Manager’s Message

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message – February 2023

Dear Members:

In this issue of Ruralite is an update on the weather and the cost of power for Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative (PSREC). As I write this, we have been buffeted by the series of atmospheric rivers through mid-January. I am pleased to report our electric and telecommunications systems have held up well.

We get questions and comments that assume good precipitation anywhere equals lower costs of power for PSREC and lower rates. Just because there is moisture somewhere in California, it does not mean PSREC will get full hydropower deliveries and reduce our costs.

Our primary power supplier for decades has been the Western Area Power Administration. Western is a federal agency that exists to sell power from the Bureau of Reclamation federal dams to eligible nonprofit (municipal and cooperative) customers. The Bureau’s main priority is flood control, followed by fisheries, water delivery to contractors, and, finally, power customers and recreation use. First call on hydropower generated is for Bureau operations, including pumps to deliver water to the Glenn and Colusa County water customers or for filling San Luis Reservoir so gravity will then carry the water south to water customers in the San Joaquin Valley. PSREC and other hydropower customers of Western (including LMUD) get what is surplus to the Bureau’s needs.

Precipitation only helps us if the water falls in the right watershed, in the form of snow as much as possible and the Bureau operates their system efficiently. Western has no intention of giving us our “normal” allotment of hydropower until at least March. There has been precipitation in the southern Sierra, which does not benefit PSREC from a hydropower standpoint. There is also precipitation in the central Sierra, which is good if it lasts in the form of a snowpack, and precipitation to the Shasta Dam watershed.

PSREC’s hydropower comes primarily from Shasta Dam and several smaller associated power plants. Great snow and rain south of Shasta Dam but north of the American River watershed does not help our hydropower deliveries. The next most important river system to us is the American River complex and Folsom Dam.

The drought getting better is great, but the final impact will not be known until we see if both the reservoirs and the snowpack in the far north of California are average or better. The better both of those are, the lower our power costs, but that does not mean the wholesale power cost adjustment will go away quickly.

Energy Markets – December & January

One of the problems with power costs we have not yet discussed with our members yet is a huge spike in natural gas prices throughout the western United States. Natural gas, the primary fuel for power plants in the west, was already high in 2022 due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Prices started settling down nationally in November, but in December, prices shot up to 1,000% of where they had been a year earlier for the Western United States. Prices for natural gas have faded to 400% of normal in late January, which is better but still horrific.

Part of the problem may be that there was an explosion on a pipeline in Arizona that reduced the flow of natural gas from Texas. That should be repaired by the start of spring. In a separate situation, Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) natural gas division was given permission by the California Public Utility Commission to reclassify a sizable portion of its natural gas as a “cushion” instead of “working gas.” This distorted the natural gas market as well, but even experts in the industry do not understand why prices are so high.

Rate Impact

We currently have a Wholesale Power Cost Adjustment (WPCA) of $0.02 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). It is possible high natural gas prices for the first part of 2023 could force us to raise the WPCA more. We protected our members from soaring prices in 2022, but we are not able to do it 2 years in a row. Our $0.02 per kWh did not include the impact of such unexpectedly high prices in December through February.

We do not see the power cost adjustment going down soon. It is possible it may go up depending on how quickly our hydropower starts delivering and the impact of the somewhat irrational power markets in the meantime.

Legislative & Regulatory Actions

We are working with our fellow utilities as part of Golden State Power Cooperative (our trade association), the Northern California Power Agency, and others in the industry on regulatory and legislative responses. There were entities in the natural gas and power markets who made enormous profits from a short-term, potentially manufactured, crisis.

Community Solar

The PSREC Community Solar Program is still offering blocks of 100 kWhs a month to members who want to use solar. PSREC offers members the choice of a monthly adder to their existing rate or a one-time upfront fee to participate in community solar. PSREC’s Community Solar Program is a great option for members who may not want to make a large upfront investment in a solar power system or rent or live in an area where a solar power system would not produce optimal energy output. Community solar is a maintenance-free, cost-effective way to participate in renewable power without solar panels on your roof. To sign up for PSREC’s Community Solar Program, call (530) 832-4261 or visit Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative page.

Telecommunications

Winter is here, and Plumas-Sierra Telecommunications (PST) crews continue to build our fiber network and complete as many installations as weather will allow. We are replacing some of our coax network with fiber optic in areas of North Portola. Additionally, the Ponderosa Boulevard and surrounding area in Janesville is open for fiber installations. PST expects to start work on the Galeppi Ranch and Carol Lane East area in early winter, as conditions allow. We await final approval for the project that runs from the Mohawk substation (by Little Bear campground) to Spring Garden and through Greenhorn Ranch. We hope to begin construction once the snow melts. We are delighted to begin construction on the most recent grants we received from the California Public Utilities Commisions (PUC). As we build out, we will ensure we can serve as many people as possible along the way. Once we have our routes finalized, we will post them on Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative. PST will apply for additional California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) Grant funding in 2023 to allow PST to continue bringing service to areas in our region that are harder to reach. For our members, we apply for all the grants we can to keep filling in new service areas. Our fiber optic service offers speeds of up to 1 gigabyte per second with unlimited data. For more information, or to sign up for internet service, call (530) 832-4126 or visit Plumas-Sierra Telecommunications website.

Scholarships

2 $1,000 scholarships are available. The deadline is April 24. Scholarships are open to high school seniors and older students with no upper age limit. To qualify, the student’s primary residence in Plumas, Lassen, Sierra or Washoe counties must be supplied with either electric power through PSREC or internet service through Plumas-Sierra Telecommunications. For more information, call (530) 832-4261 extension 6076, or email me.

Winter Preparedness

I would like to thank our line crews who worked tirelessly at all hours of the day and night in terrible weather during the recent storms to restore power as quickly as possible to our members. As this gets to you in the heart of winter, there is still the possibility of additional major storms. PSREC provides outage notifications via email, text, social media and our website. To receive notices, sign into SmartHub at Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative and visit the “manage notifications” section to select the alerts you would like to receive. If you need assistance, call (530) 832-4261. We are here to help you, our member/owners. For more information on outage preparedness, visit our Outage Tips page. You can also view areas affected by outages on the power outage map page. If you have any questions or would like more information, please call me at (530) 832-4261 ext. 6076, oremail me.

Sincerely,

Bob Marshall
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message – January 2023

Dear Members:

As we have been discussing for the last few months, due to the ongoing drought and high market power prices, Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative (PSREC) will be adding a wholesale power cost adjustment starting for January usage on power bills mailed out at the end of January. The WPCA will be 2 cents per kilowatt-hour for the first quarter.

The WPCA will be adjusted quarterly depending on conditions as the year progresses. The biggest drivers of the WPCA charge are the lack of our federal hydropower due to extremely low reservoir levels at the Bureau of Reclamation dams in California and extremely high wholesale prices for power and natural gas throughout the Western United States. The wholesale prices are comparable to the worst of the 2000 power crisis.

At a rate meeting, a comment was made that PSREC raises rates when prices go through the roof, but we don’t give it back when things are wet. I’d like to address this.

There are 2 types of rate increases. The first is a base rate increase, which is driven by specific cost increases that aren’t going away. There is continuous pressure on our costs due to inflation—whether it’s high or low—and there are increased costs due to our being in the California Independent System Operator. The CA ISO controls transmission rates, and PG&E has been successful in getting approval for the highest transmission rates in the country. There is no prospect in a reduction of costs until we get at least partially out of the CA ISO.

In addition, there are regulatory requirements, including the rules requiring all utilities to eventually provide 100% of their energy through clean power resources. This requirement puts sustained upward pressure on rates on a continuous basis for years to come.

The second type of rate increase relates to short-term problems—such as the current drought—and high energy prices for the replacement power we need. We will not meet our required financial ratios in 2022; we must raise rates in 2023 to the level required to meet our ratios.

We do pass the savings of wet years to our members. In the past four years, when we had lower power costs than budgeted, we carried those power cost savings into the next year, reducing or eliminating the size of rate increases for the following year. Power costs in 2022 impacted our overall financial situation. It is likely the next wet or “good” year for power costs will be used to rebuild our cash position and we may have to extend the WPCA into 2024 due to the cost of power cost spikes in both the late summer and then in December of 2022.

If we beat our budget in non-power parts of our utility, we use those margins (savings) to reduce our borrowing for capital projects, giving the members multi-year savings.

We are a cooperative. Our members are the stockholders. When things go well, the board decides the best balance of short-term and long-term use of funds to benefit members. It all goes back to you, but not always as visibly or as memorably as the pain of a rate increase.

We were off to a great start with snowfall in mid-December, but what matters to power costs is how strong the snowpack is in April and how full reservoirs will be in the summer.

Telecommunications

In 2022, Plumas-Sierra Telecommunications received project grants from the California Advanced Services Fund. These projects include portions of Elysian Valley, Doyle, Herlong, Honey Lake Valley and part of the Susan River Valley, and parts of the Sierra Valley, Old Truckee Road and Loyalton. Installations have begun in some parts of Loyalton; reach out to our office to see if service is available at your home.

Additionally, the Ponderosa Boulevard and surrounding area in Janesville is open for fiber installations. PST expects to start work on the Galeppi Ranch and Carol Lane East area in early winter, as conditions allow. We await final approval for the project that runs from the Mohawk substation (by Little Bear campground) to Spring Garden and through Greenhorn Ranch. We hope to begin construction once the snow melts.

PST will apply for additional CASF Grant funding in 2023 to allow PST to continue bringing service to areas in our region that are harder to reach. For our members, we apply for all the grants we can to keep filling in new service areas.

Check availability for your location at www.pst.coop or by calling (530) 832-4261. PST’s internet services are unlimited; you don’t have to worry about data caps. PST offers speeds up to 1 gigabyte per second on fiber optic service. To learn more about services or get on the interest list, visit the Plumas-Sierra Telecommunications website or call (530) 832-4261.

Continue To Be Prepared for Outages

Winter is here, and though PSREC has invested in system improvements, removed hazardous trees and maintained the system, outages can and will happen. Being prepared can help make the best of a bad situation. Visit www.psrec.coop for information on outage preparedness and electrical safety.

PSREC’s outage notification system provides localized outage information to members via text and email. To view the most up-to-date outage information or to report an outage, log into the PSREC SmartHub app on your Apple or Android device or log in on our website. All outages should be reported to PSREC—day or night—at (530) 832-4261 or through the app.

Scholarships

PSREC and PST will offer scholarships to students who receive either electric or internet services from PSREC or PST at their primary residence in Plumas, Sierra, Lassen and Washoe counties. Applications and more information can be found on our website. The deadline is April 28.

Plumas-Sierra participates in the Washington Youth Tour program. This program provides an enriching experience to local youth that helps them discover themselves and their roles as citizens. It also introduces them to the cooperative way and teaches the value of involvement and commitment to their communities.

The Washington Youth Tour application deadline is January 13. More information is available at www.psrec.coop or by calling the member services department at (530) 832-4261.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please call me at (530) 832-4261 ext. 6076 or email me.

Sincerely,

Bob Marshall
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message – December 2022

Dear Members:

The holiday season is finally here. Some call it the most wonderful season of all. That’s because we associate it with family traditions and gathering with friends and loved ones. It’s a time of giving and spreading joy.

Giving back reminds us of the many good things we have in our community and why it’s so important to spread the good as far as we can—especially to the most vulnerable in our area. We are reminded of how wonderful our community is and the impact we have when we work together.

Through the years, the cooperative’s community-focused programs have provided donations to local schools, awarded scholarships to local youth, helped families in need keep the lights on and so much more.

Plumas-Sierra also participates in the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour. Our community’s brightest young people travel to Washington, D.C., for a week-long immersion to experience democracy in action. Our community benefits from these programs because of you and your neighbors. We hope our members have a joyous holiday season. May it be merry and bright!

Rates

At the December and January board meetings, Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative will consider what type of Wholesale Power Cost Adjustment to implement. The board of directors and staff will analyze the projected snowpack and reservoir levels throughout winter and wholesale power costs through the year. Check the website for updates as the year progresses. If approved, a WPCA would start with the bill that goes out at the end of January 2023.

WPCA adjustments will occur relatively close to real time so we can adapt to fast-changing market circumstances. We plan to review and adjust the WPCA as necessary. To stay up to date on WPCA adjustments for the upcoming month, visit our website. You can find the information on the Rates page and on the banner at the top.

Telecommunications

Plumas-Sierra Telecommunications (PST) is applying for additional grants from the California Advanced Services Fund. PST has previously received 6 CASF grants totaling more than $13 million. PST is currently in various stages of design, construction and installations in grant areas. These areas include portions of Elysian Valley, Doyle, Herlong, Honey Lake Valley and part of the Susan River Valley, and parts of the Sierra Valley, Old Truckee Road and Loyalton.

PST is seeing progress with the approvals for the current set of grants and is working with cooperative vendors on getting access to hard-to-find equipment so we can expand our system as fast as possible.

Check availability for your location on the Plumas-Sierra Telecommunications website or by calling (530) 832-4261. PST’s internet services are unlimited; you don’t have to worry about data caps. PST offers speeds up to 1 gigabyte per second on fiber optic service. To learn more about services or get on the interest list, visit the Plumas-Sierra Telecommunications website or call (530) 832-4261.

Eyes & Ears

Plumas-Sierra spends a tremendous amount of time and money grooming our rights-of-way and maintaining our equipment. It is a never-ending job, and we can always use your help. Our members often let us know when there are problems with our system. We have a remote, rural power grid with only six customers per mile of power line. When you alert us of a possible equipment malfunction, you help prevent fires and outages. Thank you, and continue calling if you believe something is not right. Operators are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at (530) 832-4261.

Capital Credits

Each year, the cooperative allocates the margins from the previous year back to members in proportion to the revenue from each member. These allocations are the basis of your capital credits. Over time, the board of directors votes to return the margins from past years to each member. In most years, the yearly allocation is a positive number.

However, we don’t always have a positive margin—due to tax requirements, 2021 was one of those years. PSREC will also have a negative margin in 2022, due to the reasons described in our need for a rate increase.

As a result, each member’s overall capital credits will be reduced based on the same allocation we use to increase it in years with a positive margin. This negative allocation is not billed to our members, and there is no impact beyond raising rates going forward to make sure we meet our required financial ratios from our lenders.

FEMA Grants

PSREC has been working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to recover costs from the Dixie Fire. Recent public announcements stated we received several million dollars in allocated funds related to the Dixie Fire. The funds allocated are for a substantial portion of the repair work that has yet to be completed. While significant, the funds do not change the need for a rate increase. PSREC appreciates Congressman Doug LaMalfa’s efforts in helping make sure the funds are allocated and approved by Congress.

Thank you for your support of PSREC and the common needs of our community.

If you have any questions, call (530) 832-6076 or email me.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays! We hope you have a safe holiday season.

Sincerely,

Bob Marshall
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message – November 2022

Dear Members:

The rate increase we announced last month will take effect for November usage on the December bill. The new rates are posted at our website. Irrigation rates have not been finalized and our irrigation members will be receiving notices in the mail about an irrigation rate meeting.

At the December and January board meetings, we will also be considering what type of Wholesale Power Cost Adjustment will be necessary by quarter for 2023. We will be analyzing the power markets, and the projected snowpack and reservoir levels as winter progresses. Please check the website for updates as the year progresses.

As we head into winter, being prepared for an emergency and knowing what to do during an outage are vital for personal safety and quick restoration of power. During a prolonged power outage or other emergency, this means having enough food, water and supplies to last at least a few days.

I want to remind members of our community about the power of preparation. While you don’t have to achieve a “doomsday prepper” level of preparedness, there are several practical steps you can take to keep your family safe.

Even at a modest level, preparation can help reduce stress, anxiety and lessen the impact of an emergency event. We recommend starting with the basics.

Here are general guidelines recommended by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Assemble a grab-and-go disaster kit. Include items like nonperishable food, water (1 gallon per person, per day), diapers, batteries, flashlights, prescription medications, first-aid kit, battery-powered radio and phone chargers. Develop a plan for communicating with family and friends – via text, social media, third party, etc. Have some extra cash available; during a power outage, electronic card readers and cash machines may not work. Store important documents – birth certificates, property deed, etc. – in a safe place away from home, such as a bank safe deposit box. Fill your car with gas.

Additionally, install surge protectors on sensitive electronics and appliances. Buy surge protectors that have a warranty for your connected load. Once we get to winter and the storms hit, if your lights start to flicker, turn off and unplug sensitive electronic equipment immediately and reduce any unnecessary load.

Caring for Vulnerable Family Members

If you have older family members or those with special needs, make sure they have enough medication and supplies for a few days. If they don’t live with you, arrange for a neighbor to check on them. If someone in your home depends on life sustaining equipment, plan for backup power and call our office at (530) 832-4261.

Install surge protectors on sensitive electronics and appliances. Buy surge protectors that have a warranty for your connected load. Once winter arrives and the storms hit, if your lights start to flicker, turn off and unplug sensitive electronic equipment immediately and reduce any unnecessary load.

For more information on outage preparedness and safety, visit our website. To receive outage updates via text message, log in to SmartHub and set your notification preferences. If you need assistance signing up for outage communications, call (530) 832-4261.

Winter Rate Assistance Program

We are accepting applications for the Winter Rate Assistance Program, which offers a discounted rate November through April to income-qualified members. WRAP provides information to help members conserve energy and offers a discounted electric rate during the heating season.

For more information and a WRAP application, visit our website or call (530) 832-4261.

Telecommunications

Plumas-Sierra Telecommunications (PST) continues to focus on construction of many projects in its grant areas. The grant project on Scott Road has received environmental clearance and is underway. We also received permission from the CPUC to start 2 additional projects. The first is our South Lassen project which includes portions of Elysian Valley and discrete areas of Doyle, Herlong, Honey Lake Valley and part of the Susan River Valley. The second project approved to start is Sierra Valley, with areas on Old Truckee Road, Loyalton and other areas in the Valley including the area northeast of the buttes known as the old Christmas Tree farm.

Construction in Loyalton on the non-grant areas is also proceeding, and installations are expected to begin this month. We are still waiting on a few environmental approvals for the project along Highway 70 from Little Bear Road (near Graeagle) to the outskirts of Quincy, which will include Greenhorn Ranch and parts of Cromberg and Sloat.

We are also experiencing delays with supply chain issues. There have been funding opportunities at the state and federal level for broadband expansion, but the impact of all the new projects across the U.S. has impacted the ability of the equipment producers to expand their capacity.

PST continues to improve and expand its broadband networks, prioritizing our member-owners.

PST’s coaxial and wireless broadband services offer download speeds of up to 25 Mbps and 20 Mbps, respectively. We are working to expand the wireless speed options to 50 Mbps in select areas.

Our fiber optic services can go as fast as 1 Gbps download, with dedicated business services available, if needed. With these speeds, you can stream videos on multiple devices at the same time without slowing down. You could even eliminate your cable or satellite TV bill with streaming services. For more information about our products, including coverage maps, visit the Plumas-Sierra Telecommunications website or call (800) 221-3474.

If you have any questions, call (530) 832-6076 or email me.

Wishing you a safe and happy holiday season!

Sincerely,

Bob Marshall
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message – October 2022

Dear Members:

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the 2022 virtual annual member meeting. If you missed it, a recording of the meeting can be viewed on our YouTube channel. You can find that by searching Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative on YouTube.

Aaron Whitfield, chief operating officer of Plumas-Sierra Telecommunications (PST), highlighted plans for broadband expansion in the region. Aaron updated the membership on the latest round of California Advanced Services Fund grants that PST has received and where those grant projects are located. For more information on our broadband services, visit the Plumas-Sierra Telecommunications website.

Sandee Peebles, of the Western Area Power Administration, Randy Howard, of the Northern California Power Agency, and Jackie Coombs, of the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, provided updates on the electric industry during the meeting. They discussed key issues facing your cooperative and the electric utility industry, including power supply and the recent strains on the California electric grid.

Of key concern for all the presenters was the absence of federal hydropower due to the multi-year drought and a very high cost of replacement power, driven in part by very high natural gas prices.

I updated members on the Fort Sage project which would build a transmission line that would intertie PSREC into the Nevada grid and increase reliability for cooperative members substantially. This new transmission line will provide a more robust connection to the Nevada grid, allowing the cooperative to have a more reliable power supply and keep rates as low as possible for members. The Fort Sage project is currently in the engineering and design phase.

As Board President Fred Nelson announced at the annual meeting, directors reviewed member comments regarding the two rate options proposed in August. Based on your input and their own review, Option 1 was selected by the board. As of November 1, the residential facilities charge will move to $49.99 per month. Small business rates will move to $87.99 for single phase service and $119.99 for three phase service. There will be no change to the existing kWh charge.

As much as possible, we try to 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 fixed costs do not change much with use. Additionally, we are collecting only a portion of our fixed costs through facility charges.

We also presented that the board would evaluate in October and December the possible need for a wholesale power cost adjustment (WPCA) in the beginning of 2023. This is due to significantly higher-than-expected power costs we have experienced in 2022, as we discussed at the August member rate meeting. The adjustment would be on the kWh charge and will be determined near the end of 2022. We will update our members as soon as we have more information about the WPCA. This charge is subject to change based on real-time conditions, reservoir storage levels, the prices for power and natural gas in 2023, as well as the snowpack for the upcoming winter. In the past, we have removed or reduced the WPCA as conditions have changed.

During the meeting, we also had a question-and-answer session where I addressed a variety of members’ questions. The topics of the questions covered fiberoptic service availability, net-metering solar pricing and more.

The board of directors is the governing body for PSREC and PST. They set policy, strategic direction, rates and budgets. They attend classes and work hard to understand the complexities of the electric utility industry and the telecommunications business. We thank them all for their hard work and commitment to PSREC.

The membership reelected Richard Short to District 2 and David Hansen to District 5.

The board and I could not be prouder of the employees of PSREC and PST across the last year.

WRAP Program

We are again offering a discounted rate for qualifying members through our Winter Rate Assistance Program. The discounted rate is available for November through April electricity use to income-qualified members.

For more information and an application, visit our website, or call (530) 832-4261.

Affordable Connectivity Program

The Affordable Connectivity Program is a Federal Communications Commission benefit program that helps ensure that households can afford the broadband they need for work, school, healthcare and more.

The benefit provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. The Affordable Connectivity Program is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household.

For more information, visit our website, or call (530) 832-4261.

Please let me know if you have any questions by emailing me or calling (800) 555-2207 extension 6076.

Sincerely,

Bob Marshall
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message – September 2022

Dear Members:

The cooperative’s 2022 annual meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, September 8. The meeting can also be via YouTube Live by clicking on the link on our website or you can find our YouTube channel searching Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative (PSREC) on Youtube. You can listen in by calling (817) 900- 9005 and entering access code 874 467 9739.

We hope you will join us for an informative evening with updates, election results and a question-and-answer session. We encourage you to submit questions in advance via email to PSREC Marketing. We will also take questions via the chat option during the YouTube broadcast.

Rates

The cooperative held its rate meeting on August 30. You can still make comments on the increase and on the specific structure, preferably before September 8.

Outages

There have been two short transmission outages in August. The first on August 9 was due to a tree on the lines. Our system was on non-reclose, meaning the line instantly shut off and didn’t try to reclose back in. This prevented the potential of a fire. Being on non-reclose is a crucial fire safety measure. It also means, depending on where the fault is, short outages of an hour or so will accompany any line contact.

The August 17 outage was due to a PG&E equipment failure on our system that took down PSREC and Lassen Municipal Utility District (LMUD). PSREC switched to our Marble backup line and cut the outage time from 1.5 hours to half an hour.

We appreciate the patience of the members and greatly appreciate the two state and one federal prison running their generators so other members could return to service faster.

Telecommunications Expansion

Plumas-Sierra Telecommunications is currently focused on construction of many projects in grant areas. The grant project on Scott Road has received environmental clearance and is now underway. We also received permission from the CPUC to start two additional projects.

The first is our South Lassen project which includes portions of Elysian Valley and discrete areas of Doyle, Herlong, Honey Lake Valley and part of the Susan River Valley.

The second project approved to start is Sierra Valley, with areas on Old Truckee Road, Loyalton and other areas in the Valley including the area northeast of the buttes known as the old Christmas Tree farm.

Construction in Loyalton on the non-grant areas is also proceeding and installations are expected to begin this month. We are still waiting on a few environmental approvals for our big project along Highway 70 from Little Bear Road (near Graeagle) to the outskirts of Quincy, which will include Greenhorn Ranch and parts of Cromberg and Sloat.

PST continues to improve and expand its broadband networks, prioritizing our member-owners. PST is working with PSREC on dualpurpose or hybrid projects where the electric cooperative gets expanded control of the electric grid, and PST rents some of the fiber to bring broadband to more members. We expect these types of projects to continue into the foreseeable future.

PST’s coaxial and wireless broadband services offer download speeds of up to 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) and 20 Mbps, respectively. We are working to expand the wireless speed options to 50 Mbps in select areas.

Our fiber optic services can go as fast as 1 Gigabits per second (Gbps) download, with dedicated business services available, if needed. With these speeds, you can stream videos on multiple devices at the same time without slowing down. You could even eliminate your cable or satellite TV bill with streaming services. For more information about our products, including coverage maps, visit Plumas-Sierra Telecommunications or call (800) 221-3474.

WRAP Program

We are again offering a discounted rate for qualifying members through our Winter Rate Assistance Program (WRAP). The discounted rate is available for November through April electricity use to income-qualified members.

For more information and an application, visit our website, or call (530) 832-4261.

Affordable Connectivity Program

The Affordable Connectivity Program is a Federal Communications Commission benefit program that helps ensure that households can afford the broadband they need for work, school, healthcare and more.

The benefit provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. The Affordable Connectivity Program is limited to one monthly service discount per household.

For more information, visit our website, or call (530) 832-4261.

Youth Opportunities

As part of our commitment to the communities we serve, PSREC and its subsidiary offer life-changing opportunities to local youth, including our scholarship program.

These programs provide enriching experiences to help young people discover themselves and their roles as citizens. They also introduce them to the cooperative way, teaching the value of involvement and commitment to their communities.

If you have any questions, please call me at (800) 555-2207 extension 6076, or email me.

Sincerely,

Bob Marshall
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message – August 2022

Dear Members:

The annual meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, September 8 at our Portola office. We will broadcast the meeting via our YouTube channel. To join the meeting, visit our website and click the link in the banner at the top of the page or watch the meeting via YouTube live. To join by phone, call (817) 900-9005 and enter access code 874 467 9739.

We encourage members to send questions in advance by email to marketing@psrec.coop or with the form included in your voting packet. We will also take questions through the chat function during the meeting.

The year 2021 was a challenging but productive year for Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative and Plumas-Sierra Telecommunications.

The dominant events of last year were the two mega-fires. The Beckwourth Complex burned parts of the town of Doyle, a good portion of our distribution system in that area and nine miles of our fiberoptic line. The Dixie Fire caused significant damage further north from Herlong to Milford, Janesville, and Gold Run. It also burned both of PG&E’s feeds to our region, and due to the delays in PG&E rebuilding, the fire also led to our power supply being unavailable for 150 days.

PSREC built a 6-Megawatt cogeneration facility that came online in 2010 and went through a significant rebuild in early 2021. It came back online just in time to support our system during the fires. We also rented two 2-Megawatt diesel engines and were able to keep the lights on for the 150 days.

The efforts of our electric and telecommunications crews was simply outstanding, and our SCADA crew was often sleeping in the SCADA room to keep the lights on. We would also like to thank NV Energy for doing a great job with our backup line. PSREC continued its increased vegetation management and removal of hazard trees on the system to improve reliability and fire safety. We appreciate the increased cooperation from members on this key reliability and safety issue.

We have run our system on single-shot during high fire seasons for years now. Single shot means if a fault is detected, the line is shut down. This prevents our equipment from trying to reclose or re-energize, decreasing 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. We appreciate your patience, but we need to do this to prevent catastrophic wildfires.

PSREC has continued to improve system reliability and response times through its supervisory control and data acquisition system. We are also working hard to develop alternative power supplies from the east for our entire system to help mitigate the impacts of public safety power shutoffs by PG&E and NV Energy. Due to the recent fires, we expect NV Energy to disconnect power more often in the next several years, including the 2021 fire season.

If PG&E has also disconnected their power to prevent fires, we will be out of power until one of our sources is back online. Members should be prepared for outages, some of which could be several days.

PSREC sends outage notifications via email and text messages. To sign up for these notices, log into SmartHub on our website and visit the Manage Notifications section to select the alerts you want to receive. If you need assistance, call us at (530) 832-4261.

Rates

Transmission costs from the California Independent System Operator and PG&E increased significantly at the first of the year. We will be talking about our efforts to get away from the PG&E system in the months and years to come, but for now, we are stuck with PG&E passing on increasing transmission costs.

Another factor is that for several years we have been carrying over savings from the previous year’s power costs to offset higher rates. We carried more than $1.15 million from 2020 to 2021, but in 2021, we were hit with the impact of the Dixie fire and much higher power costs, and there were no savings to carry over. If there hadn’t been a carry-over from 2020 to 2021, there would have been a rate increase in 2021.

Another significant event is the proposed closure of the State of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation California Conservation Center (CCC). The loss of CCC is a blow to our local economy in general and to the cooperative. Large electric loads like the state prisons help spread the cooperative’s fixed costs over a wider base. Losing these loads means the rest of the membership must absorb the fixed costs CCC has been paying.

These events alone will
combine to increase our costs by $2.25 million per year alone. In addition, general inflation has hit the cooperative’s construction and operating costs, raising the price of fuel and all basic materials.

Lastly, we also have the ongoing impact of the drought. We get most of our hydropower from the Western Area Power Administration, who sells power from the main four federal hydro-projects that are part of the Central Valley Project. Of the four reservoirs, only Folsom, the smallest, has above average water levels. The largest, Shasta, has half of its normal water. PSREC pays the same for federal hydropower no matter
how much is delivered. We are paying for the power that isn’t there, and we then need to shop in the market for replacement power. And this year, energy costs in general have risen dramatically in price. This is approximately an additional $1.5 million for this year.

We are seeking recovery for the damages from the Dixie Fire from PG&E, as well as FEMA. Recovery of these funds won’t change the need for a rate increase.

Information on the rate meeting with the members will be inside your annual meeting package. The date of the rate meeting will be Tuesday, August 30. Details about the rate meeting will be included in the Annual Meeting information.

In the face of these issues, your staff and board have been quite active. Some of you are aware we are working to build a new interconnection with NV Energy in the Nevada desert that should give us some relief from the California power markets and transmission rate increases, but that project is several years from completion. The costs of construction should be nicely offset by transmission and generation savings. We strongly believe building to the east will keep rates lower than they would be otherwise and will minimize power shutoffs.

We are also partnering with our subsidiary, PST, on joint or hybrid projects where PSREC automates more of its system while PST rents capacity from PSREC, bringing broadband to the members and reducing the cost of automating the electric grid. PST’s grants from the CPUC also support better control of our electric grid. Last year, we were able to expand to more than 900 households.

We have also been pleased with the financial performance of our subsidiary. PST shares expenses with PSREC and saved more than $500,000 in 2021 and will again in 2022. In addition, PST was profitable in 2021, cash-flow positive last year, and should be profitable and cash flow positive for 2022. PST has received grants from the California Public Utilities Commission, as well as an earmark in the federal budget thanks to Congressman Doug LaMalfa.

COVID-19/Physical Security Audit

We have partially reopened our office in Portola. Appointments are available, and when you make an appointment, we will inform you of any masking requirements applicable at that time. We are also open for drop-in appointments through our window by the front door. The cooperative has recently had a physical security audit from the CPUC and will be doing a minor remodel for its lobby to stay on top of the latest requirements, and it will be using the windows and the vestibule to serve customers for now.

Despite all the challenges, PSREC continues to be financially strong and remains committed to providing excellent and reliable service to our members.

We hope you will join us at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, September 9 for the annual membership meeting.

Sincerely,

Fred Nelson
PSREC Board President

Bob Marshall
General Manager 

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message – July 2022

Dear Members:

The 2022 annual meeting is scheduled for Thursday, September 8. The August issue of Ruralite will have all the meeting details and your voting materials for the director election. Please be sure to look for that information. You can watch the meeting live on YouTube.

Up for election are District 2 (Greaeagle-Mohawk areas) served by Richard Short and District 5 (Doyle, Lake Davis, Long Valley, Washoe County areas) served by David Hansen.

If you are interested in running for the Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative (PSREC) Board of Directors and live in one of those districts, please contact me as soon as possible. The deadline for nominations by petition is July 25.

If you are unsure of your district, please visit the PSREC website to view the map or call the office at (530) 832-4261.

A copy of the PSREC Director Qualifications and Nomination Procedures is available on our website.

Proposed Rate Increase

Cooperative staff will be proposing a rate increase later this year and a second increase in early 2023.

Staff has not presented final numbers to the board, but the increase proposed for this year looks to be between 6% and 7% more than current rates.

There are multiple factors requiring a rate increase. Transmission costs from the California Independent System Operator and PG&E increased significantly at the first of the year.

We will be talking about our efforts to get away from the PG&E system in the months and years to come, but for now, we are stuck with this.

A significant event is closure of the State of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation California Conservation Center. Loss of the CCC is a blow to our economy in general and to the cooperative in particular. Large electric loads such as the state prisons help spread the cooperative’s fixed costs across a wider base. Losing these loads means the rest of the membership must absorb the net costs the CCC used to pay.

Another factor is that for several years we have been carrying over savings from the previous year’s power costs to offset higher rates. In 2021, we were hit by the impact of the Dixie fire and much higher power costs. With no savings to carry over in 2021, our rates were offset by a $1.15 million carry over. These events alone combine to increase our costs by $2.25 million per year.

We also have the ongoing impact of the drought. PSREC gets most of its hydropower from the Western Area Power Administration, which sells power from four federal hydro projects that are part of the Central Valley Project.

Of the four reservoirs, only Folsom—the smallest—has above-average water levels. The largest, Shasta, has half of its normal water.

PSREC pays the same for federal hydropower no matter how much is delivered. That means we are paying for power that isn’t there, and we then need to shop in the market for power. This year, the price of energy has risen dramatically.

Lastly, general inflation has hit the cooperative’s construction and operating costs.

We use the following process for a rate increase: staff recommends the increase; the board meets to determine if an increase is needed; if the board deems it is, PSREC shares the proposed rates with the members; after the board receives feedback from the members, it decides what to do; finally, PSREC notifies members of the increase. Please see the latest information on rates on our website.

Public Safety Power Shutoffs

PSREC’s primary power connection is through PG&E, and our backup is through NV Energy via our Marble Substation in Sierra Valley. Both have stated Public Safety Power Shutoffs are likely this summer due to the extreme drought and dry vegetation.

If both of our power feeds are simultaneously disconnected for PSPS events, our entire system will be without power until PG&E or NV Energy comes back online.

If someone in your home depends on electric-powered, life-sustaining equipment, make a plan for backup power and contact the PSREC office to ensure you are on our lifeline list. Members on the lifeline list are contacted if any planned outages on the system may affect their service.

PSREC offers a $500 rebate for the purchase of a generator to members on its medical necessity list. To receive a generator rebate form, please call (530) 832-4261 ext. 6032.

We highly recommend all members subscribe to outage notifications to receive the latest information. To sign up for text message and email notifications, log in to the SmartHub app from your mobile device or on our website to set your notification preferences. If you need assistance, please contact us at (530) 832-4261.

Telecommunications

Plumas-Sierra Telecommunications participates in the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program, which offers a monthly service discount of up to $30 for qualified households. To find out if you are eligible, visit www.fcc.gov/acp. PST is working to expand broadband coverage of fiber optic service with speeds of up to 1 gigabyte per second through grant applications to the California Advanced Services Fund and federal programs.

Last month, crews began to build out PST’s fiber network in the city of Loyalton. Please contact us at (530) 832-4126 to be added to our interest list.

We are waiting for permission to start on several grants as this edition goes to press. Please check our website for updates. PST’s service offers unlimited data use so your family can stop fighting over bandwidth. If you haven’t already contacted us to sign up for service or to be added to our interest list, call us at (530) 832-4261 or visit our website.

Office is Partially Open

A reminder that PSREC’s office is partially open. PSREC and PST business can be conducted at our offices through a walk-up window. Walk-ups are available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Additionally, appointments are available for specialized issues.

If you have any questions, please contact me at (530) 832-4261 ext. 6076 or email me.

Sincerely,
Bob Marshall
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message – June 2022

Dear Members:

As wildfire season rapidly approaches, we all need to be prepared. Learn how to protect your home and family on the Prevent Wildfire CA website. Part of being prepared includes being ready for Public Safety Power Shutoffs.

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) plans to 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. This could affect our primary power supply that comes through Feather River Canyon.

When PG&E notifies us it intends to shut off our transmission feed, we will provide as much notice as possible to members. Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative (PSREC) will post information to our website, Facebook and Twitter, our SmartHub app, and via email and text message. To sign up for text message and email notifications, log in to the SmartHub app from your mobile device or from our website and set your notification preferences. If you need assistance, please call us at (530) 832-4261.

During PG&E shutoff events, we will switch to our backup transmission feed from NV Energy if that connection is available. There is a limit to how much energy we can bring through that line, so members should be prepared for outages and rolling blackouts. If NV Energy also decides they must de-energize their line due to high fire danger, members of the cooperative will be in the dark.

During a power outage, please disconnect all nonessential electrical loads. Every light and appliance turned off will help PSREC re-energize more of our system. If our power transmission system is constrained, conservation helps keep our electrical system stable and enables us to serve you and your neighbors.

Preparing for power outages can help make the best of a bad situation. Equip your home with a power outage kit that includes a flashlight; battery-powered lamp or lantern and extra batteries; candles and matches; a battery-powered radio with extra batteries; easily accessible emergency phone numbers for your utility, doctor, fire and police; a telephone connected directly to the phone jack (cordless phones need electricity to operate); a one-week supply of drinking water and nonperishable food; and a cooler for storing frequently used foods. Food spoils more quickly if the refrigerator door is opened. Keep these items on hand to make an outage more tolerable: a manual can opener, an alternative cooking source, and a deck of cards, board games and books.

If someone in your home depends on electric-powered, life-sustaining equipment, make a plan for backup power.

If you are going to install a generator and connect to your home’s electrical system, make sure it is done to code using an automated system such as a Generac switch or a manual double-pull double-throw switch that separates your house from the grid. Failure to do so could cause injury or fire, leading to potentially massive liability on your part and disconnection from the grid, if discovered. For more information on a double-pull double throw switch, please talk to a licensed electrician. Plumas-Sierra offers a $500 rebate for the purchase of a generator to its members on its medical necessity list. To receive a generator rebate form, please call (530) 832-4261 extension 6032.

Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane or charcoal-burning device inside a home or garage. Place the unit away from doors, windows and vents to prevent exposure to carbon monoxide.

Please install surge protectors on any sensitive electronics and appliances. Be sure to buy surge protectors that have a warranty for your connected load.

PSREC sends outage information via text, email and social media. Follow PSREC on Facebook and Twitter for outage notifications. To sign up for text and/or email notifications, log in to SmartHub to set your notification preferences. Through the SmartHub app, you can report outages and view the latest outage information on PSREC’s outage map.

Telecommunications

Plumas-Sierra Telecommunications (PST) continues to expand and upgrade its broadband network throughout the region. We now provide fiber optic service to areas of Portola, Quincy, Graeagle, Plumas Pines, Johnsville, Mohawk Vista, Janesville, Quincy, and many other towns and neighborhoods.

The California Public Utilities Commission has added another step in the grant process, which has added a bit of time to the start of our next set of grants. Please check our website at www.pst.coop for additional information.

PST’s fiber optic service offers speeds up to 1 gigabyte per second. Our coaxial service offers speeds up to 25 megabytes a second, and our wireless broadband service offers download speeds up to 20 Mbps. With these speeds, you can stream videos on multiple devices at the same time without slowing down. You could even replace your TV provider with streaming services.

PST sends outage information via text and social media. Follow us on Facebook for outage notifications. To sign up for text notifications, text PSTBB to (800) 555-2207.

For more information and to sign up for service, call us at (530) 832-4261 or visit our website.

Office Now Partially Open

PSREC and PST business can be conducted at our offices through a walk-up window. Walk-ups are available Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

We are scheduling appointments for more specialized issues, such as new member sign-ups, payments, capital credits questions and scheduling engineering for new construction. Appointments make sure the right people are available.

If you have any questions, please contact me at (530) 832-4261 extension 6076 or email me.

Sincerely,
Bob Marshall
General Manager

Manager's Message

Manager’s Message – May 2022

Dear Members:

Although our lobby remains closed, if you have business to attend to at the Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative (PSREC) Portola office, we now offer meetings by appointment. Please call (530) 832-4261 to schedule a time. We also have a form available online on our website.

Director Elections

In the cooperative world, we have a truism: “Good cooperatives have great boards.”

This year, districts 2 and 5 are up for election. District 2 (Graeagle-Mohawk area) is served by Dick Short and District 5 (Doyle-Lake Davis- Long Valley-Washoe County areas) is served by David Hansen.

If you would like to check which district you live in, the boundaries are on the PSREC website. See page 28 for board of director qualifications and nomination information.

Please call me for more information if you live in one of these districts and are interested in running for the board. The board meets once a month, usually on the fourth Wednesday. Directors must complete significant training to stay current on issues and become certificated as directors.

Rates

Given the ongoing drought, and high electricity and natural gas prices in California, the cooperative’s staff is proposing rate adjustments to the board of directors. The cooperative will hold meetings as part of that. Any rate increases approved by the board would be implemented in the later part of the year.

May is Electrical Safety Month

At Plumas-Sierra, we recognize Electrical Safety Month every May, but we also know the importance of practicing safety year-round. From our co-op crews to you, the members we serve, everyone has a part to play in prioritizing safety.

Electricity is a necessity, and it powers our daily lives. But we know firsthand how dangerous electricity can be because we work with it 365 days a year. Call (530) 832-4261 or visit our page on safety tips for additional electrical safety tips.

As we enter the heart of spring, we know many members are eager to begin yard projects. Be sure to call 811 before you dig to have utility lines marked.

Tell the operator where you plan to dig and what type of work you are doing. The affected local utilities will send locators to your property, free of charge. Then you will know what’s below and be able to dig safely without causing damage.

As irrigation season approaches, it is a great time to remind members to look up and live.

Whether cutting trees, working with irrigation pipe or other long objects, look up and be sure to avoid power lines.

Telecommunications

A reminder to members: If you are looking for service or wondering if you should make a long-term commitment with another provider, please check with us first. We hear time and again that if people knew our services were about to arrive, they wouldn’t have signed a different provider’s long-term contract.

Given our fast speeds, you can stream videos on multiple devices at the same time without slowing down. We have had many customers replace their TV provider with web streaming services, ultimately lowering their monthly bills. We continue to expand broadband coverage throughout the region.

We are actively converting most of our Graeagle coaxial customers to fiber optic and are about to convert the nonfunctioning coax system in Loyalton to fiber optic.

We are also waiting for the final route blessing from the California Public Utility Commission for our four grants. We hope construction will begin soon.

If you do not have fiber optic, the best way to accelerate fiber optic deployment is to download the CalSpeed.org app for your devices or computers. Running this app through your wired internet (not a cellular connection) will help us get additional grants to speed up fiber optic deployment.

If you haven’t already, get on our interest list or sign up for service by calling us at (530) 832-4261 or visiting Plumas Sierra Telecommunications.

If you have any questions, please contact me at (530) 832-4261 ext. 6076, or email me.

Sincerely,
Bob Marshall
General Manager