Annual Meeting Telephone Town Hall Questions or Comments

Below are the Annual Meeting Telephone Town Hall questions and comments submitted by members.

Question 1: Grid Access Questions

“My energy costs are always less than the grid access fee. Can I get my grid access fee reduced?”; “How is the grid access fee applicable to my account?”; “Can the monthly association fees be based on house occupancy versus per home? As a disabled veteran I use very little of the amenities and live alone.”

Answer 1: Grid Access Questions

As an electric cooperative, MVEA’s rates and structure are influenced by the principle that all members shall pay an equitable and reasonable investment back into the cooperative to maintain a sound financial position and reliable services. For a little over $1 per day, the grid access charge ensures each member is contributing to operating, maintaining and improving MVEA’s system for existing and future members alike.

Many services that we use in our homes or businesses have some form of a monthly charge to help cover the cost of providing the service, the infrastructure, and the support of the service. It might be called a service charge, basic charge, fixed charge or monthly minimum charge. At MVEA, we call it a grid access charge, and it offsets the cost to operate and maintain our system and to ensure our service is available to all members at the flip of a switch, independent of their monthly energy use.

What does it help offset? MVEA’s grid access charge helps offset many of the regulatory and business requirements associated with the costs of operating an electric cooperative and providing a service: the operation, repair and maintenance of MVEA’s entire system of lines (including materials), meter testing, pole inspection, tree-trimming, interest, depreciation, and property tax expenses, as well as insurance. These expenses are relatively fixed; they do not vary according to your electricity use. The advantage of having fixed costs covered by fixed charges is the ability to maintain a sound financial position and reliable services that are not influenced by fluctuating kilowatt-hour sales.

 

Question 2: Renewable Energy Generation Questions

“How can MVEA Co-op minimize it’s expenditures on “green” energy production since it is not cost effective and is not able to provide consistent adequate electrical power?”; “MVEA is heavily pursuing solar and wind power. It was mentioned in an MVEA magazine that members want MVEA to go this direction. However, I never recall seeing a survey or vote regarding this. Is this decision based on financial analysis (in which case, where can we see this) or on the opinions of a few outspoken members?”; “Please provide an update on Tri-State’s progress toward their Responsible Energy Plan.”

Answer 2: Renewable Energy Generation Questions

Tri-State Generation and Transmission is MVEA’s wholesale power supplier. As such, any change to their power generation portfolio to meet the requirements of regulatory policy is a shared experience.

In January, Tri-State celebrated the year anniversary of announcing their Responsible Energy Plan. “When we announced our REP with Colorado Gov. Jared Polis last January at the Colorado Capitol, we knew that it would be a difficult, but achievable effort to transform Tri-State into a 21st century cooperative,” said Duane Highley, Tri-State CEO. “We accomplished a great deal in 2020, but we have more work to do in the coming years.”

Renewable energy, gride resiliency, and reliability are hot topics that people feel very strongly about. For regular readers of Colorado Country Life magazine, this is a familiar topic. Since 2019, we have discussed Colorado’s rapidly evolving energy landscape: large-scale policy change driven by the decreasing cost of renewable energy, increasing support for an energy portfolio change by Colorado’s elected officials, the passing of House Bill 19-1261 “A Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution,” and the announcement by Tri-State, MVEA’s wholesale power supplier, to create a Responsible Energy Plan to meet regulatory demands. The changes started in 2019 were rapid, sweeping, and, at times, surprising.

We regularly receive questions and feedback from members who would like to see a more diverse energy mix adopted and a step back from the large-scale push towards renewable energy as a one-size-fits-all approach. They ask what they can do to slow or reverse the changes.

Transversely, we also regularly receive questions and feedback from members who support the energy landscape changes to a more robust renewable portfolio. “Keep adding more renewables to your portfolio,” is just as common a sentiment as the other perspective.

In recent years, power generation portfolio changes, that include significant carbon-reduction regulations, have been driven by voter demand and backed by legislative policy. And, the carbon-reduction regulations rely heavily on generation portfolio changes by the energy sector.

Whether you support or oppose the industry changes, we encourage all MVEA members to visit www.tristate.coop/responsible-energy-plan to learn more about Tri-State’s Responsible Energy Plan. Members may also find the following websites helpful:

  • www.colorado.gov/energyoffice: The Colorado Energy Office website provides timely information about evolving state policy.
  • www.energy.gov: The U.S. Department of Energy website includes informative articles and helpful resources at a national level.
  • www.electric.coop: A website of The National Rural Electric Association. Provides timely information about policies, issues, and emerging trends that impact electric cooperatives throughout the U.S.

 

Question 3: Residential Solar / Net Metering Questions

“Is MVEA interested in more residents signing up for solar energy?”; “I’m thinking on getting solar panels, what is your recommendation in regards to all solar panels: are all the same? Is there a difference? Should we stay away from some type of panels? and is there a disadvantage having solar panels?”; “How do we get the free solar panels from MVEA that we hear about on Facebook?”; “What was the impetus for changing the net metering banking policy where the member can elect to stay with the current plan or banking indefinitely?”; “Please discuss your plans to improve the solar panel inspection process.”

Answer 3: Residential Solar / Net Metering Questions

MVEA’s residential solar/net metering program is influenced by member demand…and right now, there is a growing demand pushed by improved technology and declining costs. We have seen our net meter accounts more than double to over 1,700 (and counting) in the last 2-3 years! In fact, we have expanded the net metering team and are adjusting our processes to better serve our members who would like to make the solar switch.

As the demand for solar power has increased, so has the number of calls we receive from members with concerns about solar company sales tactics, costs, and logistics. While we work with MVEA members in making the solar switch, we do not have preferred vendors or send sales teams out to canvas neighborhoods. Our net meter program is driven by member demand, and we work with the companies that members choose to do business with. We caution members against deceptive social media ads that promote “free” solar panels.

Making the solar switch is a substantial investment and we encourage members to contact us prior to purchasing a solar system to ensure that it can fully integrate and connect with MVEA’s system. Learn more: www.mvea.coop/interconnection.

For members who choose to make the solar switch, MVEA recently changed the Net Metering Banking Policy due to member request. This was a highly sought-after option by our net metering members, primarily because MVEA would pay out the kilowatt hour bank at the end of the year, and then members would need to purchase kilowatt hours at the beginning of the year (due to shorter days). Members requested to keep their banked hours, so they had enough to get them through the winter months. The feedback has been positive. “I appreciate the Association’s change of policy allowing those of us with solar to keep our banked kWhs. This was the right thing to do for your members,” was one member comment we received recently.

 

Question 4: Cybersecurity Questions

“What level of vulnerability do you have to cyberattacks? That goes way beyond the physical issues of trees falling on lines? What actions/plans are in place to protect the electric power grids from being attacked with malware or ransomware?”; “Please explain the security measures in place concerning unauthorized access to our usage data now that the smart meters are in place.”

Answer 4: Cybersecurity Questions

  • Technology and cybersecurity are as integral to electric cooperatives as the wires and poles that keep us connected and our lights on. At MVEA, cybersecurity awareness and training by all employees is a top priority and part of our strategic plan. In recent years, we have had an increasing number of members ask about our cybersecurity protocols. While we don’t want to give away our hand, we will share that it starts with regularly scheduled employee education, the adoption of innovative cybersecurity industry best practices (including network segmentation, a robust multi-factor authentication program, and defense in depth mechanisms), and hiring trained information technology professionals who are experts in their field. (We even have a “Certified Ethical Hacker” on our team to train MVEA employees on phishing practices, email scams, and password protocols. While it may sound ominous, the title is earned through a certification program and is respected among information security professionals.)
  • Protecting member information is an integral part of our technology security measures. No member-identifying information – names or addresses, for example – is stored in the meters or transmitted across the meter network. Information that is to be transmitted by meters is encrypted. The collected data includes: electric use readings, voltage levels, and outage/blink information. No personal information (i.e. member address, name, etc.) is transmitted through the communication network or stored inside of a meter.

 

Question 5: What is cable injection, how is it done, and why?

What is cable injection, how is it done, and why?

Answer 5: What is cable injection, how is it done, and why?

MVEA works with a specialty contractor, Novinium, to help breathe new life into underground lines that are a good fit for the proactive and cost-effective process called “cable rejuvenation.” It includes injecting a silicone-based liquid into the strands of aging medium-voltage power cable. The fluid migrates into the conductor shield and insulation, modifying the insulation’s chemistry and extending cable life. The process is guaranteed to extend the life of the underground line for up to 30 years.

MVEA uses cable rejuvenation in small communities throughout our service territory whose underground power supply is aging. As an underground power line ages, the insulation around the cables deteriorates resulting in faults that impact the reliability of service and increase the chance of reoccurring outages. Cable rejuvenation offers a long-term aging underground line solution at a fraction of the cost of the replacement process (up to half the cost). In addition, it is less damaging to the property above the aging cable areas. Instead of digging up an entire line of cable, targeted holes allow for technicians and lineworkers to access the area to be rejuvenated. Cable rejuvenation has been used to extend the life of underground lines in the neighborhoods of Woodmoor, Bent Tree, Colorado Center and Russellville.

 

Question 6: What concrete steps are you taking to add diversity to your workforce?

What concrete steps are you taking to add diversity to your workforce?

Answer 6: What concrete steps are you taking to add diversity to your workforce?

As part of our recruitment strategy to reach as large and diverse candidate pool as possible, we post our openings to between 12 and 15 different job boards. We joined NRECA’s VetsPowerUs program to help recruit and hire vets. We review our hiring practices annually and complete an annual Affirmative Action Report to help us continually seek out and hire a diverse workforce.

 

Question 7: Can switches be installed for exterior driveway lights?

Can switches be installed for exterior driveway lights?

Answer 7: Can switches be installed for exterior driveway lights?

Yes, switches for driveway lights, after the MVEA meter, can be installed by an electrician. MVEA does not have switches for utility-owned exterior lighting.

 

Question 8: What kind of whole home generator do you recommend?

What kind of whole home generator do you recommend?

Answer 8: What kind of whole home generator do you recommend?

There are many types of whole home generators and the best one for your home may differ from the one that would best serve your neighbor. Depending on your needs, a powerful portable generator may be a good option as well. Please contact Kevin, MVEA’s Key Accounts Executive, at (719) 494-2685 to explore generator considerations for your home.