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2020

Virtual

Annual Meeting

 

For the safety of our members and employees due to COVID-19, the format of our annual membership meeting was changed to an online-only meeting. Thank you to our members who participated in this historic event. A $20 bill credit will be applied to the accounts of members who pre-registered prior to the annual meeting by October 15. The bill credit is this year’s registration gift.

YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Due to the virtual format of the 2020 annual meeting, we were unfortunately not able to answer your questions during the online annual meeting.  An email address was set up for questions to be sent in prior to the meeting. All of the questions, are listed below, in their original, unedited format. We have grouped questions regarding the same topic, and questions with common answers, into categories. Answers were provided by San Isabel Electric General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Reg Rudolph. Reg also sent individual emails to everyone that asked a question. We love our members and love hearing from you. If you have a question, please email us at contactus@siea.com anytime.

RYE TELEPHONE

Questions:
  • Please give Rye Telephone permission to put fiber-optics for faster internet for the people in San Isabel. We have very slow internet and Rye telephone says that you will not allow them to use your line across the Lake Isabel Dam area. We have already contacted the PUC concerning this matter. We feel this is discrimination.
  • Rye Telephone Co. Would like to expand fiber optics to San Isabel, an underserved town, to provide faster more reliable internet. We can’t proceede until SIEA can replace some poles. What is being done ti expedite the process?
Response:

Rye Telephone has the option of putting in the fiber optic line themselves. It is unfortunate that San Isabel appears to be blamed for holding up the project. Rye Telephone knows that we are planning on upgrading the line, possibly in 2021, and that one of the options might be to put it underground. We are in communications with Rye Telephone about every 6 months, so they are in sync with our progress.

PRODUCTS/SERVICES

Questions:
  • DO YOU PROVIDE PORTABLE ELECTRIC HEATERS FOR HOMES?
  • WOULD YOU EXPLAIN USING THE TILE HEATER FROM SAN ISABEL ELECTRIC. BENEFITS FOR ENERGY AND COST SAVINGS.
Response:

San Isabel Electric offers electric thermal storage (ETS) units to member owners. ETS units are a safer and more energy efficient option for heating small areas than portable electric heaters.

ETS is a heating technology designed to store electric heat during the off-peak hours of the day when electricity costs are cheaper, saving you money.

A super-insulated storage cavity containing ceramic bricks is charged (heated) to approximately 1,400°F and heat is stored for use during the on-peak hours of the day when electricity costs are higher. A fan forces air over the heated bricks sending the warm air into the room throughout the day; keeping you at a comfortable temperature while using a minimal amount of electricity.

The ETS unit’s surface temperature is also safe for children to be near as it does not harm or burn when touched.

When a member chooses to install an ETS unit they become eligible for a special time-of-use rate class, which allows the ETS unit to charge during off-peak times, when electricity is cheaper, and discharge the stored heat during peak times, when electricity is more expensive. The cost off-peak electricity is about half of the regular or on-peak rate. Off-peak and on-peak hours vary by season.

For more information about ETS units and the time-of-use rate class go to: siea.com/EmpowerETS.

Are there any plans to extend the ETS off peak hours.?

No, our peak demand hours are set in our power supply contract. Currently, members with electric thermal storage (ETS) units and time-of-use consumers are getting the lowest rates available.

BLACK HILLS ENERGY

Why in the world did you ever even consider taking over from Black Hills in Pueblo? How did you intend on paying for it? You charge higher rates than Black Hills Energy. Residents in Pueblo don't like paying for their utility bills, that was the real reason behind the initiative because of the disconnects of deadbeats. We, the members, would have been stuck with those bills. Also, see my questions/comments regarding Tri-State and infrastructure.

San Isabel Electric’s offer to buy Black Hills Energy’s Pueblo assets, could have resulted in a 10 percent rate decrease for Puebloans and San Isabel Electric’s membership.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Will the Board of Directors and executive management consider the idea of term limits for the Board of Directors? Over the last 21 years I have worked with many cooperatives both large and small. I am a firm believer in the cooperative system. However, one negative item to the cooperatives I have worked with is a lack of term limits for its Board of Directors. By having term limits this allows new directors and new ideas to enhance the cooperative.

Thank you for this question. Because you asked, the topic will be discussed at an SIEA Board of Directors meeting in the near future.

SOLAR

Questions:
  • Is home based solar systems still limited to a 10K output.
  • Why is there a 10 KW or 120% of historical usage limit on solar.
  • Does SIEA have a solar panel program it endorses?
  • Do you have any plans to support home solar systems?
  • Is there a solar program?
  • Are there any cash incentives for residential solar?
  • Why are solar credits not returned at retail value at end of accounting period?
Response:

San Isabel Electric follows the statutory limits for sizing residential and commercial solar. We know our members have a desire for solar, but we also balance that demand with the impact it has on non-participating members.  Over sizing solar shifts costs to non-solar members, so San Isabel has a responsibility to make sure every member receives a fair and equitable rate structure. We buy surplus solar power back at the same rate we buy our wholesale power, which is more than what most Colorado utilities payout.

We encourage anyone interested in solar to get multiple bids from local vendors. We recently expanded our energy saving products and services program. Through our new Empower program, we are now working with Steel City Solar to sell solar generation systems, along with several other energy saving products and services that can help reduce your energy consumption before going solar. Financing, installation, system monitoring and repair are all available. Consumers that bundle pre-solar energy efficiency upgrades with a solar array and system can reduce the size of their system, saving thousands of dollars in upfront costs and interest. There are federal tax incentives available. Follow this link for information https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2020/01/f70/Guide%20to%20Federal%20Tax%20Credit%20for%20Residential%20Solar%20PV.pdf 

Please contact the Empower team at 719-647-6250 if you’re interested in solar.

I would like to participate in solar power, but I do not want all that stuff on my roof. I would like to see SIEA build a solar farm in Pueblo West and make a system where by customers could invest in part of the "farm" and thus reduce their electric bills. This would also give the individual homeowner more "bang for their buck" in that the individual interface and installation would be saved.

Thank you for contacting San Isabel Electric and for your interest in community solar.  SIEA is currently communicating with multiple solar developers regarding community solar opportunities within our service territory.  These discussions are ongoing, and it is our desire for a project to move forward.  As we make progress on this and other exciting opportunities, we will keep the membership engaged and informed along the way.

RENEWABLES

Questions:
  • Will wind power resources be expanded?
  • The climate crisis is making it clear that we need to substitute alternative energy sources such as wind and solar for fossil fuels as quickly as is humanly possible. I know that you are using some alternative energy sources, but what does SIEA plan to do to speed up this process? As members, we are deeply concerned about the urgency of the need to slow down climate change. We don’t want our home to be the next to burn.
  • How much are we dependent on renewable energy?
  • What will be the cost to consumers, rate increases, to implement the 100% wind/solar electric production?
  • What is the coop doing to transition into renewables? We have a limited time to come up with wind and solar options that also support the existing grid.
Response:

Using a diverse energy mix requires using 24/7 energy resources like natural gas and coal. A ranching community outside of Walsenburg and an urban community in Pueblo West use energy in different ways and at different times. There’s no one model for how each community should use energy. So, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for how to provide it. It’s about what makes sense for your community’s needs, because the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow.

The electric utility business now finds itself in a transformative phase as more and more renewable projects will be coming online in the near future, including wind and solar projects. We plan to have 50 percent of our power supply needs delivered by renewable resources by 2024 and 75-80 percent by 2030.

Our power provider, Tri-State is the number one solar generation and transmission cooperative in the nation. One out of every three KwH consumed by San Isabel Electric members is sourced from non-emitting renewable resources.

BROADBAND

With the current push to obtain broadband internet in rural areas, is SIEA looking into the possibility of adding broadband internet to the distribution lines, either through a partnership arrangement or directly? This is especially critical during the stay at home orders and remote school learning. I strongly urge action on this item as it would provide great value to your members.

San Isabel has been supportive of fiber optic infrastructure development since 2008. We’ve partnered with SECOM, Rye Telephone, and Jade Communications, allowing these broadband providers to attach fiber optic lines to our utility poles. We agree that broadband is critical to supporting rural Colorado, but we’re going to let the telecommunications experts handle broadband.

MAINTENANCE AND RELIABILITY

How are fixed for heavy wet snow this winter?

One of our favorite sayings around the co-op is, “Hope is not a strategy.” We are doing a lot more than just hoping we can keep your power on.

Since 2013, a major effort has been underway to rebuild old sections of our electric infrastructure that had reached the end of their usable life, as well as sections that were frequently causing trouble. The rebuild projects are part of the co-op’s long-term strategy to provide reliable power, keep operational costs down, and ensure steady rates for many years to come.

Despite our efforts, outages still happen for a variety of reasons. Most often, power outages are caused by factors beyond our control.

Winter storms are a threat to electrical equipment when snow and ice buildup on power lines and tree limbs. The moisture can seep into cracks to equipment that had prior minor damage and cause that equipment to fail.

With large amounts of snow or heavy snow, the weight of the snow and ice can cause wires to break. Snowstorms, ice storms, and windstorms can all cause trees to fall on our power lines or cause the wires themselves to be knocked down.

Our vegetation management team routinely inspects vegetation growing near power lines to identify potential hazards, then either prunes or removes any hazardous trees. Unfortunately, they can’t get them all.

How many outages have SEIA members endured this calendar year in comparison to past years?

Since 2015, San Isabel Electric has reduced the amount of time the average member is without power by more than half. In 2015, the average length of an outage spread out over the entire membership, was 211.8 minutes. In 2019, it was 99.5 minutes. That’s a one-hour-and-52-minute reduction in the last four years.

Since 2013, a major effort has been underway to rebuild old sections of our electric infrastructure that had reached the end of their usable life, as well as sections that were frequently causing trouble. The rebuild projects are part of the co-op’s long-term strategy to provide reliable power, keep operational costs down, and ensure steady rates for many years to come.

Why so many power failures in our area, even in nice weather?

If you are experiencing frequent power outages in your area, please call 800-279-SIEA and ask the dispatcher to start a ticket for an outage investigation. When members in an area are experiencing frequent power interruptions, there is usually something that is making contact with the lines or causing damage to the system. The longer it goes on, potentially the more damage can be caused to the electric infrastructure, if the issue continues to go unresolved. It is very helpful to us when members report frequent issues.

 

How can one incident affect the entire grid (i.e. last storm)?

Damaged equipment can cause power outages to homes and properties several miles down the line. The number of members affected by an outage depends on the location of the damage and how many meters are served by the damaged equipment. For example, a damaged substation transformer could cause an outage that affects thousands of members.

San Isabel Electric’s outage restoration policy is to make repairs that will restore service to the most people in the least amount of time. Transmission lines and substations are repaired first, followed by distribution lines that feed neighborhoods. Tap lines and individual service lines are then repaired to restore power to customers who may still be without electricity.

A large portion of San Isabel Electric’s lines and equipment are in remote-rural areas or in rugged-terrain, not accessible by roads. These areas are difficult to access during good weather and even more difficult to access during inclement weather. Lineworkers often face arduous weather and road conditions making their job more difficult and dangerous. We appreciate your patience as we work to restore power as quickly as safely possible.

TREE TRIMMING

Questions:
  • Am I responsible for keeping limbs away from lines on my property or should I contact you?
  • Does SIEA have responsibility or have input into brush mitigation under transmission lines and if so how.
Response:

San Isabel Electric advises homeowners to be aware of power lines and to call San Isabel Electric right away if they see a branch close to a line. We are responsible for clearing vegetation in our easements. If you have concerns about vegetation near power lines, please call us at 800-279-SIEA to have our tree trimmers assess the situation. Calling immediately can help keep the homeowner safe, prevent an outage and prolong the life of the tree.

 

RATES/FEES

Does SIEA Anticipate electrical cost increases due to fire disasters in the near future for our members.

When San Isabel Electric experiences an extreme storm or natural disaster, the costs to replace damaged lines and equipment are spread over multiple years in order to minimize the impact on our members’ electric rates.

 

FUTURE RATE INCREASES

Questions:
  • Do you anticipate a rate increase in 2021?
  • It is 2020 are the rates going up?
  • Are rate increase coming anytime soon?
  • When do you anticipate reviewing your rate structure again?
  • Several years ago I read in the paper (Denver Post or Chieftain) that SIEA had one of the highest rates of all the state co-ops. Comments?
  • You still have some of the highest rates in the state, for many years. Think your previous “pass thru” rate increases should be ruled invalid due to passing “thru” the percentage increase in wholesale rate to your retail rate resulting in at least double a true “pass thru” increase would really be. Very deceitful.
  • Compared to some municipalities, San Isabel’s electric rates are very high. Any chance the rates will come down soon?
  • As more associations try to divorce themselves from Tri State Generation, how will that affect SIEA? Will our rates go up?
Response:

San Isabel is a member-owner of Tri-State G&T. That’s where we buy the power that we distribute to you. Tri-State has been in the news a lot, especially with members leaving or wanting to leave. San Isabel is currently taking the lead, working with Tri-State to create solutions that lead to lower costs.

Rates in southern Colorado, including the municipals, are very similar. It’s true that compared to some municipals, our rates are higher, but on average we serve five meters per mile of line, when most municipals have fifty or more meters per mile of line making it more economical to serve. 

We are constantly reviewing our rate structure and making sure San Isabel is recovering costs equitably from the rate base. Since 2009, we have only had one rate increase. It’s possible we could see a change in the rate structure in the coming years. This could be an increase in the access charge and decrease in the energy charges. 

ACCESS CHARGE

Questions:
  • Why are access fees so insanely high?
  • The access charge is outrageous!
Response:

The access charge question comes up frequently. The money San Isabel Electric collects through the access charge pays for fixed overhead costs to bring you electricity—things like maintenance, employees, and administrative services such as billing. San Isabel Electric’s access charge recovers less than half of the actual fixed costs. Every utility, water, sewer, natural gas, and telephone service has some form of access fee to cover the infrastructure investment. For reference, the average rural electric cooperative in Colorado’s access charge is $25.74.  The average access charge among all electric utilities in Colorado, including municipals and investor-owned utilities is $19.95.

ELECTRIC VEHICLES

What steps has SIEA taken to help electric vehicle drivers in Huerfano County? Any public charging stations yet?

Electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure is critical and San Isabel Electric is leading the effort in southern Colorado. There is a Level 2 station at 625 N. Polk Ave. in Walsenburg. It is the only charging station currently operating in Huerfano County. Our staff is working on several other locations in the county.  Data currently shows only six registered EV’s in Huerfano County, so new EV’s will drive infrastructure. 

MISCELLANEOUS

Will this be available for review after the live meeting?

Yes, the recording of the annual meeting is available at the top of this page.

Why does San Isabel require a meter pedestal instead of a standard service entrance meter/panel on the structure, especially when an existing meter/panel upgrade is taking place ( ie an additional 900.00 charge).

Several years ago, San Isabel migrated to installing meters on pedestals next to the transformers, instead of on the home. This was driven by challenges that most members don’t consider. First, when a builder or member requests service for new construction, our crews can now install the permanent service when connecting to the transformer that is typically already in place. This requires one trip and permanent service is then available.  Secondly, we were finding builders were installing service under our line extension policy, and when a new member purchased the house, they found they had a bill with San Isabel Electric that they didn’t expect. Finally, having the meter on a pedestal in the right of way keeps San Isabel infrastructure out of your yard, so we never have to tear up landscaping or concrete to repair secondary wire. I fully understand that members don’t like the “ugly transformers and meters” in front of their houses, but the right of way easements were set and established, specifically in Pueblo West, and that’s where we have to set our equipment. 

My husband is a senior and has advanced emphysema. He is on oxygen and uses a concentrator which requires power 24/7. As a result, our electric bill has increased considerably. Does Siea provide discounts to residents who have medical needs with a dependency of electricity?

San Isabel Electric currently does not have a special rate class or discount for medical exemptions. As a not-for-profit electric distribution cooperative, we believe costs should be spread fairly and equitably across all of our members. This gives all members an equal share in San Isabel Electric’s operation.

Capital Credit sweet rewards could be a little sweeter

This is true. We strive to constantly improve and operate in the most efficient manner as possible. In the last five years, San Isabel Electric has returned more than $8.4 million in capital credits to schools, businesses, and residents. In 2019 alone, San Isabel Electric returned more than $4.7 million in cash to nearly 17,000 members.  We are pleased to be able to present this to you.

 

NEED MORE INFORMATION

How will the proposed Black Hills expansion into the area affect current customers of SIEA?

We need further details about which area you are referring to in order to answer this question appropriately. Please write to us at contacutus@siea.com with more details, including the affected area you are referring to.

Could we discuss sustainability, and planning for infrastructure to meet future demand?

We would be happy to. If you are referring to renewables, please see the Q&A section on this page related to the renewables subject. If you are discussing something else, not covered in that Q&A topic, please email us at contactus@siea.com and let us know what information you are seeking that was not included in our answers.

2020 BOARD OF DIRECTOR ELECTIONS

District 1 Beulah, Wetmore, & Vicinity
Deborah Rose, uncontested

District 6 La Veta, Cuchara, & VIcinity
Donald Keairns, uncontested

DOOR PRIZE WINNERS

Door prize winners were randomly drawn the pool of 306 participants that registered with GoToWebinar.

Black & Decker electric lawn mower winner
Bruce McElmurray

$50 Gift card winner
Clarence Pugsley

$50 Gift card winner
Winner has been notified. Waiting for permission to publish name.

General Comments

  • SIEA tree trimmers came to my rescue! I had sent a request to SIEA for help in egetting tree branches removed that were hanging over the power line that runs along my driveway. This was shortly after the snow storm that hit Beulah early last week. Within just a few days, 4 workers pulled into my driveway. They not only removed the branches, but anything else in the vicinity that had been damaged by the storm. They even chipped a slash pile I had created after the storm from limbs and branches I had cut myself. They were truly angels in disguise. Thank you, tree trimming crew!
  • Thank you San Isabel for your continued service to our community.
  • In Colorado City it has been nice seeing the old omni-directional street lights being replaced by the downward facing LED street lights. It really helps the viewing of the night time sky.
  • I support Debbie Rose for the Board of Directors slot!
  • Thank you for exceptional service! 
  • Thank you for holding a virtual meeting! 
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