News and Events
May Texas Co-op Power Magazine Article
May 1, 2013
If you haven’t noticed in this edition by now, SBEC is having our annual meeting on Saturday May 18th. I hope each of you have an opportunity to attend. The purpose of the annual meeting is to report the financial condition of your cooperative and give you updates of the prior year’s activities. We also come together to elect your board of directors. I will close out my short report by quoting Thomas Jefferson’s insight on democracy and elections. “We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate”. I hope to see you on the 18th.
Until next time, take care!
April Texas Co-op Power Magazine Article
April 1, 2013
Spring has finally sprung! And, if you’re like me, there are at least a dozen outdoor projects that you are planning to undertake. Though I’m not a “green-thumb” by any stretch of imagination, I really look forward to planting new flowers and foliage this time of the year. Even though I know I’m planting food for the deer and rabbits that have over-populated my sub-division, I still do it. Who knows, I might actually out-fox them this year. (Though I think that is highly unlikely.)
If you are planting trees, please keep in mind that they need to be planted at least 25 - 30 feet from any existing over-head power lines. That way you can watch the trees grow big and tall without the fear of SBEC cutting or trimming them in the future.
Each month we come across well-meaning individuals who have planted trees within the power line easement. These land owners are surprised when we show up to either clear-cut the trees or severely trim these trees planted within the easement. And yet, we are still portrayed as the bad guy at times. Honestly folks, we don’t enjoy clearing these easements. This is a very expensive process and it takes an extreme amount of man-power to get the job done. We have a responsibility to ALL our members to provide them with reliable power. We don’t want to be the bad guy and with a little help from you when planting your trees, it can be a win-win situation for all of us.
Also, before digging any a hole for your tree, you need make a call to 8-1-1. This will contact the Texas One Call Center to notify all electric, telephone and gas utilities within your area that excavation will be done. These utilities have 2 working days to locate their underground equipment and to make sure that it is safe for you to dig in that area. This is done for your safety and protection. Without contacting the One Call Center, you are responsible for all damages and their repairs, should you hit the utilities’ equipment. In the case of gas and electrical lines, the results could be very catastrophic. The 8-1-1 number was implemented with the public’s safety in mind. Please remember to use it should you be digging in the ground any depth over one foot.
Have a great spring!!!
Until next time, take care.
March Texas Co-op Power Magazine Article
March 1, 2013
If you read your local newspaper in late January, I imagine that you noticed an article generated by The Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) stating that they had “won” the legal case against SBEC and a few others concerning the early termination of our contract. Well folks, that’s just not the entire story. While it is true that District Judge Scott Jenkins ruled in favor of LCRA in their summary judgment case, the article AND LCRA FAILED to mention that this ruling addressed only one issue on our reasons for early termination. It was the “low hanging fruit” issue that LCRA sought relief on.
Believe me, this will be a very long process should it be played out entirely through the court system. There are other issues that will still be addressed and we still have the option of appealing the summary judgment verdict. For LCRA to make bold statements about the costs we are shifting to our membership is not only premature, it is downright unprofessional on their General Manager’s part. At the very start we addressed our concerns with LCRA prior to filing a Notice of Breach. Had she addressed us then, this legal process would have certainly been avoided. After the Notice was sent it was LCRA that ran to the courthouse to begin the legal battle. We are only defending what we feel is in the best interest of our members and the rates that they have to pay.
This legal battle will not be won in the news, but in the court system. I have consciously not played this drama out in the newspapers for that reason. I expected the same professional courtesy from LCRA. Regardless, I will not stoop to their level and will only provide updates through this column and inquiries made directly to me. As I mentioned earlier, the court process will be a very long, drawn out affair. I suspect that it could take as long as 6-8 years to completely get all the way through this process. Many ups and downs are anticipated along the way, for LCRA to claim victory now is just plain ludicrous.
Just a little reminder that SBEC’s annual meeting is coming up once again, so please mark your calendars for Saturday May 18th. The location will be the same as last year’s. I hope you will make plans to attend.
Until next time, take care.
February Texas Co-op Power Magazine Article
February 1, 2013
If you follow this column regularly, you should know that I often compliment the employees of San Bernard Electric Cooperative on their dedication. But no matter how many times I say it - it can never be said enough. These individuals are eager to help our membership as much and as often as they possibly can; even if it means doing it after regular working hours.
Case in point - on Christmas day our service area was experiencing extremely high winds. Well, high winds and tall pine trees are not a good combination if you are in the electric distribution business. Trees fell into our power lines and the resulting contact knocked the power off. This is old news for over 1900 members (that’s how many members were left in the dark by the wind storm) and that’s when our employees went to work.
These dedicated individuals left the comfort of their homes and families on a holiday to get the power restored as quickly as possible. Now you might say that they were just doing their jobs. I’d say that it is more than that. Most of the linemen have caller ID and know that a call from the Cooperative could only mean one thing – that they were about to be asked to go out on a trouble call. They could have either refused to answer the call or said that they couldn’t go at this time for various reasons. But, with a couple of exceptions, all that were called came into work. And work they did! Most of these employees worked until the next morning to get all the power restored. I talked to one of the lineman and found out that he had relatives from out of state that he rarely gets to see at Christmas, yet he came in anyway. I asked why (as he certainly could have refused) and his answer was “my family had lights and heat on Christmas - it is only right that our members do to”. Now-- that made me proud! So, if I take the time to brag on these employees a little more in 2013—you’ll just have to bear with me. With that said, please enjoy the pictures of some of these employees receiving their service awards in this month’s edition.
An obvious question you may have is: Why do so many trees hit our power lines and what should the cooperative do to prevent this from happening in the future? My answer is that we take steps to prevent these outages. Sadly, we had just finished re-clearing the line where most of the trouble took place. But, when you have a 20 foot easement adjacent to a 75-80 foot pine tree, with the winds we experienced—the pine trees win more often than not. We have often been criticized on our vegetation management process, however I shudder to think of how much more extensive the outage would have been if we hadn’t just re-cleared that section of our service territory. Please keep this in mind when our crews and contractors show up to re-clear our power line easements. Our goal is to keep your and your neighbor’s power on as much as humanly possible.
Until next time, take care
January Texas Co-op Power Magazine Article
January 1, 2013
As we close out 2012, I wish each of you a happy and prosperous New Year! SBEC had an interesting year in 2012 and 2013 seems to have the same in store for us. We started the single largest construction project (Copano transmission/substation) in our history. We are expecting to have this substation energized by the time you start reading this article. We will also have two more major upgrades to our substation facilities in Rock Island and Sheridan. These projects have anticipated completion dates prior to December 15th, 2013. Our Engineering Manager, Clayton Stanford, has done an extremely admirable job on these projects and I’m pretty sure he will be relieved when all this is done. We’ve joked that we should have rented an apartment in the Sheridan area for him. As it is, he may have to re-introduce himself to his fellow employees when all this is over. I’m proud of his work ethic and dedication. He truly is an asset to your cooperative.
We are 99.9% complete on our meter change-out program. The new system has been everything and more than we expected. As with any project, there were a few bumps along the way but none that we couldn’t resolve. We appreciate the membership’s help in getting this project behind us. We expect to unveil some new tools that members can utilize in keeping up with their usage. We will keep you informed as to when we expect these tools to be available to you. Mike Ables, Special Projects Director, has done a great job in coordinating all facets of this project’s completion.
Lastly, I would like to report on our wholesale power issue. We are still addressing legal issues concerning our split with LCRA. Both sides are adamant in the positions taken. I hope to have this behind us eventually, but I don’t foresee that coming anytime soon. Regardless of which side is favored in a court’s opinion, the appeal process will begin. With that said, I hope you were pleasantly surprised by your December bill. Not only did you receive some Capital Credit payouts on the bill, you should have noticed a significant drop in the G&T rate. This is a reflection of us no longer buying power from LCRA. Rest assured that your cooperative will continue to find ways to provide the electricity you need at the lowest cost obtainable.
I would like to once again wish the very best to each of you in 2013.
Until next time, take care.
December Texas Co-op Power Magazine Article
December 1, 2012
As we close out the year, I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous and happy New Year. Once again, we have dedicated this issue in the spirit of Christmas. Not only am I proud to showcase our employees and directors, I want to take time to thank each and every one of them for the diligent service they have provided our membership throughout the year. I am truly blessed that I have these folks to help make my job so much easier and it is their dedication that makes this cooperative operate day in and day out. The next time you cross paths with any of these folks, I hope you take the opportunity to thank them for their loyalty and effort to provide the service that we often take for granted. Again, without EACH AND EVERYONE of these individuals -- this cooperative is just another business. They are the true backbone of the cooperative and they work hard to provide the service that you have come to expect from SBEC.
Also, it is my pleasure to tell you that your Board of Directors has authorized me to retire over $950,000 dollars in capital credits. This year's return represents a portion of capital credits for 1985, 1986, 2009, 2010 and 2011 and the refund will be reflected in your December billing cycle. The ability to refund these capital credits is an indication that your cooperative is in healthy financial shape. Even with the large expenditures that I discussed last month in this column, we can once again offer these credits. As a member of a cooperative, you benefit in the success of the cooperative.
Until next time - take care.
November Co-op Power Magazine Article
November 1, 2012
A couple of years ago I had written about the major 138kv line upgrade in Waller County. If you remember, I had reported that the expenditures for this upgrade would exceed $11 million dollars. At that time - it represented the single largest investment SBEC had invested in one project. When all was said and done, we completed this project faster than we expected and over $1 million dollars under budget. I never expected that I would witness another project of this magnitude.
Well, sometimes you get surprised! This surprise came when I was informed at the first of the year that we had another major project - a transmission line upgrade that is more than twice the length of our last one. In addition, we will have to upgrade 4 substations along the way. To put it in perspective, the transmission upgrade will cause SBEC to invest over $24 million dollars and the substations will take an additional $10 million dollars. The root cause of all this investment is that one of our largest members, Copano Processing is re-tooling their plant to accommodate the gas discovery in South Texas.
Before you start thinking that Copano should be paying for all of this, let me say that's not the way the transmission market works. Remember, I said we would be investing in our facilities. If you were to look at your electric bill, there is a G&T charge itemized on the statement. The way we get a return on our investment is that every electric rate payer in ERCOT pays for ALL the investments in transmission each utility invests in their transmission plants. That ensures that the backbone of the electrical system is kept up to the needs of all ratepayers. So the members of SBEC are getting help investing in our plant and in turn we help pay for other utilities investment. There is a rate-of-return on these investments. However, each utility is responsible for the initial investment. And by the way, Copano is still responsible for the investment we have to make at their point of delivery; much like any member requiring an investment to electrical service to a new residence, gate, barn or well. That's the way it works.
I have asked Don Roberts, Electric System Group Manager to give you a report, including pictures to provide more information on this. Be sure to read it in this issue of your Co-op Power.
Now, a quick update on Wholesale power! At midnight on September 12th, SBEC started buying its wholesale power from Garland Power and Light and have a six month contract with them. This decision was made because we pretty much know that LCRA will force some sort of litigation against SBEC - and we felt it prudent that we keep our contracts to a shorter term until we have a clearer picture of what we face. As it stands right now, 9 former exclusive customers have given notice of unfair practices to the LCRA. Seven of us are no longer taking power from them. One, New Braunfels Utilities has filed a lawsuit against them. The last customer, GVEC has given the LCRA a notice of breach to the contract. In essence, GVEC is following the same path SBEC did. There will be some twist and turns ahead of us and I will keep you updated on important events as they unfold. As always, should you have questions or concerns regarding this or any other matter concerning SBEC, please feel free to contact me.
Until next time, take care.
October Texas Co-op Power Magazine Article - Message from the Manager
October 1, 2012
I want to call your attention to a 2-page layout in this month’s column. It involves the ongoing negotiation (or lack thereof) with the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) and San Bernard Electric Cooperative (SBEC). In a nut shell, we are no longer dependent on LCRA for our power needs. SBEC could no longer stand pat while LCRA continued to treat us with complete disregard. The only affiliation we will have with LCRA is from their GEN-TEX plant but we own the rights to the output of that plant and they will act only as an operator of that plant. The rest of our power needs will be met on the open market. I have outlined what we can expect in a two page article included in this month’s Co-op Power magazine. We fully expect that LCRA will sue us for breach of contract; as they have said so. But, LCRA’s treatment of SBEC since we decided not to extend our contract with them was simply unbearable. I plan to keep you updated with future articles.
It is with great sadness that I relay this next bit of news. Edgar Oppermann, a retired SBEC employee, recently passed away. Oppy was a unique individual that truly enjoyed life and made you feel blessed that you knew him. It is uncharacteristic that I write about a retired employee in this article, but Oppy was more than just a retired employee. Oppy worked for the very first contract crew that San Bernard hired. He was there when the first pole was set for San Bernard Electric Cooperative. He truly saw this company come to life. After serving in the United States Army, he eventually became a full time employee of SBEC in 1945 and worked in several departments before retiring in 1984. After 15 years of retirement, Oppy came back to work for SBEC in 1999 and worked several more years. I never second guessed myself about re-hiring Oppy, as he hadn’t lost any of his physical or mental sharpness. He truly was one of a kind.
Until next time, take care.
SBEC Asserts Claims to Protect Members
October 1, 2012
Message from the Manager – October 2012 Texas Co-op Power magazine local pages
SBEC Asserts Claims to Protect Members
Cooperative will purchase power on competitive market
As General Manager of San Bernard Electric Cooperative (SBEC), I can convey with 100% certainty that the Board of Directors, management and employees of the cooperative are all dedicated to providing dependable electric service at an affordable cost to you, our member-owners. We strive to provide this service in a safe, friendly and reliable manner.
Over the past several years, your cooperative has been faced with some big decisions about our future power supply arrangements. In March 2011, SBEC’s Board of Directors voted to not extend the exclusive wholesale power agreement with the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA). The extension would have required a commitment to purchase energy from the LCRA until 2041. After much discussion and analysis, the SBEC Board determined that our member-owners would be better served by acquiring power on the competitive wholesale power market beginning in June 2016.
This was a business decision based on the Board’s assessment of what was in the best interest of our members. This decision was not made lightly. SBEC and LCRA had a positive business relationship and accomplished great things together for over 70 years. The decision not to extend the LCRA contract was based on the desire for SBEC to be responsible for our power supply future and to take advantage of an open and competitive wholesale power supply market in Texas. This was determined to be in the best interest of our member-owners.
Access to Competitive Market Denied
Of LCRA’s 43 wholesale customers that faced this decision, 33 elected to extend the contract and 10 chose to not extend the power supply contract with LCRA. Those customers that renewed with LCRA now have a long-term contract that among other features, allows these utilities the ability to access the competitive power supply market for a significant portion of their system’s power requirements. SBEC and the nine other utilities that elected not to sign the extension beyond 2016 do not currently have the same opportunity to take advantage of favorable pricing in the wholesale power market. In fact, after the ten customers gave their notices, LCRA discontinued another “Market Pricing Option” available under the original contract that allowed any customer to obtain a small portion of its power from the wholesale power market. SBEC’s position is that this treatment by LCRA is unfair and discriminatory.
Because we did not extend the power contract with LCRA, SBEC and the other 9 utilities have no access to the market, while those utilities that extended with LCRA have this capability today. Not only is SBEC prohibited from buying a portion of our power on the competitive market, we are absorbing the cost of lost revenue to LCRA because they allowed the extended customers to purchase a significant portion of their power on the competitive market.
Breach of Contract Issued
Because of this discrimination, which is prohibited both under the contract and under the LCRA Act, SBEC sent LCRA a letter on June 28 informing the LCRA that they were in breach of the long-standing Wholesale Power Agreement. Specifically, the wholesale power agreement included a “uniform rate clause” which obligates LCRA to offer the same rates, including pricing alternatives, to all of its wholesale electric customers. SBEC also complained about LCRA’s charging of discriminatory rates and its decision to accelerate payments of its long-term debt. Six other wholesale customers filed similar notices of breach as well. LCRA had a 30-day window to cure the breaches – or to at least try to cure – the breaches. LCRA made no attempt to remedy the breaches.
LCRA Files Temporary Restraining Order
LCRA’s response was to sue SBEC and the six other wholesale customers that provided notices of breach. In a lawsuit filed in Travis County, LCRA requested an emergency temporary restraining order to keep us from terminating the wholesale power agreements. On July 24, a hearing was held in the 53rd Judicial District Court, where Judge Scott Jenkins took no formal action on LCRA’s request. Based upon the parties’ agreement, Judge Jenkins set the case for an expedited hearing on August 27 to consider the request for temporary injunction.
Utilities Issue Letters of Termination
Despite LCRA’s lawsuit, at no point was SBEC or any other wholesale customer enjoined from taking action. Since LCRA did not attempt to cure anything, SBEC and the other utilities issued notices of termination on August 13 as allowed by the contract when the alleged breaches have not been cured.
LCRA Drops Injunction Request
Hours prior to an injunction hearing on August 27 in Travis County, LCRA attorneys notified SBEC that LCRA was dropping its pursuit of a temporary injunction against it and the other customers. At the hearing, the court heard arguments from the parties as to whether the case should be tried in Austin or transferred to other counties. A ruling is expected soon and SBEC will continue to defend its members’ interests in this litigation.
SBEC to Purchase Power from New Supplier
As noted, LCRA never attempted to fix the concerns that led to the notice of breach, so SBEC exercised its contractual right to terminate the agreement early. LCRA’s decision to drop the temporary injunction removed the last potential obstacle for SBEC and the other utilities to purchase power from a more competitive supplier beginning on September 13. The switch to a new provider will be seamless and members will not notice any change. SBEC managers are confident that we will be able to replace the LCRA power supply with very competitively priced power supply deals. We will be providing this information to our member-owners in another issue.
A Responsible Approach
For months, SBEC and other similarly situated utilities, Fayette Electric Cooperative, the City of Seguin, the City of Georgetown, Central Texas Electric Cooperative, the City of Boerne, and Kerrville Public Utility Board, attempted to address concerns with LCRA without termination of the Wholesale Power Agreement. None of these municipalities or cooperatives is in the habit of initiating litigation. Your Board takes this very seriously, but in the end, it was determined that the only responsible approach for us to take was to begin with a Notice of Breach, giving the LCRA one last opportunity to negotiate on our issues. This lawsuit is the way LCRA chose to respond.
As we move forward, to benefit our member-owners we will continue to assess additional options for seeking recovery of damages from LCRA. In the meantime, you can rest assured that SBEC’s Board and Management will continue to provide you with cost-effective, reliable electric service. It is likely that new developments will arise prior to publication of this issue of Texas Co-op Power magazine. Please know you may expect that we will continue to keep you fully informed as this issue progresses.
September Co-op Power Magazine Article
September 1, 2012
I recently had a request to meet with an SBEC member on his property to talk about our Vegetation Management program. I’ll be honest, this member was not happy at all. However, he was very cordial and expressed his concerns while I was addressing his questions. After visiting with him, it was very apparent that I needed to communicate the goals of our Vegetation Management for SBEC’s right-of-ways.
If you have been following my column, you know that I appreciate the beauty of trees as much as the rest of you. I left the Panhandle of Texas mainly because of the lush foliage I encountered while interviewing for a job at SBEC some 30-plus years ago. But, trees and electrical distribution systems will always be at odds when the trees grow into and are adjacent to our right-of-ways. It is always a daunting task to keep our right-of-ways clear in order to have reliable power for our membership.
This task has been heavily taxed this year. Between the drought of the last two years and the 2011 Labor Day fires in Colorado and Waller counties, we’ve seen an astronomical increase in the number of dead trees. In fact we have removed more dead trees OUTSIDE, but adjacent to our right-of-way, than we did the entire year of 2011. While we take down these trees so that they don’t fall into our power lines, we don’t have the means to remove the debris from the location. We are sorry but we simply don’t have the means or the storage area for the debris. We will cut the trees into manageable lengths so the landowner can handle it.
If you have called in to have a tree removed—you’ll have to be patient. We have more than 300 open service orders and we take them in the order in which they were received. The only deviation from this procedure will be when there is apparent danger to property or life. We get several calls a week from our members who think that we’ve forgotten about them. Believe me - we will get to you as soon as possible. I asked your Board of Directors to allow me to exceed our 2012 budget by $400,000.00 just to address the need of getting to these dead trees.
It’s just not dead trees we monitor. SBEC examines which part of our system has had the most service interruptions caused by vegetation. Utilizing this information, we instruct one of several R-O-W contractors to systematically remove all vegetation within our prescribed rights. We do this not only for reliability but for safety as well. During last year’s drought conditions, several wild fires throughout the state (and in other states) were caused by vegetation contact to the overhead electrical lines. So, when we or our contractors work around your homes and neighborhoods please keep in mind that we are only trying to improve safety and reliability.
If you have any questions concerning our program, please don’t hesitate to call either me or Greg Giebel, our Vegetation Control Supervisor.
Until next time, take care!
August Co-op Power Magazine Article
August 1, 2012
It is quite possible that you have already read San Bernard Electric Cooperative issued a “Notice of Breach” to the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) as it pertains to our current wholesale power contract. As most of you are already aware, SBEC declined to renew the contract that would have locked us in with LCRA through the year 2041. The LCRA customers who extended their power contracts through 2041 are allowed to get a percentage of their power needs from sources other than LCRA (as defined in the new agreement). The wholesale customers who extended their contracts have avenues of cheaper wholesale power. LCRA will not allow the customers who did not sign the same option. In effect, we are being penalized for not signing. Currently we are not able to gain access to the “open wholesale market” until June 2016, when our contract runs out with LCRA. As it stands, LCRA is preventing the lowering of the wholesale power cost to our members and we feel that is just not right.
The contract that was submitted to us by LCRA at the time of renewal was an EXTENTION of our current contract and not a new contract. LCRA’s wholesale customers all currently operate under a contract that has a “uniform rate” clause in it. This “uniform rate” clause was to ensure that every wholesale power customer would receive the same rates and pricing throughout the terms of our agreement. In essence, we are not given access to cheaper wholesale power based on the lower natural gas prices that have been prevalent since 2008. On June 28th I met with LCRA informing them of the “Notice of Breach” of contract. Under the contract any wholesale customer who feels that there is cause can issue such breach. The breach consists of what I have basically outlined in the preceding paragraphs. The concern at hand is SBEC’s inability to seek other wholesale power opportunities outside LCRA, at the same time, LCRA allowing other customers to do so only because they extended an existing contract. We have met several times with LCRA management to avoid having to file a “Notice of Breach” but such talks proved to be non-productive.
Seven of LCRA’s wholesale customers gave notice on June 28th. Along with SBEC, Central Texas Electric Co-op and Fayette Electric Co-op also issued similar breaches. Municipal utilities consisting of Seguin, Boerne, Kerrville and Georgetown did the same. LCRA has 30 days to review the breach and issue a response. By the time you read this we will either have a remedy to the breach or further action has taken place.
SBEC management considered this step very carefully prior to taking action but it was you, our members, that we felt we needed to fight for. Electricity prices are high enough and to be denied ways of reducing them when other LCRA customers can enjoy that luxury is just wrong.
Until next time, take care.
July Co-op Power Magazine Article
July 1, 2012
We recently had a milestone at San Bernard Electric Cooperative that not many electric cooperatives can claim. S. E. Golsch completed his 50th year serving as a director for your Cooperative. We certainly appreciate all the time and dedication to service he has shown in the growth of this Cooperative. He has basically seen this cooperative grow from the ground up! I have had the pleasure of being associated with Mr. Golsch for about 32 years now and I can tell you that he is serious about his dedication to San Bernard Electric. We have included a photo of Mr. Goslch receiving his Proclamation of Appreciation from SBEC Board Chairman Gus H. Miller, Jr. at a recent monthly meeting. Again, thank you for all your hard work “Fritzy”.
As we approach the summer months again, I hope our members have prepared themselves for what appears to be another hot one. I do want to remind our members that your electrical energy consumption will more than likely take a sharp rise. We had numerous calls from the membership concerning high bills last year. Now is the time to take a quick look around the house to see where there might be some room for energy efficiency. It doesn’t take a lot of money to correct some of the most commonplace causes of wasted energy. Caulking is a relatively inexpensive area to correct - just look for small cracks around windows and outside doorways. Also, most people don’t suspect electrical outlets as an energy thieves but they can be. I know you’ve seen the little plastic plugs that we all associate as protection for little tikes that keep them from sticking things into the outlet. These plugs and the associated insulated foam backings can stop your conditioned air from escaping into your inner walls. Another energy saver is a programmable thermostat for your A/C unit. These thermostats can be set to adjust your settings automatically so your unit won’t run constantly when you’re away from your house. The price for the programmable thermostats have come down considerably over the last couple of years and to make it even better, SBEC will rebate you $25.00 toward your purchase price. That’s almost the entire cost of the thermostat if you comparison shop! There are many other ways to help reduce your energy consumption and we have them listed on the SBEC website – www.sbec.org. You can also contact Bob Hancock or John Spiess in our Bellville office if you would rather talk to someone directly. They are our resident experts and would be happy to help you.
July is a good month to keep a close watch on the conditions in the gulf. Hurricane season is upon us and we need to be prepared. I hope one way that everyone has prepared themselves is by having a “grab bag” of essential items should you need to evacuate. Checkout our website If you need help in determining what you should have as an emergency kit. Bob Hancock has done a wonderful job in keeping this site up-to-date and informative. In fact, you should browse around our website and give us feed-back on what you think.
In closing, I want to wish everyone a safe and happy July 4th. This year I’m hoping that I can set off the fireworks that the drought conditions deprived me of last year. Who says you have to grow up?
Until next time, take care
June Co-op Power Magazine Article
June 1, 2012
I thought this month I would give you an update on our wholesale power contract pursuit. SBEC has contracted approximately 60% of our power needs beginning in 2016. The remaining 40% is still being negotiated with several power marketers. The 40% remaining is our peaking power needs. Last month I thought we had it nailed down but the Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) announced that a state-wide power shortage was eminent this summer. The pricing for wholesale power shot up dramatically immediately following the PUC statement. If I were not in the marketplace looking to sign a deal, the pricing increase would almost be laughable. This increase is based on pure speculation but, this is the world we now live in. I remember the days when electricity was not a commodity and now that it is, electricity will always undoubtedly be subject to speculation. As of now we are still working with the marketers to sign a contract that is not punitive to our membership. I will let you know when we do.
As we start June, let’s all hope that it is not as hot and dry as last year. I’ve become accustomed to the summer days that this region offers. (Well, let’s just say that I can now tolerate them after 31 years.) Last year was a horse of a different color - it was just plain miserable. As I mentioned earlier the Texas PUC is already warning people of the potential shortfall of electrical generation this summer. It is based on the prediction that we will have another summer like last year. If we do experience an extremely hot summer there are means in which we can all help to reduce the possibility of suffering rolling blackouts. We simply reduce our electrical needs during the day’s electrical peak which is usually from 3 - 7 p.m. Setting thermostats up a couple of degrees, waiting to run the washer and dryer until later in the evening and turning off all unused appliances will help. You can go to our website for an extended list on how we can all work together to reduce the possibility rolling blackouts this summer.
If you do visit our website we have posted pictures and a video from SBEC’s annual meeting that was held on May 19th. If you had a chance to attend this meeting, let me say thank you one more time. Without member participation it would be hard to operate San Bernard Electric Cooperative - a job I feel truly blessed to do. And if you have suggestions on what you would like to see at next year’s annual meeting, please drop me a note or a phone call. After all - it is YOUR meeting.
I wish all of you a happy and safe summer.
Until next time, take care
May Co-op Power Magazine Article
May 1, 2012
It hardly seems like a year has gone by since our last annual meeting but the reality is that it has. I hope each of you has made plans to attend this year’s event and as usual the annual meeting is scheduled for the third Saturday in May. This year that falls on May 19th and I hope you take this as your personal invitation to attend.
I think I will leave it there this month - I will take my granddad’s advice and not pass up an opportunity to keep my mouth shut.
Until next time, take care.
SBEC To Install New Metering System
April 15, 2012
San Bernard Electric Cooperative has utilized an Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) system to facilitate daily/monthly meter reads on most residential meters. The AMR system was primarily used for billing purposes since 1992. In recent years, the AMR system has also been used to complement our Outage Management System, giving us the opportunity to confirm / predict outages and confirm outage restorations.
The current AMR system, being 20 years old is no longer being supported by the manufacturer and it is time for SBEC to look to the future for a more sustainable and useful system. Think about the computer or cell phone you used twenty years ago…..
SBEC is working with SENSUS, a metering company, to install a new Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) system. This new system utilizes a radio frequency communication network as opposed to the current power-line carrier communication system and will be used to read all SBEC meters, residential and commercial. The new AMI system will offer:
· Improved Efficiency – reading all meters, residential and commercial, remotely will be more cost effective than having SBEC personnel drive to remote locations monthly.
· Improved Reliability – Having a two-way communication with the AMI meters will enhance SBEC’s outage management system by more accurately determining outage locations.
· Improved Power Quality - The AMI system will report variances in voltage and other line conditions that will help SBEC maintain a more reliable power distribution system.
· Improved Customer Service – The AMI system will allow SBEC to offer our members more timely information regarding their energy consumption, which will help members make wise decisions about how they use energy in their homes.
SBEC understands that with change, members will have questions and concerns. Some common questions that usually accompany a metering system change are as follows:
Q. Why is SBEC changing out our meters?
A. Because the technology of our current infrastructure, installed in 1992, is no longer supported by the manufacturer. SBEC has changed meters at several locations to conduct the pilot project (testing) of the new metering infrastructure in order to assure the reliability of the technology.
Q. What type of meter is SBEC installing?
A. Sensus, AMI-digital meters, that collect energy consumption and power quality data. This data is transmitted to SBEC via a licensed, secure radio frequency signal for billing and outage management purposes.
Q. When will I receive a new digital meter?
A. The infrastructure must be in place before every member receives a new meter. SBEC will begin to install equipment for the infrastructure throughout the SBEC territory by the end of 2011. You will be notified prior to meters being installed in your area.
Q. What other functions will the new meters have?
A. Once meters are installed and processes are in place, members will be able to view THEIR meter data through the SBEC website. This information can be utilized, by the member, for monitoring detailed energy consumption and verifying energy conservation measures.
April Co-op Power Magazine Article
April 1, 2012
Last fall I wrote about SBEC changing its bylaws in order to change its Articles of Incorporation. This allowed us to enter into contracts for future wholesale power commitments. While doing so we found that some sections of our bylaws had become antiquated at best. Some were as benign as being "gender specific", while others were just outdated and didn't represent the real world that we now reside in. By investigating our bylaws we found that they haven’t changed in over 25 years. At our last board meeting your board took action to remedy this. We will post the amended Bylaws on our website within the next few weeks if you are interested in reviewing them. I would have attached the entire Bylaws within this column but they would take up too much space.
Another subject that I wrote about a year ago was that SBEC has contracted with SDS Research to poll our membership on how we are performing. I take this very seriously as YOU (our membership) are the reason we exist. It is a very simple process and it doesn't take much of your time should you be contacted to participate. You will receive a phone call from SDS Research and they will ask you a series of questions. I implore you to answer these questions with the sincerity in which they are being asked. We utilize the survey results to better serve you. I understand that phone surveys can usually hit at the wrong time for you and with that in mind; we have very specific instructions on when the survey company can call. Remember we are not trying to invade your privacy, we are only trying to make this cooperative one that our membership expects.
Lastly I want to try to clear the air a bit on the new metering system we are currently installing. We have had a few calls voicing concerns over why this is being done. The answer is quite simple--our older system(s) are no longer being supported by the companies we bought them from. They are just too old to support. Basically, we really had no choice in the matter. The original system was installed in the late 80's, while our other system followed in the early 90's. If you look back on your own life - are you still using the same computer or cell phone that you did 20 years ago? In fact many of us probably didn't have a cell phone back then. Just think of all the advances that have been made since then!
While the new metering system will LEND itself to newer technologies, our goal is still the same -- to get a valid meter reading so we can accurately bill you for the electricity you use. Yes, we will be able to monitor your daily usage more easily than with the old system. However, we do not have the staff or manpower to do so. We can should you individually ask for it, but only if YOU ask for it. We have guidelines protecting members’ information and we will follow those same guidelines with the new system as we did with the systems we are currently replacing. In short, we are not doing anything different than what we have done over the last 23 years.
Until next time, take care
March 15, 2012
I’m sure that you have heard about the fires throughout the state and how devastating they were.Sadly, we had members experience this tragedy first hand.Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to each of you that were touched by the fires.Your Board voted to waive the current bills of all residences destroyed by the fires.This gesture is one that sets us apart from the investor-owned utilities.Those affected were OUR neighbors in OUR neighborhoods and it shows we care about our communities.I would like to take the time to thank each of the Fire Departments and Volunteer Firemen that put their lives on the line fighting these fires.Without the dedication of these men and women, the devastation that hit our communities could have been so much worse.To these good folks---San Bernard Electric Cooperative thanks you!!!!
I know I have mentioned Operation Round-Up before and now is another opportunity to do so.Events like the recent fires are exactly why we have Operation Round-Up to help families that face personal tragedies from events beyond their control.Besides, would you really feel that much pain if your bill was rounded up to the nearest dollar? I bet not.Just think of how much you could help a person that lost everything they owned in a fire.Beginning January 2012 we will make Operation Round-Up an “opt-out” option.If you choose not to participate, please contact one of our Customer Service Representatives by calling your appropriate office and let them know.With that, I will sign off by wishing each of you a very Happy Thanksgiving Season.Please be mindful of all the good things that your life brings you and how you touch the lives of others.
March Co-op Power Magazine Article
March 1, 2012
March has arrived (My how quickly it came!) and that means San Bernard Electric Cooperative’s Annual Meeting plans have gotten underway. Even though the meeting isn’t until mid-May, the preparations have already begun. You will notice that the Nominating Committee names are in this publication. So too, is the Official Notice that this cooperative follows for the election of its Directors. Look for this information in this edition.
By now you have heard that SBEC has started its massive meter change-out program. We started early last month in the Fieldstore service territory. Each month we will track the progress of the program in this magazine or you can check for updates on our website as we will update the information on a weekly basis. I would like to add that through untimely circumstances, a neighboring Investor Owned Utility (IOU) is undergoing the same process. In fact, we’ve already had some of OUR members call in concerned that they were contacted by this IOU about replacing their meter. It seems this IOU’s contractor didn’t know how to read a map. Let me assure you, San Bernard will try to contact you at least twice prior to entering your property to facilitate our change-out program. And, as a reminder—if you have specific reasons to be there while we change your meter, it would be best if you contact us now. This information would help in the logistics with our contractor and ensure that we follow your wishes. If you have any questions concerning this program please call one of our offices or check it out on our website.
Once more I bring sad news concerning one of SBEC’s retired directors. Frank Matula recently passed away. He too was an instrumental force in building this Cooperative. Although I didn’t know Mr. Matula as well as I would have liked, he always spoke well of the employees and carried out his duties as a director with pride. We pay tribute to Mr. Matula with an attached memorial in this edition of your TEXAS COOP POWER.
Until next time, take care
February Co-op Power Magazine Article
February 1, 2012
I hope everyone was as thankful as I was for the small amount of rain we received over the Christmas holiday weekend. Even though it kept my grandkids inside destroying my home, I was certainly grateful for it. Let’s keep our fingers crossed as we will definitely need more rain to help us out this next year. In a time where most experts are predicting a short fall of electric generation, a lingering drought will only make matters worse.
It takes water to keep electric generators operable. Water is used to cool the units as they are running and without adequate water supplies some of these generators will be forced to shut down. This will only tax the sustainability of our electric grid. These aforementioned experts are predicting rolling black-outs in high electricity usage times. So as thankful as I was for the rain we received---we certainly need more. It’s going to take quite a bit to fill the cooling lakes up to near normalcy.
I wanted to mention some comings and goings that has and will affect the cooperative. Over the Thanksgiving holidays one of our former Directors, George Sebesta, passed away. George served as a Director for your Cooperative for 36 years. While serving on the Board, he helped shape the way the Cooperative runs today. He was an outstanding leader and one I considered a friend and mentor. He always kept the membership utmost in his mind when tackling a situation for the betterment of the Cooperative. Most of all I think I will miss his smile. George always had a smile and a kind word. We will all miss him and our thoughts and prayers are with his family.
The Cooperative will soon be without the services of two men I counted on greatly over the last ten years. John Silva (District Director) and Bruce Mueller (Business Group Manager) are leaving but for two distinct reasons. John retired from SBEC on January 3rd. He worked for us for 10 years at the Fieldstore branch office. He came to us from a neighboring cooperative and his expertise and wisdom will be missed. We wish him well in his retirement.
Bruce Mueller is leaving SBEC to become General Manager of Wheatland Electric Cooperative in Kansas. He also came to us with a ton of electric utility experience. Bruce helped reduce our long term interest debt, saving this cooperative and its members quite a bit of money. We wish him continued success in his new position.
In closing, I want to thank the members that called in commending us on the capital credit refund that was posted on your December bill. We were low key about this year’s refund because we didn’t know exactly how much we could return until later in the year than normal. Most of the refund was a direct result of the extremely hot summer and partly because of last February’s winter spell. In essence, we sold more kilowatt-hours than was budgeted. Thus, we were able to return over 3 million dollars back to the membership in capital credits. Your Board has elected to return over 9.5 million dollars in capital credits over the last 3 years. I hope you appreciate this as much as I do.
Until next time, take care.
January Co-op Power Magazine Article
January 1, 2012
Well it looks like we’ve made it through another year! I hope that the New Year brings each of you prosperity, health and the support of your loved ones - I know that I’ve been blessed with each of these things. I look forward to the New Year with fond memories of 2011 and with excitement of what 2012 will bring. There will be bumps in the road but I hope they will be out-numbered by the good things that will come. Here’s wishing each of you a very Happy New YearSome of you may have already noticed a credit on your December bill. In the November board meeting it was decided to return $3 million to the membership in the form of capital credits retirements. We will retire all the allocated capital credits for the years 1981 – 1984. We will also retire 7.5 percent of all the allocated capital credits for 2008 – 2010. Your associated capital credits were returned to all current members in the form of a BILL CREDIT that appeared on your December bill.
In late October and early November each of our members received a ballot concerning some proposed changes to San Bernard Electric Cooperative’s Articles of Incorporation. A membership meeting concerning these changes was held at our Bellville office on November 15 to answer questions and allow members to cast their vote in person. The membership voted overwhelmingly to allow the Cooperative Board to vote their proxies and a new Articles of Incorporation has been filed with the Secretary of the State of Texas. A breakdown of the ballot tabulation is included in this issue of Coop Power. I would like to thank each member that participated in this important part of the Cooperative’s business.
I know I have mentioned that San Bernard will change out its metering system in previous issues of this magazine. In February this process will commence and we will try to notify each of you prior to us actually being onsite to change out your meter. We anticipate this process to go smoothly with minimum hardship to you. I would like to ask that if you have access issues such as locked gates or you want to be on-site when this takes place, please notify us today. This will help us with logistics and scheduling. As you can imagine this will be a pretty intense project - your help in this matter will be greatly appreciated.
Until next time, take care
SBEC Retires More Than $3Million to Members
December 1, 2011
YOU get the credit
SBEC retires more than $3 Million to members
It’s time for you to get the credit —capital credits, that is― for helping build, sustain, and grow your local electric cooperative. This fall San Bernard Electric Cooperative, Inc. retires – or pays by bill credit – more than $3 Million to 30,000 active and inactive members like you across portions of seven counties served by the co-op.
When you sign up to receive electric service from an electric cooperative, such as SBEC, you become a member-owner of an electric cooperative. While investor-owned utilities return a portion of any profits back to their shareholders, electric cooperatives operate on an at-cost basis. So instead of returning leftover funds, known as margins, to folks who might not live in the same region or even the same state as you do, SBEC allocates and periodically retires capital credits (also called patronage dividends, patronage refunds, patronage capital, or equity capital) based on how much electricity you purchased during a year.
This year, SBEC members from 1981, 1982, 1983, and 1984 will receive 100% of capital credit retirements and members from 2008, 2009, and 2010 will receive 7.5% of capital credit retirements through bill credits on their December 2011 billing, reflecting their contribution of capital to, and ownership of, the cooperative during those years. That may seem like a long time ago. However, those funds helped SBEC reduce the amount of money we needed to borrow from outside lenders to build, maintain, and expand a reliable electric distribution system, and covered emergency expenses.
Inactive members or persons not currently purchasing their electricity from SBEC but who were members during the years of the capital credit retirement will be receiving a check for their capital credits. It is very important that SBEC has the current mailing address of all inactive members to ensure the delivery of the capital credit checks. To confirm or update your mailing address, please call SBEC at 1-800-364-3171.
San Bernard Electric Cooperative, Inc. is an electric distribution cooperative formed in 1939 and currently serves over 16,000 members at 25,000 meter locations in portions of Austin, Colorado, Grimes, Harris, Lavaca, Montgomery, and Waller counties.
For more information on this part of the cooperative business, read the following Q & A:
Common Capital Credits Questions:
WHAT ARE CAPITAL CREDITS?
An electric cooperative operates on an at-cost basis by annually “allocating” to each member, based upon the member’s purchase of electricity, operating revenue remaining at the end of the year; later, as financial condition permits, these allocated amounts—capital credits—are retired. Capital credits represent the most significant source of equity for SBEC. Since a cooperative’s members are also the people the co-op serves, capital credits reflect each member’s ownership in, and contribution of capital to, the cooperative. This differs from dividends investor-owned utilities pay shareholders, who may or may not be customers of the utility.
WHERE DOES THE MONEY COME FROM?
Member-owned, not-for-profit electric co-ops set rates to generate enough money to pay operating costs, make payments on any loans, and provide an emergency reserve. At the end of each year, we subtract operating expenses from the operating revenue collected during the year. The balance is called an operating “margin.”
HOW ARE MARGINS ALLOCATED?
Margins are allocated to members as capital credits based on their purchases from the cooperative—how much power the member used. Member purchases may also be called patronage.
DOES CENTERPOINT, ENTERGY, AEP OR THE CITIES of BELLVILLE, HEMPSTEAD, and HALLETTSVILLE RETIRE CAPITAL CREDITS?
No. Within the electric industry, capital credits only exist at not-for-profit electric cooperatives owned by their members.
ARE CAPITAL CREDITS RETIRED EVERY YEAR?
Each year, the SBEC Board of Directors makes a decision on whetherto retire capital credits based on the financial health of the cooperative. During some years, the co-op may experience high growth in the number of new accounts, or severe storms may result in the need to spend additional funds to repair lines. These and other events might increase costs and decrease member equity, causing the board not to retire capital credits. For this reason, SBEC’s ability to retire capital credits reflects the cooperative’s strength and financial stability. The board alone decides whether to retire capital credits.
DO I LOSE MY CAPITAL CREDITS IN THE YEARS THE CO-OP DECIDES NOT TO MAKE RETIREMENTS?
No. All capital credits allocated for every year members have been served by SBEC are maintained until such time as the board retires them. Prior to this year, SBEC retired all capital credits from 1973 through 1980 and 10% of years 2006 through 2009.
WHAT YEARS WILL BE RETIRED IN DECEMBER 2011?
SBEC will be retiring all of the remaining capital credits to members who purchased electricity from the cooperative in 1981 through 1984 and a portion of the capital credits from 2008 through 2010.
HOW MUCH WILL BE RETIRED IN TOTAL IN 2011?
HOW MUCH HAS SBEC PAID IN TOTAL CAPITAL CREDITS RETIREMENTS SINCE IT BEGAN IN 1939?
SBEC has paid over $10 million in capital credits retirements to current and former members to date.
HOW OFTEN DO MEMBERS RECEIVE CAPITAL CREDIT RETIREMENTS?
The SBEC Board of Directors makes a decision each year by December whether or not to retire capital credits. When the cooperative is strong enough financially and member equity levels high enough, the board directs staff to retire some portion of past years’ capital credits.
HOW WILL THE RETIREMENT WORK?
Current SBEC members, who purchase electricity now and during the years being retired, will receive a credit on their December electricity bill.
Inactive or former members who no longer purchase electricity from SBEC (but who purchased electricity during the years being retired) will receive a check during January.
WHAT IF I HAVE MOVED?
If you move or no longer have electric service with SBEC, it is important that you inform the cooperative of your current address, so that future retirements can be properly mailed to you. If you purchased electricity during the years being retired, then you are entitled to a capital credit retirement, even if you move out of the SBEC service area. If it has your current address, then SBEC will send your retirement check by mail. To confirm or update your mailing address, please call SBEC at 1-800-364-3171.
HOW MANY PEOPLE WILL GET RETIREMENTS?
Roughly 16,000 currently active members will receive a bill credit on their primary electric account in January for the amount of their capital credit retirements. Another approximately 14,000 inactive members will receive checks.