Uncategorized

COO Report

Good morning and congratulations on celebrating Rio Grande Electric’s 76th Annual Meeting with us today. I hope you are happy, healthy, and especially comfortable—we have quite a bit more to share with you this morning.

It is true! A lot has happened this past year at Rio Grande Electric and the happenings do seem to continue, and even so, all around us in the world today.  From an operational standpoint, I can whole-heartedly assure you that Rio Grande Electric Cooperative remains POWERFUL in its mission to provide SAFE and RELIABLE energy services—because it’s who we are and what we do for those we are privileged to serve.  Rio Grande Electric is a workforce of 162 dedicated employees, working hard out of SIX area locations to maintain 9,990 miles of energized line and 14,912 services in place, within a 35,000 square-mile service territory—serving the largest territory among all electric cooperatives in the contiguous United States, and most investor-owned utilities, for that matter. [INSERT SERVICE TERRITORY MAP]

With an efficient use of engineering resources and technology, field crews SAFELY maintained RGEC’s critical infrastructure and just in time, I might add—when civilization, as we know it, was threatened by the very nature of the living world. Steering through such dangers hasn’t been easy, nor cheap but we stayed the course and continued working towards improving the overall health of the distribution system and member experience.

Operations field crews alone have driven a little over 1 million miles and worked 111,000 hours, this year—performing maintenance, and of course restoring the extraordinary winter storm outages touching almost every service across Texas—in total, field crews have restored 3,415 outages. They connected 155 new services; and centered on 84 construction projects—conducting inspections, pole replacements and substation upgrades throughout the system.

With only 3 Lost Day Injuries—knock on wood—line work is both a craft and skill that RGEC Linemen take very seriously…every day, SAFETY, is their commitment to each other and their loved ones—and there’s still a lot of work to do, which brings me to the Construction Work Plan recently approved by RGEC’s Board of Directors—this report was developed by evaluating existing and projected system configuration, voltage levels, and load balance to provide us an orderly plan to carry out construction and other needed improvements for the next 4 years. –Year 1 work is scheduled for 2022.

HEALTH and SAFETY are at the core of our challenges this year; and our efforts to preserve a healthy workforce are purposeful—(PPE, social distancing, split-shifts, electronic communications, virtual meetings and the constant disinfecting and screening to name a few) allow us to align our commitment to serve and our vision forward.  The sacrifices made do not go unnoticed. To the families of Co-op Employees, THANK YOU for sharing your loved ones with the membership and your communities. They are the heroes, giving selflessly to make a true difference in the world.

You see the linemen working in your area and immediately associate them with the Co-op, and maybe you’ve had the occasion to meet the customer service representatives at your local area office. But you may not have realized that there are a multitude of people working behind the scenes at Rio Grande,keeping things running smoothly day-in and day-out.

It’s unlikely you will ever meet the employees in the accounting or billing departments, for example, Or the GIS and staking technicians, or the project managers or systems engineers. And while they may not be as visible as the linemen, all these employees, and scores of others, are nevertheless important to the daily operations of the Cooperative. Like everyone at Rio Grande Electric Cooperative, they never forget that they work to serve you! If they're not serving your directly, they're serving someone who is.

My name is Theresa Quiroz, COO of Rio Grande Electric, and I am grateful for the opportunity to share this information with you. Thank you for taking the to connect with us today. Stay safe, and stay watchful, we still have more prizes to give away!

CEO Report

Good morning everyone,

Thank you for joining us today at emPower Summit 2021, celebrating the Co-op’s  76th Annual Meeting.. My name is Roger Andrade, CEO of Rio Grande Electric Cooperative. It is an honor and a privilege to be here today. We are gathered once again in a virtual environment in an effort to continue to promote the health and safety of our members and valuable staff. The board of directors and yours truly deliberated significantly on the decision whether to go virtual or hold an in-person meeting. It was everyone’s desire  to return to some form of normalcy and hold the meeting in person; however, given the ever-changing environment, the prudent and obvious choice was a virtual meeting.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the wonderful employees who  contributed to the making of this meeting. Without their dedication and support, this meeting would not have been possible. I would also thank our board for their leadership in making tough decisions throughout these times.

When December 31st 2021 rolled around, I think I can speak for everyone when I say, “I’m glad that’s over!”  We all wanted to turn the page and close that chapter of the book, along with all the challenges and difficulties that came with it.  Then along came 2021, and said “Hold my beer!”  The year started with one of the saddest events in our recent history as a nation, with the January 6th insurrection.  This was quickly followed by the costliest winter storm on record, and the second deadliest storm in North America  -- Winter Storm Uri.  After all that calamity, we started seeing a positive trend and recovery toward a post-covid era. But it was not to be, and  was stopped in its tracks by the coronavirus delta variant.  Immediately following this, were a couple of very serious cyber threats that exposed serious and far reaching vulnerabilities within the country’s critical systems in Solarwinds and the Colonial Pipeline hack.   Now more recently, and in our own backyard, the border crisis is at its worst in history.

I could easily fill today’s report and recount all the negative events that have transpired this year, but I won’t.  I think we hear and see plenty of that on our news feeds and media every day.  Instead, let me share with you what has kept the  Cooperative busy throughout this year.

We doubled down on efforts to perform maintenance on all facilities.  In doing so, we ensured that  contractor crews remained present performing system improvements in various areas of our service territory.  This is important because, not only is  aged infrastructure being updated, it also allowed us to have additional resources, or “boots on the ground”, so to speak, when storms hit, and that has paid tremendous dividends in terms of responding to outages and minimizing losses due to damages to poles and  lines down, etc. Those two things combined have contributed to  better restoration times than we have had in prior storms.

Although the pandemic continued to wreak havoc on all aspects of our lives here and around the world,  Rio Grande  took a dedicated approach to ensure that the people, the technology, and the materials were available to continue to operate and maintain the Co-op’s  infrastructure. This  brings me to another highlight that I cannot stress enough – that is the materials alliance with Texas Electric Cooperatives, and the benefit it has provided.  During the pandemic related labor, and raw material shortages, as well as through international events such as the Suez canal debacle, the global supply chains were severely impacted, making it almost impossible to source materials in a timely manner. TEC maintained strong communications with us and ensured that our materials procurement was not impacted significantly. Although we did experience some delays, much like everyone else, those were manageable. Rio Grande was  able to ensure the cost of materials did not have  the huge increases most of us experienced at local hardware and building supply  stores.

Last year, I shared with you some of the goals that were set out by the Cooperative’s Board of Directors and management, as part of the  strategic planning session that took place in 2019. I also highlighted how technology was invaluable, in order to provide business continuity and become more efficient in the way we do things on a day-to-day basis. Well, 2021 allowed us to build on that baseline and look at other opportunities to  become more efficient. The Co-op  took on a couple of pilot projects that yielded very positive results. One that I’d like to share is the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, in order to inspect, analyze and identify problems areas within our system. The inspection results provided not only visual data, but also detailed reports of the issues found in the distribution land transmission lines. These inspections  allowed us to prioritize areas to address, in order to prevent extended outages in the future.  This is another example of how a strategic objective allowed resources to be focused where they would do the most good in helping to deliver safe reliable energy to you.  Staying on the topic of technology and those employees who  work in that department to deliver you the services you need, the positions and expectations of the dispatch department have been elevated. Dispatchers now have additional tools and resources at their fingertips to provide members with better information in terms of outages, and to assist the line crews in the field with narrowing down the areas of concern, or potential areas, affected by a storm or other event.

I have a  couple more items worth noting before I proceed on with some of the latest news and upcoming projects within the Cooperative. First, we were able to secure new insurance policies, which had an increase in premiums of only 3/10 of 1% over the prior year’s policy, and required no changes in coverage. This is extremely important, given what we had seen across the state and across the nation, where insurance policies are concerned. Between the wildfires experienced in the western part of the country, and winter storm Uri, some insurance providers would not reinsure existing policyholders because of the potential risks.  Another highlight related to Insurance and premiums is that Rio Grande  was able to renew health insurance at zero increase in cost to the employees and to the Co-op,  with no changes in coverage. This is another area where significant increases in premiums were anticipated, due to the massive number  of claims and medical visits associated with the pandemic.  We continue to remain vigilant, and look at every opportunity to ensure we are efficient and mitigate any cost increases, to the extent possible.

Now to some exciting news that I’d like to share with you --  We have relaunched and revamped the Rio Grande  website, and I couldn’t be more proud of the outcome!  The website was revamped to make access to information easier, and more user-friendly. We made sure that it  was compatible with multiple devices, including mobile devices.

And finally, I wanted to reiterate what you’ve heard from CFO Shawn Stanley, as well from board president Mr. Billy Foster -- The Cooperative is in a good financial position.  Although we have faced many challenges throughout the last 18 months, we have been able to overcome those, with an emphasis on holding costs down.  Therefore, we do not anticipate having to resort to any rate increases in the near future.

II hope you have enjoyed the content of this year’s annual meeting so far. Stay with us! There is more information to share, prizes to be won,  and the chance to take home the Grand Prize!  Thank you and God Bless!

Treasurer’s Report

Good morning, I’m Shawn Stanley the Chief Financial Officer. I’ll be going over the Treasurer’s Report with you this morning.

First off, I’d like to cover the 2020 financial results. For 2020, revenue was at $59.8 million, expenses were at $50.9 million, and margins for the year were at $8.9 million. This was a very good financial year for the Cooperative, and it allowed the board to do some special things. First off, they were able to retire early $2.1 million of capital credit for the year 2019. These were issued as credits on 2020 bills. Additionally, we were able to under-recover $1 million in power costs. Normally, we would have passed this on and billed for these costs, but we were doing financial well, so we opted to under-recover.

Meters continue to grow by just over 1% annually, that’s about 150 meters per year. Through June 2021 we had 14,015 meters.

Energy sales are staying strong, and we are projecting 2021 to hit 400 million kWh. This is down from our all-time high in 2019, which was 512 million kWh. The pandemic slowed down the economy, and many of our industrial consumers ramped down their operations. Most of those are still connected to the system, and are slowly regaining normal operations.

Let’s take a look at the 2021 financial results through June. Through the first half of 2021, revenue was at $29.2 million, expenses were at $25.6 million, and margins were right at $3.6 million. We are trending well for 2021, and I expect margins to be somewhere in the $6.5 to $7 million at the end of the year.

Now I’d like to go over the Cooperative’s revenue with you. One of the Cooperative’s strengths is our diversified revenue mix, we have a good source of different revenues. This is good for the Cooperative, because we are not dependent on one revenue group or consumer. I’ve heard of utilities that have one consumer that makes up 90% of their sales. There is a lot of risk in that, and I’m happy to report that the Cooperative doesn’t have that type of revenue.

Revenue breakdown:

  • Large power- 26%
  • Commercial- 24%
  • Residential- 23%
  • Irrigation- 10%
  • Military- 10%
  • Seasonal- 4%
  • Other 3%

We have a good diversified mix, and that is a strength for the Cooperative.

Expense for the Cooperative, through June 2021, were at $25.6 million.

Expenses breakdown:

  • Power Cost- 54%
  • Operations and Maintenance- 21%
  • Depreciation- 11%
  • Administrative- 8%
  • Interest Expense- 3%
  • Consumer- 2%
  • Other- 1%

Power cost is by far biggest percentage of expenses. The Cooperative spends a lot of time and effort focusing on power costs. I’m happy to report that in the 5 years ending 2020, the Co-op’s power costs are 20-30% lower than the national average, and 5-8% lower than the Texas average.

One thing we do when were are negotiating contracts is we try to avoid risks, and that paid off tremendously during winter storm Uri. We weren’t out on the market and exposed to those $9,000 market prices that everyone has been talking about. If we had been out on the market, that could have cost the Cooperative in the range of $40 million. I’m happy to report we were not in that group that was significantly harmed by the winter storm.  We had some high costs that we had to pay for ERCOT, but we were financially strong and more than capable of paying those costs.

Next up we have our borrowed debt. The Cooperative can borrow money to pay for capital improvements or get it from consumers. We have a lot weight when we go to borrow money, and can get very good low rates. Our debt was at $39.8 million, through June 2021. We haven’t borrowed a lot lately, but I’m excited to share we have a construction work plan that was just approved by the board. This will produce some really good projects across the service territory. With that work plan, we will be developing a loan package, and we will borrowing out in the future. It’s a good time to be borrowing, interest rates are low, and we’ll be able to lock in some really good rates for capital improvements.

Total utility plant is growing on average about $6.7 million per year. As of June 2021, we were right at $194.8 million. Total utility plant is everything, it’s the substations, poles, conductors, everything that the members own. We are constantly putting back, reinvesting into the system to keep it up and running, and improving it for the membership.

I’d like to conclude the treasurer’s report with the message that the Cooperative is in a good financial position. That’s despite going through a pandemic and an unprecedented winter storm. We’ve dodged those bullets, and the Cooperative is a good financial position to continue to meet the membership’s needs.

Again, I’m Shawn Stanley and I hope you enjoy the rest of the presentation.

President’s Report

Good Morning Everyone,

As I reflect over the last year, I wonder what else could go wrong. Last October, we were fully involved in the COVID-19 pandemic, with no end in sight. As everyone knows, by early 2021, things were beginning to improve. The Co-Op was managing well, even with all the difficulties that COVID brought about, and keeping the lights on. But then what happens?  We are faced with the biggest winter storm anyone could have imaged.

The Co-op always prepares for winter storms and the problems they bring, but no one was fully prepared for Winter Storm Uri. The biggest storm to hit the United States, and especially Texas, was one for the history books. The largest problem for Rio Grande was trying to manage the rolling blackouts ordered by ERCOT. I know some members had problems, but as a whole, Rio Grande members fared better, and most had their power restored before people living elsewhere. I am very proud and want to say “Thank You” to management and all the personnel of your Co-Op--Especially the linemen who had to work in those conditions, and never once hesitated. Also, I would like to acknowledge and say “Thank You” to the members for being patient and understanding under these very difficult conditions. The cost to the Co-op was substantial, and if not for the strong financial position we are in, things for the members could have been a whole lot worse.

As the year progressed, COVID-19 eased and things were returning to something like normal. I was looking forward to having the annual meeting in person, with maybe a virtual side. But, as everyone now knows, the challenges for 2021 were not done. The pandemic found a new foothold, and is now in full swing again. So here we are once more, having our meeting virtually. Building on the success of last year’s meeting, I hope you will enjoy this one.

This last year has been a difficult time for Rio Grande Electric with all the challenges that we have had to deal with. I want you to know that you can be proud of every employee of Rio Grande. They have meet every challenge and worked hard to overcome and persevere.

I also want to thank all of the directors, who have shown their leadership through all of these challenges. They have stepped up and attended the monthly meetings with the thought of their counterparts’ safety in mind.  If there was any chance they might have been exposed to COVID, they took measures to keep everyone safe and still take care of business. It has been my honor to work with such a dedicated and conservative group of men and women. Thank you.