

Many people remember the widespread electric outage on Christmas Day 2016. On that day, a severe wind storm slammed our region. Not only did it damage numerous Sangre de Cristo Electric Association distribution lines, it impacted electric trans- mission and distribution lines throughout Colorado and other western states.

Transmission lines are high-voltage electricity-carrying lines used to deliver power throughout the country as an essential component of the national power grid. When a transmission line is damaged, it affects power delivery to an extensive area. If a transmission line is down, it cannot supply power to regional substations.

Substations convert high-voltage power to lower voltages which are sent out on distribution lines such as those built and maintained by SDCEA to reach consumers at their home or business.

In the case of the Christmas Day 2016 outage, wind destroyed several of SDCEA’s lines. Crews worked relentlessly in extreme weather conditions to repair those lines. The storm also damaged transmission lines from Black Hills Energy, Xcel and the Western Area Power Administration, all of which supply power to our substations. If a transmission line is down, it must be repaired by the company that owns that transmission line before SDCEA can restore power to consumers through the distribution lines we own, build and maintain.

Unfortunately, that storm was so widespread, calls from thousands of people from around the western United States overwhelmed our 24-hour dispatch system, which is based off-site so it is not affected by local storms, and is shared with other electric providers. Worse, SDCEA’s Buena Vista office phone lines also went down, as did access to the internet. This left the impression with some of our consumers that we were not working to restore power that day. That’s understandable, but nothing could have been further from the truth. Our staff was as frustrated and impacted by this event as our consumers were.

It is always our goal to better serve you. We learned some valuable lessons that day and made it a top priority to make sure our communications to consumers would not be hindered in that way again. SDCEA reviewed and took immediate steps to strengthen its dispatch redundancy to respond to this unprecedented occurrence. In case we lose telephone or internet communications again, we now have a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a completely revamped website that allow us to post notices about outages with or without online service. Please check in and follow these accounts for up-to-date information on outages.

Could an unprecedented weather event happen again? Yes. We now have several communications options that we did not have previously. We are committed to continually working to review and improve these systems going forward.

Never assume that we know about an outage. We would much rather you call us than think that we already know about an outage. If you have an outage, call our dispatch 24/7, 365 days a year at 1-844-395-2412 or 719-395-2412 to report that outage. We understand that being without power is inconvenient and frustrating. One call is all that you need to make. SDCEA will then work around the clock, if necessary, to restore your service as quickly as possible. We encourage you to follow our Facebook and Twitter posts, as well as check our website for updates during outages.

When you call, you may get a live person who will verify your information and send it on to our crews. Or, you may get a message that we are aware of the outage, as the call center recognizes the phone number associated with the account that is currently experiencing an outage.

That’s why it’s important for you to keep your phone number current with SDCEA. We may also need to contact you to follow up on whether power has been restored. Sometimes we use your phone number to notify you of upcoming maintenance or planned outages, too. We do not call you to sell you stuff and we never sell your information to other parties.

And a note on preparedness. Have emergency supplies to sustain your household on-hand and easy to access while the power is out, such as battery-operated lanterns and non-perishable food and water. A complete list of emergency items to keep on hand may be found on our website, myelectric.coop under the Safety tab.

Following are some commonly-asked questions and some answers to those questions about outages.

How long does it take to restore power following an outage?

Removing a branch from a line can be relatively quick — it’s just a matter of finding it. Replacing a downed line, a broken power pole or digging up buried cable to find and repair a fault can be a much longer process. Outages can last from minutes to hours, even days, depending on the severity of a storm or other event.

Your location also affects the time it takes to get power restored. If you live in a remote area, it might take SDCEA crews an hour or more just to arrive on location (especially if they need to leave their home in the middle of the night). Then, they need to inspect equipment, determine the cause, and develop a plan to restore power safely.

Sometimes members call within a few minutes of their power going out wondering when it will be back on. In reality, our crews haven’t had a chance to arrive on scene yet, or determine what’s causing the problem.

One thing that is consistent, however, is that Sangre de Cristo crews, often braving dangerous conditions will do everything they can to restore power as quickly and safely as possible. It’s a critically important, dangerous job that SDCEA crews take very seriously.

Why does my power sometimes blink?

A “blink” (a brief momentary interruption in service) is a normal part of a power delivery system that serves an important purpose. Two examples: Heavy snow dropping from trees may make contact with our lines. Strong winds can cause trees to make contact with wires. When either of those situations happen, your lights may dim or you might lose power for a few seconds as the system operates to identify and clear the problem. Without this protective equipment, members could experience a prolonged outage instead of just a blink.

How is power restoration prioritized?

SDCEA energizes just shy of 13,000 homes and businesses along more than 1,700 miles of power lines. That’s a lot of ground to cover.

The main goal in any outage is to restore power safely to the greatest number of members in the shortest time possible. Restoration priority is to first make sure transmission lines are functioning to supply power to substations (which then distribute power to thousands of consumers), so these lines would receive first priority if affected by an outage. Next, crews would make any needed repairs at substations, followed by repairing transformers and distribution lines — the last steps in the system that bring power to your home.

I’m out, but my neighbor isn’t. Why?

Homes in a neighborhood may be fed by different distribution lines, different service lines or different transformers. It could be that the cause of the outage might be originating in the home and be unrelated to SDCEA’s system. Even so, we’d prefer that you call us to let us know your power is out so we can identify the issue and get your power back on as soon as is possible.

Higher Bills Aren’t Always What You Think

Please note: November 2018’s average temperatures were the coldest recorded in the past 14 years. The result to many consumers was a higher electric bill than they expected. When temperatures are colder, it takes more electricity use to raise temperatures in a home or business to a comfortable temperature.

The past two months have been cold, the days have been shorter and consumers are entering the time of year when electric bills are generally higher than other months. More on why bills rise in the winter follows in the column below.

A note on your December bill. The November 2018 electric bill included a credit for consumers who received service from Sangre de Cristo Electric Association in the years 1995, 2000 and 2001. If you received credits on last month’s bill, the December 2018 bill does not have credits applied and may give the false impression to consumers that bills rose dramatically in December.

If you have questions about your bill, please call 719-395-2412 or toll-free 844-395-2412.

 

By Paul A. Erickson, Chief Executive Officer

This time each year, Sangre de Cristo Electric gets calls from our consumers wondering if there’s been a rate increase because their bill is higher than it has been in previous months.

Foremost, we encourage you to call us and discuss concerns about your bill. We prefer that consumers contact us with their questions, rather than be left unsure about charges on their account.

In case you are wondering though, there has not been a rate increase this year. Your electric bill may vary, as it is based on the amount of power you use each month. When a call comes in about a higher bill, the answer to the question about the increased amount, most of the time, is that because the consumer has used more power this month, their bill has gone up.

Often, we need to remind consumers that their usage is generally higher in winter months. Mild weather in recent winters has masked typical consumption during the months of November, December, January and February. In 2017, a relatively mild weather year (the most recent full-year information we have available) average usage for all residential consumers was 602 kilowatt-hours per month. The summer average energy use was 505 kWh (or approximately $78 for an average monthly bill) The winter average was 706 kWh — more than 200 kWh more than in the summer. The average winter bill was about $105. The service availability charge is added to these totals. Depending on the size of your home and number of people living there, your average may be higher or lower than these figures.

It may not seem like you are using more power than you were, say in July, when your bill was lower. Here’s what happens, though. We are all inside more often during winter months. Temperatures drop and heaters run. The TV is on, lights are on more frequently and longer because we have shorter days. People tend to take warmer showers. Water for those showers is heated, and because it’s colder out, it takes more electricity to heat that water to the temperature you find comfortable. Keep in mind, even if you have a gas or propane heater in your home, it still uses electricity to move the warm water or air throughout your house.

Some households decorate with additional lighting for the holidays, which also draws additional power. You may run a space heater to add additional warmth to part of your home. You may have guests in your home using heat, showers and appliances such as hair dryers. You may find you cook more often or have students at home on winter break using PlayStations, computers or other electronic gadgets. Perhaps you use a block heater to start your vehicle. These are just some of the ways energy usage may increase during winter months.

Curious about how much power you use each day? You can track that. Go to our website, www.myelectric.coop. Create an account or sign in to view your usage. On the SmartHub landing page, you’ll see a View and Manage My Usage block. Click on the Start Now button and analyze your usage. This is a great way to track how energy is used in your home or business.

If you have any questions about your bill or usage, please give us a call. We may also be able to help you with suggestions on ways to lower your bill. Call us at 719-395-2412 or toll-free at 1-844-395- 2412 or submit your questions through our website 24/7 at www. myelectric.coop.


Would you like to access your daily electric usage online? It’s easy! And informative.

  1. Visit myelectric.coop
  2. Click on the Sign In box on the upper right hand side of the page.
  3. Log in using your email address and password. If you are a new user, sign up to access the site.
  4. Click on the My Usage box on the landing page.

If you have any questions, please contact one of our knowledgeable consumer representatives at 719-395-2412 or toll-free, 1-844-395-2412.

Graph of electric usage
An example of usage information on SDCEA’s website.

Cooperatives Like Sangre de Cristo Electric Association Are Community-Led

By Paul Erickson • CEO

October is National Co-op Month, which is the perfect time to highlight the many ways electric cooperatives are unique.

Cooperatives See the Future

Dramatic changes are transforming all aspects of the energy industry. Interest in renewable energy is at an all-time high, and ultimately consumers want greater control over their energy use and payment methods. The prevalence of smartphone apps and “smart” technology for the home is increasing, and consumers and businesses are showing greater interest in electric vehicles. There’s no denying it: electric utilities need to make changes in the way they provide energy to accommodate these trends. Luckily, Sangre de Cristo Electric Association, Inc., is uniquely positioned to meet these changing energy needs because we are a cooperative.

Cooperatives are locally governed, looking out for the long- term needs of their consumers. Profits made are returned to consumers, not stockholders. Employees live, work and raise their families in the community, too. Because we belong to the communities we serve, this heightened community focus allows us to quickly adapt to evolving consumer needs and expectations. We are led by the people that we serve, our consumers.

Cooperatives Are A Catalyst For Good

Electric cooperatives like SDCEA are a catalyst for good in their communities. Cooperatives engage their consumers to do things that might otherwise be impossible or difficult. Electric cooperatives formed to bring power to their areas more than 80 years ago when other utilities did not find it economically feasible. Today, it means we create projects and programs for our consumers. Trout Creek Solar, charitable giving, student scholarships and student engagements such as Washington D.C. Youth Tour delegate sponsorships and safety demonstrations in schools are examples of some of those efforts. Reflecting the unique makeup of our consumer base, we also provide many services to our consumers online so they may take care of their business with our company as it is convenient for them.

Cooperatives exist to meet a need that was previously unmet in the community, and they are ever striving to anticipate and plan for the future needs of their consumers.

Electric cooperatives often partner with local groups to bring economic opportunity to their local community. It is this facilitation role that is often the most valuable strength of the co-op. Right here in our five-county service territory, we partner with local economic development organizations and attainable housing efforts.

The co-op business model is unique—it is pragmatic, mission-oriented and puts people first. Co-ops strive to be a trusted voice in their communities. Co-ops earn that trust because, while not perfect, they always have their members’ best interest at heart and are determined to enrich the lives of those living and working in the communities they serve—now and in the future.

Why Do I Pay A Service Availability Charge?

 

By Paul A. Erickson • Chief Executive Officer • info@myelectric.coop

In order for electricity to be available at a home or business when a consumer wants to flip a switch or turn on an appliance and use that power, it takes a certain investment in field equipment which must be energized, functioning and available to provide electricity when you may want it.

For example, when a consumer leaves their home or business, power to a property is not put away, out of use. It is left available for the evening, day, week, month or year that the consumer returns and wants to use electricity again.

The Service Availability Charge is a flat fee designed so that all Sangre de Cristo consumers pay their fair share of the cost of investment in the poles, wires, transformers and equipment that it takes to provide you with electric service. It also supports required services such as line maintenance, right-of-way clearing, fleet maintenance and general administrative responsibilities. Regardless of how frequently or infrequently you flip on the light switch or turn on the TV, these costs are part of the bill.

Sangre de Cristo Electric Association, Inc. only serves (roughly) seven consumers per mile of distribution power line. Utilities like Xcel serve around 35 per mile, while municipalities like Colorado Springs serve around 50.

As a rural electric cooperative with rugged terrain and harsh conditions, it costs us far more to maintain each mile of power lines than it does in many other areas, including service territories in Colorado. This, combined with our low density, results
in higher costs per consumer in comparison to other locations. Our electric usage per consumer is very low. SDCEA serves no industrial load nor any large loads. Furthermore, the mild valley climate results in very few of our consumers requiring or having air conditioning. Almost 50 percent of our residential consumers are seasonal users.

So how can we pay for the debt borrowed to construct the system, along with all of the accompanying costs to run the cooperative, when frequently nearly half of our members use little to no electricity? If we tried to pay for this through the variable kilowatt-hour charge, the consumer who uses very little electricity (the seasonal consumers) would pay for very little of the fixed costs. The consumers who live here year-round and use more electricity would pay more than their share of those costs. We don’t think that’s fair. Charging a Service Availability Charge to everyone is how we make sure every consumer pays their fair share of the costs, making sure the year-round consumers don’t subsidize the seasonal consumers.

SDCEA conducts cost studies with  independent rate consultants. Recommended changes to rates and rate structure are reviewed and approved by a board of directors who are consumers just like you, who represent you on the board. If you wish to review those rates or our policies, they are available any time on our website under the Members Only section after you create a sign-in.

SDCEA’s staff wants to provide fair and reasonable rates and a safe, reliable power supply to the communities in which we live. We are continually reviewing our rates and business practices to do so.

We launched a new website to better serve our members

Paul Erickson
Paul Erickson CEO Sangre de Cristo

Sangre de Cristo Electric Association, Inc. is an electric utility company. We pride ourselves on providing our members with safe, reliable power. It’s critical to us to provide excellent service not only in providing that power, but also in providing excellent customer service to the roughly 12,500 consumer-members who mutually own this rural electric cooperative — that is you, our account holders.

We’re working on expanding our customer service options, as well as improving member access to information about the cooperative.

Last month, we launched a new website to better serve our members. Residents in our area often enjoy a very active lifestyle, and we get that. For many of you, it is simply not practical or convenient to do business at our headquarters in Buena Vista or call us during regular business hours.

We hope the new website will help provide a better consumer experience with an informative, attractive, easy to navigate, and intuitive website. We’ll be working diligently to improve the site and the usability of it for our members.

And fear not, we still provide the same in-person or by phone service, too.

One seemingly simple change is it is easier to read material on our site from a smart phone. Consumers increasingly use their phone more often than a desktop computer to browse websites. It is very important to us that our members are able to find our company’s information as it is practical and convenient for them to do so, whether they are at home or away.

We’re actively working to make the site even more useful as we learn what our consumers would like to access.

Among the things that consumers can do now on the site is start or stop service, apply for membership, submit information for rebates, read news about the cooperative, pay your bill or sign up for automatic bill pay, review usage and account information and review SDCEA’s rates and policies.

SDCEA began managing our Facebook page last fall. We also have a Twitter account. We’d like to use those tools to help communicate with our members during emergencies. We’d also like you to more easily get to know us and what we do here at Sangre.

Some other things we’d like you to know about us:

We’re headquartered in Buena Vista. In addition, a four-man crew, a staking engineer and a warehouse worker/custodian work out of our Westcliffe warehouse.

Sangre de Cristo Electric is a rural electric cooperative that has been in business for 75 years.

What we are:

  • A private, independent electric utility business
  • Unlike an investor-owned utility, we are not-for-profit.
  • Owned by the consumers that we serve
  • Incorporated under the laws of Colorado
  • Governed by a board of directors that you elect from the membership

What we do to serve you:

What is an electric cooperative?

  • Rural electric cooperatives like SDCEA started when President Franklin Roosevelt signed an executive order in 1936 establishing the Rural Electrification Administration (REA).
  • With the help of REA financial and engineering resources rural people organized a network of electric cooperatives to build and operate electric utility systems in their own communities.
  • The for-profit investor-owned firms who electrified the cities chose not to serve rural Americans because they could not make a profit in the sparsely populated areas.
  • Rural electrification became one of the great success stories of the New Deal, and today, there are almost 1,000 rural electric cooperatives providing service to more than 40 million people in 47 states, serving 75 percent of the U.S. land mass.

Take a look at our new online presence at myelectric.coop. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook. You’re also welcome to give us a call at 719-395-2412 or toll-free at 844-395-2412 or drop by our offices if you have any questions about SDCEA and the services we provide.