Q&A Energy Cost and SSVEC with CEO Jason Bowling
Jason Bowling, CEO at Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative (SSVEC) was on First Watch with Sheriff Mark Dannels to talk about high energy cost as it moves with inflation.
What is happening in the industry, not only locally but nationally, and even worldwide?
Jason Bowling: Our members are concerned, and rightly so, energy prices are just one more thing on the whole docket of things that have been affected by inflation, and this has been going on for close to a year now, not just nationally but globally. All over the world there's news articles about utilities having to raise their rates to recoup rising costs of gas, and 40% of America's electricity is generated by natural gas. It's a real challenge for our members. We made a conscious decision last year to not roll that cost out to our members immediately because we knew that summer is a peak time for us and we didn't want to blast them with a large cost. We phased it in, not just to give them a reprieve from the cost but also to give us some time to evaluate other options and find some creative solutions to bring that cost down without saddling our members.
What is Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative doing to address this?
Jason Bowling: Our directors decided it was important to get as much money as possible into our members hands and retired a record $5 million in capital credits back to our membership. That was purely and completely out of a desire to get that money in our members hands. Does that cover the full cost of the fuel surcharge? Of course not. Second, we're looking to get some local generation. We have some new gas units. (If gas prices are high why gas units?) We buy on the open market, if we can generate our own, we can do so more cost effectively than buying it on the market when pieces prices spike. When prices spike, if we can control our consumption and actually find ourselves in a situation where we have extra capacity, that puts us in a situation where that capacity can be sold while prices are high. We have this great relationship with our irrigators, our farmers in the Sulphur Springs valley around Wilcox and Alfreda; we can reach out to them and say, “Hey if you could just turn your pumps off for a little bit, prices are really high right now, just give us a few hours”, and we can use those hours to find ourselves in a situation with extra capacity, we can sell back on the market. That goes right back into bringing that fuel back down.
What Can individuals do to keep cost down?
Jason Bowling: Keeping costs down it can also be an individual member decision. Adjusting the thermostat and turning off lights. When temperatures are really low and we're having to buy a lot of energy in the summer time when temperatures are high and we're having to buy a lot of energy, that helps everybody out.
What about Solar?
Jason Bowling: We would like to be part of that conversation to help our members make those decisions to ensure that they're getting a good value for their investment. There's also the second side of that, the utility scale solar. We can also buy solar and we have a purchase power agreement with a provider that's building a 20 MW solar facility in McNeil. That will flood our local market with extra electricity that put us back in that situation of having to buy less on the market.