By Timothy J. Power, CEO
As 2021 comes to an end, I wanted to mention a few highlights of another busy year at DSO.
Winter Storm Uri – In February, we experienced Winter Storm Uri. Uri brought record-breaking cold temperatures across much of the south-central US. The extreme cold put a strain on energy supplies, especially in Texas and Oklahoma. As energy was diverted from across the country to help Texas and Oklahoma, we experienced Evergy shutting off power to some of our substations, as ordered by Southwestern Power Pool administrators. As a result, some of our members were without power for multiple hours.
During the height of the emergency, available energy was scarce and was selling for incredibly high prices. Unfortunately, we had to share some of those costs, as a portion of our power is determined by market prices. Fortunately, the amount of our power coming from the market is relatively small. When everything was settled across the country, DSO’s share of the extra costs amounted to a little over $800,000. We have been paying the extra charges monthly and will continue to do so for the next year.
Online Annual Meeting – For the second year in a row, we did not have an in-person annual meeting. In 2020, we completely canceled the annual meeting. In 2021, we took a different route and recorded the president’s report, CEO’s report, and the financial report and put the video on our website for our members to view. Members who watched the video had their names entered into a drawing for door prizes. We received limited feedback on the video, but most of it was positive.
Residential Rate Increases – In 2020, we completed a cost-of-service study that showed our residential rates were not bringing in enough revenue to cover the costs to serve those accounts. As we were in the middle of the Covid pandemic, we chose not to increase rates at that time.
By mid-2021, the residential rates had to be addressed, as the lack of revenue was becoming more evident. Following the recommendations from the cost-of-service study, the residential rates were increased (as were the lighting rates, which had not been changed in over a decade) and the new rates took effect in October.
New Solar Projects – In May, we had our “Flip the Switch” event as our solar projects in Junction City and just north of Lindsborg were turned on. Both projects sit on roughly eight acres of land and provide DSO with 1 MW of power. The solar projects are owned and operated by Today’s Power, which has installed and operates similar systems at nearly a dozen electric cooperatives in Kansas. The solar projects provide DSO with relatively low-cost electricity and each location saves us over $150,000 in annual peak demand power costs.
New CFO – After over 25 years at DSO, Judy Barten retired as CFO. Judy was such a big part of DSO and she took a lot of experience with her when she retired. But Judy had a hand in selecting her replacement, Marla Marshall. We were fortunate to find Marla, as she came to DSO with 28 years of experience as CFO at another electric cooperative. Marla was able to hit the ground running and is doing a great job for DSO.
Just like Covid made for an unusual 2020, the rare event of Winter Storm Uri set the tone for very unique 2021. Next month, I will look ahead to a hopefully “normal” 2022 and let you know what we are planning.
Happy New Year from all of us at DSO!