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Big Country EC News

Navigating the Curves

Big Country EC 2021 Annual Report

Since the beginning of Midwest and Stamford electric cooperatives in 1938 and 1939, our co-op has fielded a lot of curveballs. Two and a half years ago, with COVID-19, we were thrown the first big curveball that I’ve experienced as a CEO and it seems like the curveballs just keep coming.

What’s meant the most to me is that no matter how many get thrown our way, your co-op board and employees don’t bunt—we hit the ball with all we’ve got.

Hopefully at least some of you have seen the movie Trouble with the Curve. The Atlanta Braves scout Gus, played by Clint Eastwood, is salty, aging and rooted in his old-school methods, teetering on the verge of being counted out by technology and a youthful replacement. “He may be ready for pasture,” management said. While the Braves and other teams’ scouts drool over the No. 1 draft pick pitcher Bo, Gus isn’t impressed. Spoiler alert (but there’s a lot more to the movie): Eventually, Gus discovers that Bo can’t handle a curveball, and thanks to a chance encounter between his daughter and unlikely, unsuspecting standout Rigo, Gus finds the perfect pitcher and secures a winning future for the Braves.

I see a little of the Big Country folks—and Big Country Electric Co-op—in Gus and Rigo: We may be a little old-fashioned in some ways, but don’t count us out because an old dog knows his old tricks; we are a humble organization with humble roots, but we can handle a curveball; and we know relationships matter.

  • COVID-19 threw us a curveball and we hit it, adapting and operating to continue uninter-rupted service to our members from home offices and vehicles—despite experiencing a few cases ourselves.
  • The February 2021 winter storm threw every single one of us a curveball, pushing us to our limits in a multitude of ways, but we made our way through it.
  • Supply chain and shipping issues, material shortages and delays continue to throw us curveballs daily, but we adapt and find solutions.
  • System growth threw us a curveball: For the past few decades, our system growth was a steady 1%. Over the past year, we have experienced more than 50% system growth, adding more than 30 megawatts of load. For perspective, 30 MW was the load size of our entire electric system from Lake Alan Henry to Albany until recently. We’ve had to tap dance when prioritizing time and scheduling work to be done, but we’ve done it. We’ve had to search far and wide to find transformers and other pieces of equipment necessary to deliver electric service, but we got creative, found new sources and made it happen. We’ve had to play Tetris to fit in large horsepower loads while we press on building four new substations, but we’ve made the pieces fit together.
  • Years ago, we saw a curveball coming with the inevitable retirement of a number of longtime co-op employees in every area, but we planned ahead for that—and thank goodness we did! Our partnership with the Western Texas College Lineman Training Program is bearing fruit. The first generation of program graduates that we employed are now reaching the upper classifications of linework and becoming supervisors, teaching new apprentices the trade beyond the classroom and ensuring that our system is in good hands for decades to come. The same goal of growing our own replacements is applied in our other departments as well; I’m proud to say that this curveball is one we hit out of the park.

Like Rigo, BCEC may not be a name that you see on big screens, but that’s not where our name belongs. Our name is on little league fences, in show barns and on high school scoreboards. Our name is in morning coffee conversations because one of our lineworkers helped you change a flat, or the BCEC lady you spoke to on the phone was nice and helpful. We hope that when you need our help, you call on us because you know you can count on us corporately and each of our dedicated employees to handle the curve.

Curveballs will keep coming. We’re seeing them in the natural gas prices and their effect on the power cost adjustment factor that we’ve communicated to you about. I’m sure there will be others. But like Gus, we’ve honed our senses over the years to listen and watch for curveballs so that we can continue to meet your needs. This is what you trust and expect us to do—not just supply electricity.

Now, along the lines of curveballs, why a virtual annual meeting? As a member-owned not-for-profit electric cooperative, we take our responsibility to wisely manage our operating funds very seriously. We anticipated significantly increased expenses to produce a traditional in-person annual meeting and barbecue meal due to the high price of meat and groceries. We also expected a decline in attendance at the traditional annual meeting due to the increased cost of fuel and folks limiting travel.

Considering these factors as well as the high rate of participation from last year’s director election conducted via mail-in ballot and online voting, your board of directors and management agreed that a virtual annual meeting was the prudent decision. However, we value face-to-face contact with our members and know that many of you want that as well, which is why we will host an open house on the same day as the virtual meeting.

We’ve navigated the curves together for 84 years, proving that the co-op and member partnership work. Please cast your vote in our director election—instructions and ballot are included in this report—and stop by to snack and visit us September 27.