A Letter to the Members
2018 was a full, productive year for Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative and Plumas-Sierra Telecommunications. PSREC continued to improve system reliability and response times through our supervisory control and data acquisition system. The operations department worked hard to upgrade and automate control of key switches, which will accelerate power restoration in outage situations.
We also increased our vegetation management and removal of hazard trees on our system for reliability and fire safety. State law now requires landowners to allow us on private property to remove trees that are hazardous to our power lines, even when outside of the right-of-way. We appreciate the increased cooperation we have had from members on this key reliability and safety issue.
The Camp Fire was a horrific event for our neighbors in Butte County. Our cooperative, and the region, was affected as the main feed from PG&E between the central valley and Plumas County was cut a few minutes after 8 a.m. on November 8. PSREC switched to our backup power supply within a few minutes, and stayed partially or wholly on backup power for a few hours short of three weeks.
PSREC has invested in a connection to the Nevada grid and our own cogeneration facility between the state prisons near Susanville. Because we invested in improvements to our system controls, we were able to quickly switch our system in discrete pieces that greatly increased the speed of restoring power. In addition, our brand new solar plant at the Sierra Army Depot came on line in time to help cover our morning peaks.
Your board of directors has invested in a reliable grid year after year. We have a far-flung electric system with only six customers per mile of line. These investments have paid off. If it wasn’t for our sustained efforts over time, we would have been faced with a long outage and then rolling blackouts for three weeks.
PSREC does all it can to prevent wildfires from starting in our service area. We extensively trim and remove hazard trees and vegetation from our rights-of-way and put our system on singleshot, which means that if a fault is detected, the line is shut down. This prevents our equipment from trying to reclose, or re-energize, helping to decrease the risk of a limb or debris in the lines igniting. Single-shot settings during the fire season do mean longer outage times so crews can fully investigate and patrol the lines before re-energizing.
To reduce the risk of incidents such as the Camp Fire, PG&E will turn off portions of its grid during extreme fire danger, high wind events and other critical situations. PG&E has notified us it intends to disconnect lines in medium- to high-risk areas in the Sierras, affecting our primary power supply that comes through the Feather River Canyon.
We will switch to our backup transmission feed from NV Energy, if they haven’t also shut their system off, but there is a limit to how much energy we can bring through that line. Members need to be prepared for outages and rolling blackouts. We will provide as much notice as possible to members
when PG&E notifies us it intends to shut off our transmission feed. PSREC will post information on www.psrec. coop, Facebook and Twitter, and via text message. To sign up for text messages, text “PSREC” to (800) 555-2207.
Your cooperative staff and board have been very active with our fellow cooperatives and municipal utilities in trying to minimize the impact of new regulations on your rates. We have travelled multiple times to Sacramento, Washington, D.C., and Carson City to do our best. We’ve had some success, including expanded access to our rightsof- way to prevent fires and reduced reporting requirements for small utilities. We will keep up these efforts.
The electric utility industry in California is rapidly changing due to legislation and wildfire impacts. Given the last two horrific fire years, the California Legislature and the California Public Utilities Commission have been busy adding additional requirements for all electric utilities in California. Sometimes, and for some utilities, these regulations make great sense. In other cases, they add significant costs with marginal benefits, especially to utilities that have worked hard to maintain and operate a safe electrical grid.
Your board of directors and management team strives to operate the cooperative in the most efficient, cost-effective manner possible, but the costs to operate the cooperative are increasing.
We hosted member meetings in May to discuss rates and PSREC’s Wildfire Mitigation Plan. We received a lot of good input and suggestions from members. Everyone was sent information on the rate changes in Ruralite magazine and bill inserts.
Your PSREC Board of Directors
As much as possible, we operate on a cost-of-service basis, meaning each member pays the costs associated with providing service to their property, and each rate class should have roughly the same rate of return.
Our cooperative’s costs do not change much with use. Up to 70 percent of our costs are fixed, including the cost of operating the utility and the fixed portion of our power plants. We collect only a portion of our fixed costs through facilities charges.
We try to get the cost of service as close as possible to actual costs when looking at all-electric homes versus homes that use primarily propane, or seasonal versus full-time residents. For these reasons, the rate increase was to the facilities charge so we can collect more of our fixed costs through the fixed fees. We expect in the long run to shift more of the rates to our fixed charges while flattening or lowering our kilowatt-hour fees.
As you may have seen in previous issues, the PSREC Community Solar Program is now offering 100 kilowatthours- a-month blocks to members. PSREC offers members the choice of a monthly adder to their existing rate or a onetime upfront fee to participate in the Community Solar Program.
Buying solar power from PSREC’s Community Solar Program is a great option for members who may not want to make the large upfront investment in a solar system, are renting, or live in an area with shading where a solar system would not produce optimal energy output. Community solar is a great, maintenance-free way to use renewable power without putting solar panels on your roof.
Community Solar is also a great way to keep the benefits of a solar system even if we reduce our kWh fees and increase the fixed charges over time.
We hope you will join us at the annual member meeting on Thursday, September 5, at 4:30 p.m. at the Sierra Valley Grange in Vinton.