Dec 8, 2014 - Letter to Members Regarding Thanksgiving Storm Outage Restoration
Letter to the Membership regarding Outage Restoration Response Following the Thanksgiving 2014 Snowstorm
This past Thanksgiving, we saw a storm that caused the 4th highest number of power outages in the history of New Hampshire. Many areas saw almost two feet of snow while others experienced freezing rain/sleet. This is typical weather in New Hampshire for this time of year. What is not typical is the type of damage and length of outages many of our members experienced. Much like the NFL quarterback who reviews his plays after the game, things look different in hindsight; often they look different to every viewer. There will be different perspectives. We appreciate those with different views – some we may agree with, others we may not, but all perspectives are important as we work to improve our service.
Despite all our efforts, it is clear that we did not meet some of our members’ expectations following the Thanksgiving storm, particularly in our Raymond District towns. While we are undertaking a comprehensive review of our response, I want to communicate with you about what happened. We read every one of your posts on Facebook and Twitter. We appreciate all of the thoughtful comments, words of encouragement/support, suggestions and criticisms as your thoughts and experiences will help guide us in improving for the future. We recognize that not everyone had the same experience during the storm - no member’s experience is any less important than another’s. We must improve.
One of the many reasons we live where we do is because of the beauty of the area; New Hampshire is 80% forested and much of our service territory rural in nature. Our linemen must still climb poles as many areas are not accessible by bucket truck; to service some areas of the territory they utilize ATVs, boats, snow mobiles and/or snow shoes. Lakes, mountains, trees and miles of line into dense forest are the norm as opposed to large cities or populations. The Raymond area in particular has less density than other parts of the service territory. On average, NHEC has 14 members per mile of line compared to other utilities with 40-50 customers per mile of line. There are some areas of higher density but not to the extent of some of our neighboring utilities. We understand the comparison to other utilities, and while not directly comparable, there may be opportunities to learn from their experiences. We will review best practices and make improvements where appropriate.
Trees are the number one cause of all outages. The nature of our service territory and topography of New Hampshire meant that during this storm there were literally hundreds of locations with trees/branches on wires; feeds to our substations were down as transmission providers experienced the same storm damages. Roads were closed throughout the territory making many areas inaccessible.
Tree trimming has been and continues to be a challenge as we struggle to balance the removal of trees to improve reliability with society’s desire to keep the beauty of our natural foliage. The increasing number of property owners who do not want tree trimming and the number of roads designated as scenic, limit our ability to continue to improve reliability. More than $4 million has been spent in 2014 alone for tree trimming across our service territory. NHEC clears 15 feet on either side of the line for a 30 foot right-of-way. Still more trees outside of this right-of-way pose a hazard; these “danger trees” are removed whenever possible with the member’s permission. We heard many members question whether tree trimming was done at all. I can assure you it has been and will continue to be done within the boundaries allowed; $5 million is slated to be spent in 2015 for trimming. That alone will not necessarily eliminate outages or lessen their duration.
Communication was also a challenge during this storm; the information provided was not adequate. While there were statewide communications issues – telephone and cable companies also experienced outages due to the storm - our phone system ultimately was overwhelmed by calls and was inaccessible. We failed to meet our own expectations in terms of communication. We will do better.
Restoration times were repeatedly changed as more information was known. Please know that those in the field were doing everything they could to bring your power back as safely and quickly as possible. The men and women of this company are dedicated to the membership and passionate about restoring your power. During storms they work long hours, in difficult conditions (cold, rain, snow, etc.). Yes, they are paid a fair wage for their work, but time lost with family cannot be replaced and my chief concern is their safety. I never want to be in a position of explaining to a family that their loved one will not be coming home. Having experienced the ice storm of 1998 when one of our line workers was critically injured I know the cost is simply too great. The safety of all our staff is paramount – mandatory rest periods and stopping of work due to unsafe conditions will not change. We can, however, improve our estimation of restoration times. While restoration times are an estimate and constantly changing as circumstances change in the field, we will do better.
NHEC was formed to serve all its members, regardless of which area you live in. We were formed in 1939 because other utilities did not want to service these rural areas. Our Board of Directors, elected by you the membership, serve all members. The board is not based on district areas; they are dedicated to the entire membership. Our commitment to you is that we will continue to review our storm preparations and responses in order to make improvements.
Nov 4, 2014 - Energy Efficiency Is Saving Inter-Lakes Schools Thousands
MEREDITH, NH - The Inter-Lakes School District has completed a crash course in energy efficiency that will save nearly $10,000 per year in electricity costs.
The regional school district that serves Meredith, Center Harbor and Sandwich has partnered with New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) to identify more than $100,000 in energy efficiency opportunities at Inter-Lakes High School, Inter-Lakes Elementary School and the SAU office, all located in Meredith.
Projects completed in 2014 include the installation of refrigeration controls at both schools, as well as the installation of three air source heat pumps to improve climate control inside the high school library. The school district also took advantage of NHEC’s SmartSTART program to install highly efficient LED lighting at the SAU office, high school gym, high school cafeteria and high school parking lot. SmartSTART allows the school district to pay nothing out of pocket for the lighting upgrades while using the electric savings to pay for the improvements over time.
All told, the efficiency upgrades are projected to save more than 57,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per year. At current rates, that’s a savings of approximately $9,150 per year. Project costs totaled $102,530, which was offset by a Co-op Energy Solutions program incentive of $25,321.
“Inter-Lakes School District is working hard to conserve energy, reduce our carbon footprint, and save taxpayer money. When we can capitalize on projects that meet all three criteria, it is a win for everyone,” said Inter-Lakes School District Superintendent Mary Ellen Ormond. “Working with New Hampshire Electric Co-op has provided the school district with great opportunities to conserve energy, improve our facilities, and save money. The ultimate outcome has resulted in improved educational facilities for our students.”
NHEC’s Co-op Energy Solutions programs offer incentives and expertise for residential, commercial and municipal members. For more information, visit www.nhec.com/energysolutions
, or call 1-800-698-2007.
Sep 25, 2014 - Co-op Power Rate Increase Effective October 1, 2014
PLYMOUTH, NH - With no relief in sight for the problems that are causing winter price spikes in the wholesale cost of electricity in New England, the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) Board of Directors has authorized an increase in the energy charge portion of its members’ bills, effective October 1, 2014.
The Co-op Power rate, which represents the actual cost of the electricity used by members, will increase from 8.97 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to 11.6 cents per kWh. As a result of the increase, the typical NHEC member using 500 kWh per month will see an overall bill increase of approximately $12.47 per month, or 12.2%. A slight decrease in the Regional Access Charge, also effective October 1, is lessening the full impact of the Co-op Power rate increase, but not enough to offset the skyrocketing price of power for winter delivery.
Why are prices spiking?
Natural gas prices are driving up the price of wholesale electricity, due to New England’s reliance on natural gas for nearly half of the region’s electricity. Though large new supplies of natural gas are being extracted nearly on New England’s doorstep in states like Pennsylvania and New York, a lack of pipeline capacity into the region that is adequate to handle winter demands is causing the price of natural gas for winter delivery to climb sharply. This has caused a corresponding increase in the price of wholesale electricity.
“These high winter wholesale costs will be working their way into the energy prices of most all the region’s electricity suppliers over the next few months,” said Steve Kaminski, NHEC Vice President of Power Resources & Access. “New England ratepayers will feel the impact until the pipeline capacity challenge is met or new sources of electricity make their way into New England.”
The Effects of Winter Market Prices on Co-op Power
Most of the electricity NHEC buys for use by its members is contracted for in advance at fixed prices. After last year’s delivery problems and price spikes, however, suppliers are now charging large premiums for forward winter purchases, based on expectations of repeated and continuing seasonal problems. As NHEC’s older purchase contracts expire and are replaced, those premium winter prices are becoming a bigger part of the Co-op Power resource mix, as well as for all the companies selling electricity in New England. In addition to forward purchases, NHEC relies on the spot market for a small portion of its members’ needs. Spot prices generally turn out on average to be lower than advance purchases, but are more volatile and subject to extreme price spikes during times of stress on the supply and delivery system, so NHEC does not depend heavily on them.
Conservation, Energy Management Can Help
As power rates increase, NHEC is encouraging its members to practice energy conservation and take advantage of a new tool that allows them to monitor and manage their energy usage. Thanks to NHEC’s recent installation of Smart Meters across its service territory, members are now able to view their monthly, daily and hourly electric usage online at www.nhec.coop
. This information can provide the opportunity to view usage patterns and make efficiency or usage choices that can save energy and money.
NHEC also has a website (www.smallsteps.coop
) with a host of energy saving tips and advice, including links to Co-op Energy Solutions efficiency programs.
Expect a Rate Reduction in May 2015
Because the causes of the wholesale price spikes are so seasonal in nature, NHEC currently expect a substantial reduction in the Co-op Power rate on or around May 1, 2015 at the start of the summer pricing period.
Headquartered in Plymouth, NH, NHEC is a member-owned electric distribution cooperative serving 83,000 homes and businesses in 115 New Hampshire communities.
Sep 9, 2014 - NHEC President/CEO Announces Spring Retirement
PLYMOUTH, NH—New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, Inc. (NHEC) announced today that Fred Anderson will retire as CEO in the spring of 2015 after 34 years with the company.
Anderson joined the Cooperative in 1981 and became the President/CEO in 1992. He has a long history in the rural electrification program, when he began his career in 1974 with the Rural Electrification Administration in Washington, DC.
He has been a very valuable member of the Cooperative community serving on a variety of boards including the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC); Cooperative Research Council (CRC); Northeast Public Power Association (NEPPA) and the Consumer Owned Energy Foundation. He is a Cooperative Credentialed Director and Founding Board member of the NHEC Foundation. He has also served the greater community at large, active as a past board member of the Whole Village Family Resource Center in Plymouth, NH, the Plymouth Regional High School Board and Northway Financial (Symbol NWFI) as well as the Pemigewasset National and Berlin City banks.
"I am grateful to have spent 34 years with this great company and am deeply honored to have had the opportunity to lead it for the past 23 years. I am very proud of what we have accomplished together”, said Anderson. "I am so thankful to have worked with such a tremendous staff and Board who remain committed to our membership. Their unwavering belief in the cooperative way of doing business will continue to lead the way for NHEC’s future."
“NHEC is well positioned for the future because of Fred’s vision, leadership skills and commitment to excellence. He will be greatly missed by NHEC’s members, employees and the Board of Directors”, said Earl Hansen, Chairman NHEC Board of Directors. Continued Hansen, “Fred has the Board’s appreciation and gratitude for his exemplary service to NHEC and the Cooperative vision.”
NHEC has secured the Executive Search Firm of Mycoff, Fry & Prouse LLC to conduct an extensive search for Mr. Anderson’s replacement. All employment inquiries should be directed to Scott Fry at 800-525-9082 or email@example.com.
Jun 5, 2014 - Celebrating 75 Years: Annual Meeting; BOD Results
PLYMOUTH, NH – On the occasion of its 75th Annual Meeting of Members, New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) took a look back at its pioneering past and a look forward to a challenging future with major changes in store for the regional energy industry.
More than 175 members and guests attended the Annual Meeting, which was held June 3 at Prospect Hall on the campus of Plymouth State University.
“This cooperative was founded on the principle of people working together to achieve a common goal,” said NHEC President/CEO Fred Anderson. “It is because of all the people who have come before us that we have achieved the goal of putting the power in your hands. They are the ones for whom we are grateful today.”
Founded in 1939, NHEC was incorporated by a group of farmers and rural residents who, with help from the New Hampshire State Grange and the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), sought to bring the benefits of electricity to areas of the state that were unserved by the private utilities of the day. From its first stretch of electric line that served a few dozen families in towns surrounding Lempster, NH, NHEC grew steadily over the years to serve 83,000 homes and businesses in 115 New Hampshire communities.
As part of the 75th anniversary, the Co-op unveiled a copy of a newly-released book that chronicles the company’s history. Titled “Putting the Power In Your Hands: The First 75 Years of New Hampshire Electric Cooperative,” the book is a thoroughly researched account of the challenges and successes the cooperative has experienced in lighting up the New Hampshire countryside for the past seven decades. Members also enjoyed dinner catered by Sodexo Catering and a post-meeting raffle.
A number of dignitaries sent congratulatory messages on the occasion of the Co-op’s 75th anniversary, including U.S. Congresswoman Annie Kuster, U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte and U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who recorded a video that was played to the annual meeting attendees.
Two people with long associations with NHEC were honored for their contributions to the Cooperative. Former NHEC Director Gail Paine of Intervale was recognized by a Board of Directors resolution named her Director Emeritus, acknowledging her 30 years as a member of the NHEC Board and 19 years as the NHEC representative on the Board of Directors of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Also recognized was Clint Hutchins, NHEC Manager of Member Solutions & Marketing. Hutchins, who plans to retire in July after a 44-year career at NHEC, was awarded the Carol A. Tracey Customer Service Award. Presented by the Northeast Public Power Association (NEPPA), the award recognizes employees of NEPPA member utilities who deliver outstanding service to their consumers.
Company officials also announced the results of the election for three open seats on the NHEC Board of Directors. Three incumbents won re-election to seats on the Board.
Returning to the Board for three-year terms are Joan Aubrey of Jackson, Harry Viens of Center Harbor and Bruce Wiggett of Plymouth. Members also voted 5,772 to 670 to approve a minor amendment to the NHEC Bylaws.
Board members are elected by NHEC members, who cast ballots annually to fill seats on the 11-member Board of Directors. NHEC is a democratically-controlled cooperative. All NHEC members are eligible to vote or run for election to the Board of Directors. This year, 6,878 members cast ballots.