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Big Country EC News

Teamwork—a Strategy for Victory at Big Country EC in 2020 and Beyond

Report from D. Mark McClain, General Manager

Electric cooperatives aren’t immune to jargon. And one buzzword we all hear often, in and out of the business world, even at church and in personal financial planning, is “strategic.” Its meaning transcends many of the dividing lines of industry jargon. In the world of electric cooperatives, being strategic requires looking ahead through a wide-angle lens. We consider industry and economic trends on local, regional, statewide and national scales to make the most informed, best possible decisions for the future of your co-op.

The key word there is “your”—Big Country Electric Cooperative is YOUR co-op. The BCEC Board of Directors and every employee here works for you. In addition to studying the environment we exist in, BCEC’s management team and elected board strive to make decisions as if we were looking through your eyes and handling your checkbook. The strategic decisions we make on your behalf move Big Country EC in the direction that best serves you and all of our members while preserving the integrity of our business model to ensure that we can continue to meet your needs.

In February, strategic coaching decisions made by the Kansas City Chiefs culminated in a Super Bowl victory. Over the course of the season, there were good games and bad games, and there were injuries that required them to adapt on the fly. We may not have a shiny trophy to show for it, but the BCEC leadership team implements our strategy in the same way. Like a football team, we have many supporting players, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, who work together to achieve victory.

Every day is game day at BCEC, and events such as storms and outages are our Super Bowl. Those occasions place us squarely in the public eye and very much on a stage, and they provide an opportunity to amp up our everyday teamwork to bring home the win—keeping your power on or getting it back on.

Fortunately, our strategy of investing in preventive maintenance has minimized the impact of our ”Super Bowl” events over the past several years. Like this year’s winning team, we have a great mix of youth and experience among our staff that ensures you reap the victory of receiving safe, reliable service from BCEC—electric and otherwise—for a long time to come.

Here are some fruits of Big Country EC’s strategy.

Maintenance: We perform routine pole inspections and proactively replace any poles that fail inspection. This approach ensures that poles—our most numerous structures in the field that are also the most exposed to the elements—are removed before problems occur, since any weaknesses makes them more susceptible to the harsh winds we often experience.

We take the same approach with mechanical equipment in the field: Fuses, transformers, breakers, wires and substations are all closely monitored. If we notice the potential for problems, we do our best to make repairs to head off any issues. When actual problems manifest, particularly recurrent ones, we take note and make plans for repairs. Sometimes, those fixes are very expensive and must be budgeted for, but we accommodate that reality by continually reassessing prioritization of upcoming projects.

Facilities planning: Facilities planning is complicated for electric utilities. We must consider environmental, economic and regulatory issues to make sound plans for our system. One such consideration is the evolving landscape of distributed energy resources—wind and solar power generation and battery storage, for example.

Right now, we are experiencing a boom in oilfield growth, which is great for the co-op overall. When that growth happens suddenly, though, particularly in a more densely populated area, we must adapt our plans to simultaneously deliver reliable, safe service to the new areas while not sacrificing service to our other members.

If you’ve driven on Highway 180 between Roby and Snyder in the past year, you’ve seen evidence of this growth. The new poles and wires there are larger to accommodate the higher volume of electricity that area requires due to the abundance of large oilfield-related loads. We’re also in the process of replacing the Nugent substation transformer, which will deliver even more reliable service to our members in that area. Many other projects are underway systemwide to improve service now and into the future.

Rates: Last year, we announced our restructured rates, which, for our residential, farm and seasonal members, will be implemented in three tiers. The first of these tiers became effective in November. Your co-op is fiscally strong, with well-managed finances, as you will see in the enclosed financial reports and hear about at the annual meeting. The rate change was necessary to make sure that BCEC remains financially healthy for the future and to more appropriately cover costs incurred at each level of service.

Bill redesign: As you will see on Page 21 and in more detail at the annual meeting, our bill format is getting a facelift. Our goal is to be transparent with our members about the information the bill includes, and the new look achieves that goal and is much easier to read and understand.

Director redistricting: Our January Texas Co-op Power and Membergram newsletter heralded our redrawn director districts. Migrating from nine to seven director districts ensures that you are fairly represented while increasing board efficiency and decreasing expenses.

Community involvement: Electric service is our core, but as a co-op, we are called to serve our communities as well. We recognize that a strong community is essential, and we are glad to be part of each community across our system. Sponsoring T-ball teams, local 4-H and FFA groups, and community service organizations is just one of the ways we make a difference. If you look around, you will see the BCEC logo on the shirts of many community volunteers—a reflection of our passion for service.

Big Country EC works with local chambers of commerce and economic development entities to be an active part of making our communities the best they can be. Our Operation Round Up program allows us to partner with members to support difference-making organizations as well as families in need. We recognize how blessed we are and in return are blessed to share with others.

Internal growth and development: Whether we’re talking about lineworkers or office personnel, knowledgeable employees don’t just appear—they are developed. As part of delivering safe, reliable service to you, we have invested in our people. Our goal is to cultivate a successive cycle of employees to keep Big Country EC thriving in the future. We recognize that one of the best ways we can serve you is to hire, train and retain employees with the skills to do the job well and the heart to want to do it the best.

We do all of these things on about a 4-cent margin per kilowatt-hour, which has covered our annual expenses well enough to allow us to return capital credits to eligible members.

It’s perhaps unsurprising that many communities, churches and businesses are adopting the catchphrase “Vision 2020” this year. At BCEC, we are more focused than ever on achieving optimal vision. We may deliver electricity, but really, electricity is how we deliver service—that is our strategy, our mission and your victory.