As we put winter behind us, Lake Region Electric Cooperative is ready to tackle its 2018 Construction Work Plan. Our focus is on providing reliable and safe electric service to our growing co-op membership and this requires continual reinvestment in our local power grid.
We have laid out an aggressive construction plan, roughly worth about $7,000,000. It’s also a proactive plan that incorporates a variety of facility upgrades and infrastructure improvements.
The costs involved in operating and improving our grid are recovered through the facility charge on your billing statement. The facility charge represents the expense to LREC, your member-owned cooperative, of providing an energized electric service regardless of the amount of electricity, if any, used at the account site. We calculate the appropriate facility charge for each type of account through conducting comprehensive cost of service studies.
The aging Ten Mile Lake Substation will receive a needed upgrade. This work is necessary for LREC to be prepared to meet future electrical demands and growth in the region.
Another key project in the 2018 Construction Work Plan is the replacement of identified power poles for purposes of improving electric reliability and safety. We’ve budgeted $1,167,000 for pole replacements.
I’ve mentioned before how LREC employs data analytics technology to help pinpoint potential weakened areas of our grid that are deserving of closer scrutiny. Our goal is to take preemptive action to decrease power outages and increase the value our members receive from their cooperative. We plan to change out a large number of porcelain fused cutouts this season. Fused cutouts are important to the proper operation of our electric distribution system. Their purpose is to protect distribution lines and transformers. When a fault occurs on the line, the fuse melts and disconnects the transformer from the line. The cutout can also be opened manually by lineworkers. We have found that the porcelain component of the cutouts is prone to developing small cracks. As moisture gets in these cracks and freezes, the cracks expand and the cutout will often fail.
We take outage prevention and reduction very seriously. Of course, we have no control over storms, animals, or accidents, but we have addressed other things which are in our control. During the 2004 — 2005 time frame the LREC distribution system experienced an average of 4.4 hours of outage time per year, per member. Finding this unacceptable, your cooperative has undertaken a thorough program of vegetation management and tree clearing along power lines. This effort, coupled with grid modernization, is proving to substantially reduce outage times. Since 2011, average outage times have consistently been below 2 hours per year, per member. We’ve cut the outage times by more than half. The numbers even reflected an average of 1.4 hours per year, per member during one point during the last several years. Clearly, LREC has made good progress.
LREC now has more than 28,000 cooperative members and is continuing to grow. We also expect to build service into more than 300 new accounts this year. As you know, the terrain can often be challenging with abundant lakes and trees throughout our service territory. Now imagine making two round trips driving between Pelican Rapids, MN and Galveston, Texas. That’s the rough equivalent of LREC’s distribution grid —5,800 miles! It’s expansive!
Remember, this is an electric distribution cooperative that you own and control. Your membership in LREC matters to us and we are working diligently to exceed your expectations of value, safety, and reliability.