The next chapter | Guest column

by CHRIS THOMERSON

OPALCO board president

Thank you to all of the co-op members who participated in our 76th annual meeting. We are now looking forward to the next chapter of OPALCO’s long story – which we will write together.

During my seven years on the board, I have seen extraordinary progress in many important areas: increasing reliability, keeping member costs down and maintaining and protecting our historically strong financial position.

OPALCO consistently earns top ratings in external reviews by independent auditors, funders and federal agencies. Our Operations and Maintenance Program, Capital Projects Plan, Long Range Plan and co-op finances are evaluated regularly by outside agencies.  Our ratings top the charts. OPALCO has implemented new best practices in our internal processes for planning and managing projects, so that we can get more done each year with greater efficiency.

OPALCO is continually modernizing our physical plant. In 2012, we significantly upgraded and expanded our transmission and distribution networks, installing new equipment and replacing aging infrastructure. Electric power system reliability today relies on deploying new, innovative technologies. We have automated our system by connecting our substations with a fiber-optic network which allows us to use smart grid tools such as SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) to monitor and control equipment and power quality.

A major focus for OPALCO is containing member costs, because our energy costs from Bonneville Power Administration will continue to rise as the cost of power grows worldwide. OPALCO utilizes a multifaceted approach:

1. Continually installing more energy efficient grid equipment.

2. Supporting local renewable power generation, including solar, wind, and micro-hydro.

3. Providing members with programs and tools to promote conservation and energy efficiency. Get a Home Snapshot Energy Assessment today!

To further combat the rising costs of power, we are working with groups within our community to formulate a new rate structure that will be equitable while discouraging waste. This next chapter will be about efficiency, conservation and collaboration.

As OPALCO’s dedicated staff improves our system and supports our members, OPALCO’s talented management team maintains a solid financial foundation for the cooperative. By any financial measure, OPALCO is one of the strongest, best-managed rural electric co-ops in the entire country. If you ask people in the industry, they will tell you that OPALCO is a star performer.

Our co-op is about people. Our strength and progress are the results of hard work and commitment by the people of Orcas Power & Light Cooperative – your neighbors and fellow co-op members.  Join us as, together, we write OPALCO’s next chapter. And, please join me in offering a hearty “thank you” to all of those who have brought us to our current place of strength. Well done.