In 2019 Big Country Electric Cooperative, like many other organizations, began making plans for 2020 to be a year of “perfect vision.” But this year has so far been anything but perfect.
While the Big Country has remained distanced from much of the social unrest that has erupted nationwide, we were not immune to the effects of the drastic drop in oil prices this spring or to the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thankfully our local economy has seemed to stabilize. Hopefully that economic trend will continue, but the pandemic remains a serious concern for all of us.
A small silver lining amid the pandemic is that, at Big Country EC, we were pressed to put into action our words about efficiency. Technology enabled most of our office employees to work from home, allowing us to continue conducting business almost as usual. Throughout our adaptation processes, we remained transparent and upfront with our members and the public, sharing frequent updates on our website and Facebook page, in local newspapers, in letters to members when necessary, and in our Membergram newsletter and Texas Co-op Power. Our goal was to convey to you that despite the chaos and confusion, BCEC and your electricity are stable and will continue to be, come what may.
Transparency is how we operate. We are accountable to you, the members, and we work for you.
Your co-op is financially healthy, as you can see in the midyear financial figures on Page 20. These numbers are current through June 2020; the figures included in our annual report were through 2019. The annual report is an obligation we have to you, but we choose to present midyear financial statements for a couple of reasons: to demonstrate our commitment to transparency and to assure you that despite the many uncertainties in our world right now, you can count on us to deliver the electricity that powers your farm, home office or home classroom.
At last year’s annual meeting, Board President Roger Blackwelder discussed a rate increase that would be phased in over three years for residential, farm and seasonal service members, starting in November 2019. Blackwelder shared findings from an independent expert’s cost-of-service study that indicated Big Country EC needed to bring in an additional $2 million in operating revenue per year to preserve the stability and reliability of our electric system, maintain appropriate margins, and meet financial goals such as reducing long-term debt. Changes were also necessary to more fully cover costs incurred at each level of service. Those findings resulted in rate changes announced at our April 2019 annual meeting and reiterated prior to becoming effective November 1, 2019.
The second tier of the rate change will be implemented November 1, 2020. This change affects the facilities charges of only four of our rate classes and is the second of three gradual increases, as seen in the table below.
The midyear financials (available for download above) reflect that your co-op is financially healthy and that the 2019 rate change was effective despite unexpected volatility in kilowatt-hour sales (mostly due to oil field changes) earlier this year. You might ask what this means for you, the member-owner. In a nutshell, we are investing in our electric system to increase reliability for you while building equity funding using available cash and less long-term debt.
The goals of the BCEC Board of Directors—who are co-op members and pay bills just like you—management and staff are to meet your expectations with rates that balance the financial strength of the co-op with safety, reliability, service quality and fairness. We are honored to work for you. We wish you health and peace always—and especially this year. Please give us a call with any questions or concerns. We are always glad to assist you.