Manager’s Message

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Manager’s Report – July 2018

Court-ordered spill and your PUD bill

Earlier this year, Federal Judge Michael Simon again ruled that increased spill of water (to the maximum dissolved gas amounts) over dam spillways as opposed to through electrical generators through the Columbia and Snake River Dams would be needed to aid downstream fish migrating to the ocean, although the science behind that decision is questionable at best.

That decision has costs, and they are being borne by you and the rest of the consumer-owned utility rate payers in the Pacific Northwest. Don’t forget that the taxpayers are the owners of the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS). Dams like The Dalles, John Day, and Bonneville, operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and the power generated as marketed by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), is paid for through rates charged to consumer-owned utilities like Northern Wasco County PUD (your PUD). Many people receive the benefits of the flood control, recreation, and navigation provided by this infrastructure, but Northwest Public Power pays for it.

Recent high-water events in our area can be attributed to this increased spill as well as runoff and a warmer than average Spring.

Your PUD buys most of its electricity from BPA, so as BPA’s costs increase so does what the PUD must collect through your cost-based rates. BPA officials have previously estimated that the increased spring water spills could cost $40 million per year. Through the hard work of your PUD management, Board of Directors and many regional partners, we were successful in influencing BPA to find cost cutting measures ultimately lowering this year’s total to just over $10.2 million dollars.

Since lowering the total costs for this year, BPA has shared what each utility must pay. The total for your PUD is $129,000 of unbudgeted expense. Your Board of Directors and PUD Management are working hard to ascertain how to best recover these extra costs. We have worked diligently to improve the PUD’s financial outlook, tools and resources, so we are confident that we will do so in the most financially prudent manner possible.

Northern Wasco County PUD also works very hard to support a healthy aquatic eco-system. Our hydroelectric facilities at The Dalles Dam and McNary Dam are used solely to maintain fishway attraction water in the fish ladders. Please see www.mcnary.fish to learn more about our joint project with our neighboring consumer-owned utility Klickitat County PUD #1. We try to use science-based approaches to solving problems rather than emotionally charged, politically motivated ones.

If it wasn’t clear, our opposition to the court-ordered increase in water releases from the dams is based on both economic and environmental matters. I do hope we can improve on both in the future.

Roger Kline
General Manager

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Manager’s Report – June 2018

Investment in your PUD systems and people

About this same time last year, I reminded you that we were amid some major infrastructure renewal projects. I thought I’d take a moment to update you as to how they are all progressing.

Utility pole inspection, testing and treatment has paid huge dividends for our electric system. We have completed our second round of inspections and have replaced many poles before they failed and caused power outages, interruptions or worse. We’re improving our work processes and accounting to ensure that any outdoor lights that are in our system are being billed appropriately as well. Thank you for your understanding and patience if that has impacted you personally.

Your Board of Directors approved staff ’s recommendation to adopt our smart grid initiative to bring enhanced services to you, our customer-owners and community. We’ll be installing the communication network later this year and continue replacing the electric metering infrastructure as appropriate to ultimately offer you enhanced products and services through technology. Meter reading accuracy and overall reliability of service are huge benefits of this community investment as well.

More than just replacing poles, meters and wires goes on at your PUD every day. Staff works hard to provide excellent customer service, billing accuracy and timely processing of all the other details that it takes to ensure safe, reliable, cost-effective and environmentally responsible electric service to you. We do regional policy work, strategic planning for the future, safety and technical training, community outreach, and support economic development in multiple ways as well. Our community is growing and your PUD is growing right with it.

None of this is possible without excellent people and a supportive community. Thank you for allowing us to accomplish all of this on your behalf.

Please ensure we have your current contact information, including email. Also, feel free to take advantage of electronic bill payment. You can do that through your financial institution or directly at www.nwascopud.org, we do not process any extra fee or charge for this service. This is also a great season to have an energy audit or to sign up for budget (levelized) bill payment. Explore these options on our website!

Enjoy the sunshine and be safe as you recreate outside!

Roger Kline
General Manager

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Manager’s Report – May 2018

That Important Summer Call

The return of summery weather means more home owners are working on outdoor projects and more contractors are gearing up for their busy season of road and construction work. Northern Wasco County PUD work crews are out in the field at all times of year, so we know the importance of calling for an 811 under- ground utility locate before every digging project.

Calling those three simple digits helps ensure that all under- ground utilities are properly marked, no matter whether you are breaking ground on a weekend digging project or major construction. Striking a single line can cause injury, repair costs, fines and inconvenient outages.

When calling 811, homeowners and contractors are connected to Oregon 811 Utility Notification Center, which notifies the appropriate utility companies of their intent to dig. Professional locators are then sent to the requested digging site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with flags or spray paint.

Every digging project, regardless of depth, warrants a call to Oregon 811. Installing a mailbox, building a deck, planting a tree and laying a patio are all examples of digging projects that should include a call to 811 before they begin.

The depth of utility lines can vary for a number of reasons, such as erosion, previous digging projects and uneven surfaces. Utility lines need to be properly marked because even when digging only a few inches, the risk of striking an underground utility line still exists.

Summer may officially start in June, but good outdoor project weather doesn’t wait until then. We want to remind homeowners and contractors alike to call 811 before digging to eliminate the risk of striking an underground utility line.

Visit digsafelyoregon.com for more information about 811 and safe digging practices.

Thank you,

Roger Kline
General Manager

Carousel, Manager's Message

Manager’s Report – April 2018

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

During the March Board of Director’s meeting, representatives from the Mid-Columbia Community Action Council, Inc. Community Action Partnership (CAP) updated staff and the Board on their important work, and informed us that our community has already exhausted all its funds for energy assistance for the year.

Even though our rates are the lowest in the region, and some of the lowest in the state, that doesn’t mean that people still don’t occasionally need help with their energy bills. We understand fully that the cost per unit of measurement (kilowatt hours) is only one aspect, and that the amount of energy used, via energy consumption, is what can make an energy bill larger from one season to the next. That is why we work hard to provide opportunities for energy conservation, and very soon, other options such as prepay or other programs to help our customer-owners in need. One other way we do that is through our “Neighbor to Neighbor” program. This program gives a helping hand to customers who are struggling to pay their electric bills.

One hundred percent of customer donations stay in our community!

Eligible households who do not qualify for other state or federal assistance may receive up to $125 in a 12-month period. Eligibility is established according to federally defined poverty levels and verification of eligibility is determined by CAP.

You can sign up to have a small monthly contribution of $1, $2, or $5 automatically added to your bill each month, or you can make your contribution on a separate check made payable to “Neighbor to Neighbor.” All contributions are tax deductible.

Please consider joining me in supporting some of our fellow community members in this manner.

Thank you,

Roger Kline
General Manager

 

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Manager’s Report – March 2018

“Future-proofing” and infrastructure investments

Northern Wasco County PUD has always embraced its history and traditions, but that hasn’t kept us from looking forward. The reason is simple: serving you, our customer-owners requires constant adjusting to meet your changing needs.

Today’s interconnected and increasingly complex world, where customers have more choices than ever, is driving organizations like ours to adjust the products and services we offer to provide more transparency and vision to you about your energy use, where it comes from, options for how you pay for it, as well as to how we operate and make the decisions to run the organization. Our intent is to give you the services you desire, so when the day comes where you can choose between multiple energy service providers, you will still choose us, and be greatly satisfied with your choice. Doing business and interacting with us should be easy, that is our responsibility and goal.

Admittedly, your PUD typically isn’t on the cutting edge of technology adoption, we generally wait for the bugs to be worked out a bit and for the initial costs to come down. So, as you consider things like installing solar panels, battery storage systems, purchasing an electric vehicle, buying that “smart” home appliance, or other “Internet of Things” (IoT) enabled device, know that we’re getting ready to integrate it safely, reliably, and in a cost-conscious manner. Ultimately, those are your personal choices, we simply have the obligation to not hinder their effectiveness, or to be detractors to your individual and collective successes.

The term “future-proofing” has been used as of late to explain some of these investments and trends. I think that is very appropriate, especially as the future is now. As such, we are continuing to reinvest in the District’s infrastructure to keep is safe and reliable, and to provide those expanded products and services that have become part of daily life over the last decade. Pre-pay options, integrating more renewable-energy supplies self-generated at your home or business, real-time energy consumption information, easy same-day start/stop services, easy predictable interconnection or business expansion options, enhanced outage notifications and response, partnering amongst other public and private sector organizations for the benefit of the community, those are all things that your Board of Directors, staff and I are working toward for the near-term future. We are confident you will be happy with the outcome.

Roger Kline
General Manager

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Manager’s Report – February 2018

Save a salmon, drive an electric vehicle

Did that get your attention? Being provocative isn’t my strong suit, but it seems to be the preferred tactic for use in media today, so I thought I’d give it a try.

What do I mean by this? Well, your utility district and our regional partners have been closely watching our elected officials in Salem and elsewhere on these two connected topics.

First, the State of Oregon is moving aggressively toward some sort of carbon legislation, maybe even in this short session. If you were to ask folks around the region what the largest carbon emitters are in Oregon you may hear “power plants.” That would be incorrect. The largest carbon emitter in the PNW is the transportation sector. And largest by a lot.

The Pacific Northwest is powered primarily by non-carbon emitting hydroelectric power. Wind energy, nuclear power and solar power are some other non-emitters. I fully acknowledge that there are pros and cons to any energy source. For salmon and other aquatic species, dams and hydro power catch a lot of negative press.

Facts are facts though: Over 95% downstream passage survivability for juveniles, and adults use fish ladders very, very well through our publicly owned dam and power system. Go tour Bonneville Dam and see it for yourself. Hundreds of millions of dollars each year from your rates fund research, infrastructure improvements, wetlands, and many other things for the 20% of the time the various species spend in the river system(s), and passing through our system of dams. Yes, 20% of their lifecycle is all they spend here. Where do they spend the rest of their lives? In the ocean.

That brings us back to carbon. There is seemingly a direct correlation between ocean conditions and successful fish returns to their natal spawning rivers (above the dams). The healthier the ocean, the better the fish return. I’m not a fisheries biologist, but if something spends 80% of its life in one location, and we can improve the quality of that location, I’d probably want some attention spent there.

I don’t know whether carbon is the only thing negatively impacting the oceans. I do know that reducing carbon from the largest emitting sector in the region (transportation) by shifting to EV’s can’t hurt—especially if you charge them from hydroelectric and other non-carbon-based sources like we have here. The Oregon Governor recently signed an Executive Order on EV’s so perhaps future incentives could prove fruitful for you. We can help provide electrical information to support charging infrastructure.

Perhaps this type of discussion can continue around the region and our State can decide if increased spill through our dams is really the right thing to do for fish. Especially when the lost energy is likely made up for by carbon-emitting sources. The Board of Directors and I will keep working on that aspect.

Roger Kline
General Manager

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Manager’s Report – January 2018

Colder temperatures can mean higher bills

As colder weather sets in and we experience the beauty of winter, I’d like to take one more opportunity to share with you what this weather can mean to your electricity consumption, i.e. PUD bills.

Even though you may have not adjusted your thermostat, your heating system requires more energy to accomplish the same task when the outside air temperature drops. More energy consumed equals a higher bill. Contrary to what some may believe, we do not increase rates in the winter.

Please contact us if you are struggling with your winter electric bills, there are a variety of programs available to help you. We want you to be safe and warm in your homes and businesses.

Best to all and Happy New Year,

Roger Kline
General Manager

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Manager’s Report – December 2017

Another year gone by…

Since its formation in 1939, Northern Wasco County People’s Utility District has had a strong public power ethic.

Its five-member elected Board of Directors, the almost 50 employees and the community expect a high level of electric service reliability, low-cost, high-value electric rates, and the kind of friendly, personal and informal customer services that are the hallmarks of many smaller, “home-grown” public utilities across the Pacific Northwest.

As I prepare to start my third year as your General Manager, I reflect on the journey that has been my time here so far. We have accomplished so much together on your behalf and in support of our community.

We safely constructed and energized the RiverTrail Substation. We secured municipal bonds to commence renewal of much of our infrastructure. We improved our safety culture and program and, most importantly, we have increased our tools, out- reach and understanding of what you, our customer-owners want and expect from your electric service provider. Even with last year’s increase, the District’s electric rates are among the lowest in Oregon, the region and the nation, and the reliability of electric service (as measured by the number and duration of outages) ranks well above the national average.

None of these successes came without equal challenges. Broadly speaking, to keep electricity costs extremely low for customers, the District had lagged in needed spending to upgrade its electric system to maintain reliability, the business systems needed to meet changing customer expectations for services, and the human capital investments needed to create a modern, efficient and effective public utility. We’ve moved past that and continue to refine what it means to be your electric service provider of choice now and into the future.

The stated philosophy of the District sums it up best:

“We value our public power traditions, while seeking new and better ways to pre- serve the benefits of that heritage. We believe that with innovation, teamwork and commitment, we can compete effectively in a changing environment.”

Please enjoy the remainder of the holiday season, stay warm and we’ll see you next year!

Happy Holidays,

Roger Kline
General Manager

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Manager’s Message – November 2017

Change in Season, No Change in Mission or Values

As the leaves turn and the evenings begin to cool, let us take a moment to prepare our homes and businesses for the change in weather.

This is a great time to change HVAC air filters, ensure batteries are fresh in your smoke detectors, carbon monoxide monitors, and flashlights, and even that your winter blankets and 3­7­day emergency kits are stocked and ready. As we experienced last winter and during the recent fire season, we can never be overly prepared.

Statistically, we have a very reliable electric system but we should always be ready for extended power outages or situations that isolate us from food, fuel and other resources. Being ready for unplanned events is always a good idea!

We continue to work very diligently to update and maintain your electric power transmission, distribution and customer service systems and all their accouterments and more importantly to do those in as safe, reliable and fiscally prudent a manner possible.

Thank you for your continued trust as we work hard to operate NWCPUD on your behalf.

Best,

Roger Kline
General Manager

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Manager’s Message – October 2017

Public Power: The Community-Owned Advantage

Northern Wasco County People’s Utility District (NWCPUD) is one of more than 2,000 public power utilities that help power the lives of more than 48 million people across the country.

There are many reasons why you, our customers, continue to own and operate your own electric utility. Since our founding in 1939, Northern Wasco County People’s Utility District has served the community with reliable electricity at low rates, excellent customer service and an ethic of serving the community’s needs. Our strong commitment to our community includes supporting economic development, providing carbon-free, environmentally conscious electric power, and doing all of this as safely as possible for everyone involved.

As a not-for-profit public power utility, our loyalty is to you, our customer—not stockholders. We take great pride in our governance structure, with an elected governing board of five local members, that has open meetings the last Tuesday of every month here at the PUD offices at 2345 River Road. The meetings start at 6 p.m. and all are welcome to attend.

NWCPUD will continue to provide cost-effective, reliable electricity that adds value to the local economy and be a benefit to you, our customer owners and to our community.

We thank you for your support of public power and we are proud to stand with other public power utilities across the nation as we support each other during restoration efforts from hurricanes, wildfires and other disasters that we have experienced this year.

Best to all and thank you for your continued support as we work diligently on your behalf.

Best,

Roger Kline
General Manager