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November 2016

Eleven Years of Growth and Change I will retire from SWRE in early January. I’ve served

as the co-op’s CEO since early 2006, and I find myself thinking often these days about changes and challenges that the co-op has dealt with during those years, and pro- grams that we have implemented to deal with them. Looking back over the last 11 years, there are several things that we have accomplished.

Our billing system and member database were pretty much intact at SWRE when we began to expand tech- nology. One of the first things we did to expand on that system was to try to manage our peak demand. Peak de- mand is the highest amount of electricity SWRE has used at any one 15 minute period of time for the last year. We knew that we needed to work with irrigators to control peak because irrigation normally set an artificially high demand and yet only ran a few months out of the year. We worked with irrigators to voluntarily curtail usage

during peak periods. Irrigators were notified by texts and emails to shut off during certain periods of peak demands. Those who participated were offered a better rate. Within a short time, SWRE was able to electronical- ly turn off those irrigation wells for those who participated. The load control not only gave irrigators a better rate, but also decreased the overall demand for all members. About 2007, we began to examine the different tech- nologies available for “smart” electronic meters. Smart meant that the meter could communicate with a comput- er in our office and actually read itself. The system we choose communicates over the actual power line instead of radio waves that some felt were detrimental. We could now read meters and ping meters to see if they were on. Shortly after new meters had been installed, we be- gan an inventory of every pole and equipment within our cooperative.We actually did not have a firm count on the amount of poles and equipment we had in the field. Poles and equipment were numbered which enabled SWRE to start the next phase of technology – mapping of our system. We now had the ability to identify every pole or piece of equipment and actually view that location on a map.

Our next step was to expand the meter software from just being able to read the meter (AMR) to software which enabled us to provide information about usage, power quality, voltage, etc. to our members and engineers. Something called meter integration programs and meter data management software enabled our cooperative to create a customer application that merged with our billing system and allowed customers to view usage, bill history, payment of bills, and numerous alerts.

by Mike R. Hagy

With that technology in place, we were able to begin our outage management system that uses all of the previ- ous technology to predict and report outages across our system. Members can now report outages on their phone app and view outages across our service area. Linemen can view outages and get driving directions while the sys- tem predicts what fuses or transformers may be at fault. Added software will also allow better damage reports during storms and allow dispatchers to view the locations of trucks and response vehicles. Our computer designed mainly for billing sitting on the shelf has evolved to a climate controlled computer room full of servers and virtual servers. Cyber-Security, Intru- sion Software, Cloud based storage, and Apps were not things we were worried about ten years ago. There was no IT department – just a couple of us that may have done more damage than good when we had a computer problem! Technology on the horizon will allow all work orders

to be pushed out to the linemen on their iPads and will automatically assign hardware and equipment needed for a job and reduce the inventory lists at the same time. Workers in the field will also be able to “ping” a meter to see if the member came back on rather than having to be called from the office.

Members will also be able to prepay for their electric bill in the near future as well. Basically a member will prepay an amount each month and will be notified when accounts reach levels set by the member. Other coops have discovered that many members enjoy the option of managing their usage and budgeting at the beginning of each pay period.

Members are also able to purchase shares of the SWRE community solar fields, offset peak demand through the whole house generator program, and receive excellent rebates on Geo-thermal heating and cooling units. SWRE can also sell the member a DIY solar ground mounted array if that is what is desired. In the near future we are working to develop a partnership with a company to sell or lease whole house batteries that could be used to offset peak demands or provide backup power. The industry has changed tremendously in the last eleven years, and SWRE is poised to serve all the energy needs of our members for the next decade as well. I have been blessed to serve as the CEO of SWRE. I am sure that the vision of Safety, Service and Satisfaction, one member at a time will continue to evolve and expand. Thank you, and May God Bless Each of You!

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