Report from the President and CEO
The 2017 Sangre de Cristo Electric Association Annual Report Narrative
By Board President Don Kaufman and CEO Paul Erickson
Sangre de Cristo Electric Association is proud to be your locally-based electric provider since 1940. Our business model is different from that of many others. As an electric cooperative, we are a non-profit business, owned by our consumers. Margins, the difference between our operating income and operating expenses, are allocated back to our consumers in the form of capital credits. Business and rate policies are governed by a board of directors democratically elected by our consumers.
First and foremost, we want to provide reliable, safe power at a fair price. The aim of the cooperative business model is to make local decisions that best serve our communities’ needs. As a cooperative, we are not beholden to a corporate office several states away or to stockholders. Instead, we are beholden to you — the consumers we serve.
Our employees and directors also live here, have homes, businesses and other investments here. We, too, love the things that are unique to central Colorado. We are constantly evaluating better ways to meet the needs of and serve the communities in which we live, and we are able to work with our communities as fellow community members.
As we look at our business, other local businesses, our communities and our neighbors, we strive to offer innovative services and products to better serve you. We intend to continue our strong commitment to the communities we serve and in which we are invested. We will continue to offer more consumer service options and offer a commitment to safety and improved delivery of power to meet consumers’ demands.
In 2017, we undertook a number of steps to better serve our consumers.
Trout Creek Solar, a solar utility installation, is planned for construction southeast of Buena Vista’s main prison facility on Colorado Department of Corrections property. This first-of-its-kind agreement is unique to our communities and supports the Colorado state government’s efforts to facilitate development of renewable energy.
The development of Trout Creek Solar has been a substantial undertaking. The project milestones are outlined below.
- Over the past two years, consumer support for locally-generated power, the financial merit of the project, size, cost and output of the project were considered in SDCEA’s business plan. SDCEA is committed to ensuring our financial position remains strong and financially resilient.
- Extensive negotiations were held with Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc., to determine the size and scale of the project as those parameters are impacted by the agreement SDCEA has in place to purchase whole- sale power from Tri-State.
- Engineering studies looked at potential impacts a solar farm would have on SDCEA’s delivery system.
- A developer for the project was sought and selected after a competitive process. The developer selected was juwi, Inc.
- As the solar farm will be located on Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) property, SDCEA was required to complete a license agreement that complies with security and other CDOC considerations.
Coming to final terms on this project has proven to be quite challenging. SDCEA’s power supplier Tri-State G&T, the State of Colorado/ Colorado Department of Corrections, contractor juwi, Inc., and SDCEA must all agree on aspects of the operating agreement before construction begins. If terms are reached, a power purchase agreement with the developer of the site, juwi, Inc., will allow SDCEA to buy power from Trout Creek Solar at a contracted energy price beginning in 2019. The goal in this arrangement is to provide power on our lines at stable, competitive rates.
A portion of the project is also planned to be available to those interested in participating in a community “solar garden,” where a portion of the solar generation can be purchased to be used at a home or business.
A quarterly newsletter to update interested parties on the progress of our solar project is available from SDCEA. Simply sign up for the newsletter on our website, myelectric.coop, and we’ll update you on the progress of this project.
We recognize that our consumers lead busy lives, and many live out of town, and may not be able to conduct business at SDCEA during regular business hours. To better serve our members, SDCEA launched a new website in December. The new site allows you to conduct business when it is convenient for you to do so, 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
On the site, members may now:
- Start or stop service
- Transfer service to a new location
- Submit net metering applications
- Contact us
- Establish service for new construction
- Report a streetlight outage
- Submit a rebate form for residential lighting and appliances
- Read the latest information about SDCEA, including outage information.
We look forward to continually adding content and functionality to our site, including an online scheduling system for our very popular community room.
SDCEA launched a Facebook page and a Twitter account in 2017 to improve real-time communication with our members, especially during outages or other possible emergencies. SDCEA also uses our social media channels to post information about the electric industry, our communities and more. Follow us on social media for ongoing information about SDCEA.
Meters measure the amount of power in use at a service location. SDCEA now uses modern meters and accompanying software to allow near real-time readings. Previously, consumers would only see one number for their monthly usage. The new meters provide consumers with the ability to follow their hourly use of power, manage their consumption of that power and control their monthly bill. Remote readings also save the company money, which in turn saves you, our consumer, money. It is no longer necessary, for example, to send employees out to read each meter in our system every month.
In Our Community
Sangre de Cristo Electric Association is committed to investing in our communities.
- SDCEA awarded $14,000 in grants to charitable organizations, $3,000 in matching grants through our lender CoBank and $24,750 in scholarships to area youth. Scholarship awards were given this year to students in Chaffee, Fremont and Custer counties.
- Two area students; Lynzi Doke of Buena Vista and Kyla Baisden of Cotopaxi, attended the 2017 Youth Tour in Washington, D.C., in June.
- Hal, Mary and Harrison Walter of Westcliffe were the featured story in the April 2017 statewide issue of Colorado Country Life.
In July, SDCEA used a helicopter to replace several 900-lb power poles in difficult terrain in the Texas Creek area to improve power service.
As a part of a four-year work plan and cable replacement program, old bare concentric cable was replaced in the Golden Acres and Alpine subdivisions to help mitigate power outages.
SDCEA added 195 new services in 2017, compared to 128 in 2016 – a 52 percent increase. At year-end in 2017, there were 12,796 services in place, including 263 netmeters (for consumers who have their own solar, wind or hydro systems).
As partners with economic development organizations in our communities, SDCEA recognizes the need to develop reasonably- priced housing in our area. Two projects in Buena Vista are underway to help people in the area secure quality housing.
- The Farm subdivision near Buena Vista is part of a local effort to promote affordable housing. SDCEA installed a trunk line for phase one of this project. The subdivision has 90 potential units in its inventory.
- SDCEA supported efforts to bring the Urban, Inc., affordable housing project to Buena Vista. SDCEA also assisted with the new high school baseball field in the community.
In 2017, the SDCEA Board of Directors approved the return of capital credits to our consumers in the amount of $234,228, including $117,114 in Tri-State capital credits.
SDCEA is governed by a board of directors elected from our membership.
Director Howard Eggleston of Hillside announced his retirement in July. Mr. Eggleston began his term on the SDCEA board in 1977. At that time, there were 3,500 meters on our lines. Today, there are nearly 13,000. Howard’s wife Ruth was a longtime member of the Women’s Task Force of the Colorado Rural Electric Association. The task force, a volunteer organization, raises money for projects that serve residents of rural Colorado, including cooperative employees that suffer burn injuries.
Director Geoff Gerk of Fremont County was appointed to the board to fill Director Eggleston’s vacancy. Director Gerk represents Fremont County on the board and is a long- time resident and educator in the area.
The work of serving on the SDCEA board and governing this cooperative requires a commitment to education and an under- standing of the key issues and trends in the electric industry. It also requires the ability to prepare for the challenges facing electric cooperatives both now and in the future, in order to ensure the long-term health and stability of SDCEA for its consumers.
Your board directors’ educational back- grounds in governance are significant.
Directors Don Kaufman and Suzy Kelly are both Gold-qualified directors. Gold credentials recognize board directors who have:
- Completed core education courses covering essential skills running a cooperative;
- Earned a Credentialed Cooperative Director certificate or CCD;
- Completed courses covering more in-depth topics to earn a Board Leadership certificate or BL; and completed additional course work as a commitment to continue learning throughout their service on the board.
Director Charles Abel II has earned his Credentialed Cooperative Director certificate and is one course away from earning his BL.
Director Dan Daly has earned his CCD and is five courses away from earning his BL.
Director Dennis Dlugokinski has earned both his CCD and BL.
Director Geoff Gerk has earned his CCD and is four courses away from his BL.
Director Joe Redetzke has earned both his CCD and BL.
Ann Johnson, director of consumer and employee relations for SDCEA, retired in May 2017. Ann began her tenure here in 1978.
Chief Administrative Officer Sarah McMahon joined SDCEA after Johnson’s departure. Like many of our consumers, McMahon was a frequent visitor to the area prior to moving here and has been a member of SDCEA since 2007. She formerly was an executive at Public Service Company of New Mexico in Albuquerque. McMahon brings a comprehensive background in utility operations and more than 30 years of experience in the industry to SDCEA.
Several other longtime employees retired in 2017, including Jacquie Swann, Glenda Wales, Diane Reyher and Kenneth Goertz.
The 2016 Achievement of Excellence award for Performance in Safety was awarded to SDCEA by the Colorado Rural Electric Association last summer.
During the annual CREA Loss Control Conference in July, each co-op’s safety performance for the prior year is evaluated and reviewed.
Only co-ops that did not have any lost-time accidents during the prior year qualify for CREA’s Achievement of Excellence Award. Of the co-ops that did not have a lost-time accident during the year, (12 statewide in 2016), only one Achievement of Excellence award is presented.
SDCEA was chosen for the award because it met and/or exceeded several other criteria, including not only no lost-time accidents, but also no vehicle accidents. Judges also looked at the culture of safety throughout the co-op. Is management staff involved in the safety program? Does the CEO attend safety meetings? Is the board of directors involved in promoting safety throughout the co-op? Is safety a priority with, not just the outside crews, but the entire office staff and everyone who works for the co-op? A variety of measures are used to determine how pervasive the culture of safety is at the co-op and how successful the co-op has been at implementing safety measures throughout the organization.
SDCEA has been recognized with no lost-time awards for the years 2012-2016. That means that during the entire year no employees had to take time away from work because of an accident on the job.
Thank you for allowing us to be your local electric cooperative. As we look toward the future, we will continue to strive for excellent consumer care. We also pledge to continue to run a community-focused business and work efficiently to deliver reliable and safe energy to our consumers at a fair and reasonable cost.
We hope you are able to join us at the annual meeting this year, at 10 a.m. June 20 at the Cotopaxi Consolidated School. Not able to make it? You are always welcome to get in touch with us through our website, myelectric.coop; or give us a call toll-free at 1-844-395-2412.