If you have any questions about your cooperative, please feel free to call the following staff members:
Tom Ruth, General Manager (785-743-5761)
Stacey Malsam, Asst. General Manager & CFO (785-743-2177)
Ron Aschenbrenner, Line Superintendent (785-743-1189)
Craig Cramer, Manager of Information Systems (785-743-2109)
The Value of Cooperatives
Western Cooperative Electric belongs to the people we serve. Western doesn’t just serve communities; we are a part of your communities. The people who work at our local co-op also call this home. What makes cooperatives a part of the community is that we are led by consumer-members like you, belong to the communities we serve, and were built by the communities we serve.
Electric cooperatives were formed by local citizens to bring energy to rural America, just like we still do today. We exist solely to provide reliable service at a reasonable cost while managing risks that could have a negative impact on you, our member-owners. We understand that energy creates jobs, fuels growth, and powers the lives and economies of communities across America. Without cooperatives electrifying communities and rural areas such as ours, many of our local economies would not exist.
Western is a not-for-profit organization. We have no profit motivation, no shareholders, and operate at cost on the revenue provided by our consumer-members. Revenue remaining after all operating expenses (margins) is returned to our consumer-members through a patronage allocation and returned as capital credits on a 15-year cycle. Western is member-owned, member-operated, member-governed, and self-regulated by a member-elected Board of Trustees. The leaders of our cooperative are your neighbors, consumer-members just like you. They listen to those in the community and understand the community. These electric cooperative characteristics add up to an important difference: we are focused solely on making your life better.
Concern for Community
- Western’s employees are its greatest ambassadors. Co-op employees are engaged in schools, boards, community organizations and church activities. Our employees are one of the most credible voices of the organization through their engagement.
- Western Cooperative Electric scored an 86 on its recent American Customer Satisfaction Survey (ACSI), above the electric utility average of 82.
- Western Cooperative Electric retires capital credits every year. Your Cooperative retired $1,491,670 cash in 2018. Total amount of patronage Western has refunded (1952-2003) $24,109,376
- Since 2000, Western Cooperative Electric has awarded area high school students more than $21,000 in college scholarships.
- Since 1964, Western Cooperative Electric has awarded 169 area high school students the opportunity to participate in cooperative youth tour trips totaling $421,350.
- Through Western Cooperative Electric’s rural Economic Development Loan Program, Western has approved 7 loans of $2,156,000 funding projects that helped create 21 new jobs and maintained 490 jobs in northwest and west central Kansas.
- Through Western Cooperative Electric’s revolving loan fund program, Western has approved 16 loans totaling $2,071,033 that helped create 9 new jobs and maintained 469 jobs in northwest and west central Kansas.
- Western Cooperative Electric pays more than $1,140,000 in property taxes annually.
- Western Cooperative Electric offers safety demonstrations for public education. Safety demonstrations have been given since early 1980s. Since 2013, 53 public demonstrations have been given to more than 3,000 students, emergency management personnel, and members of local clubs and organizations.
Your Cooperative Believes in Transparency
Political and media focus has been on Kansas’ overall statewide average electric rates compared to overall average rates in surrounding states, and cooperatives are equally interested in a solution. The primary cause of the regional difference is the mix of generation fuel types, efforts to build transmission, and distribution density costs. While generation costs have stabilized during the last 4 years, transmission costs continue to climb. This is largely a result of the cost for transmission facilities to move wind energy out of the region. This area often has more wind generated than energy demand, so in essence, area ratepayers are paying for transmission assets that largely benefit out-of-state wind developers.
Although the average electric rate has risen statewide, the good news is that, in the meantime, electric cooperative rates have been stable or declining. Western is a member-owner of Sunflower Electric Power Corporation (SEPC) and Mid-Kansas Electric Company, Inc. (MKEC), generation and transmission utilities that provide wholesale services to its members. Since 2014, Sunflower has reduced wholesale rates paid by member cooperatives by 14%, and Mid-Kansas has reduced wholesale rates by 16%. This reduction in cost is directly passed through to our consumers-members via a retail purchase power adjustment clause.
How is this possible? It’s because of the cooperative difference: since our mission is to provide our consumer-members with reliable services at the lowest possible cost, we seek ways to keep costs down. Western Cooperative Electric has one of the lowest residential rates in the state among Kansas electric cooperatives.
The Value of Electricity
Electricity has simplified household and professional chores and improved the quality of life, along with our life expectancy. All of us assume the lights will come on when we flip the switch, so the only time most people think about their electric utility is when the monthly bill arrives.
Your locally elected cooperative board of directors strives to set rates that are reasonable, maintain a highly reliable system and provide value to all members. It is important to remember an electric bill reflects four weeks of heating and cooling comfort, refrigeration, lights, meal preparation, clothes washing, drying and ironing, television and other media entertainment, computer, internet and cell phone charging and all those other activities of modern life.
In fact, you can still get significant value out of a single penny’s worth of electricity. To make the math easier, let’s say the average rate for a kilowatt-hour of electricity is 10 cents. That is 60 minutes of 1,000 watts of electricity for a dime, so a penny of electricity equates to 100 watts. It’s enough to power a 9-watt LED light bulb—the equivalent of a 60-watt incandescent bulb—for 11 hours, all for only a penny.
Where else can you get that kind of value? How many eggs will a penny buy? How much milk, bread, coffee, medicine or gasoline? If a gallon of gas costs $2.50 and your car gets 25 miles to the gallon, you can drive 176 yards—about two blocks— on a penny’s worth of gas. Eleven hours of lighting for a penny compared to a two-block drive clearly demonstrates the value of electricity.
Efforts to Enhance Efficient Operations
The value of electricity has remained strong primarily because co-ops work for you, and the Board makes decisions based on the best interest of our consumer-members. Of course, that means being efficient with resources without jeopardizing quality. A perfect example occurred in 1957, when 6 western Kansas distribution cooperatives, including Western, were having difficulty obtaining reasonable rates for power from large power companies. Their solution? They decided to generate and transmit their own electricity by forming Sunflower Electric Power Corporation.
Electric cooperatives have continued to pursue opportunities for cost saving and efficiency.
Western’s Board and staff continue to seek and implement efficiencies. For example, technology has enabled advanced metering and improved response to outages and customer service.
Cooperatives have also established alliances for some administrative and operational services with efficiency as a primary goal. One example of such a partnership is Kansas Electric Cooperatives (KEC), the statewide association for electric cooperatives. By pooling resources through KEC, Kansas co-ops receive essential support in areas that are most effectively and efficiently handled as a larger group. Among those benefits are legislative relations, tax and regulatory assistance, continuing education for employees and directors, safety training, youth outreach, communications, public relations, and mutual assistance when storms and other major outages occur. Nationwide cooperatives have created organizations that specialize in lending to rural electrics, group purchasing and maintenance of equipment, data processing, call centers and technology solutions that are all cost saving consolidations of resources.
Electric cooperatives are leaders in generation fuel utilization, including the integration of renewable energy into their fuel mix. Cooperatives also work with consumer-members desiring renewable or distributed generation (DG) capability from personal wind and solar assets. While sun and wind have no cost, renewable electric service is not cost-free.
- Co-ops are required to serve all members in their territory during times of peak demand.
- When members use Western only as a “back up,” it still creates costs for the co-op and fellow consumer-members.
- DG consumers make an individual choice to invest in private generation, and that choice must not be subsidized by other consumer-members. Co-ops must be able to recover costs from DG consumer-members connecting to the co-op’s grid.
- Fixed costs for connecting DG to the co-op’s grid remain relatively constant even if an individual’s energy purchases decline.
- Member-elected cooperative boards self-regulate rate structures and are responsible for recovering the cost of providing service to all consumer-members.
Western is focused on providing quality long-term service to our consumer-members in a cost-effective manner that promotes safety and reliability.
- Improvements that will save money over the long term:
- ESRI mapping database & electronic staking package
- Outage Management Systems
- Supervisory Control & Data Acquisition Systems (SCADA)
- Automated switching
- Cyber-Security protection measures
- We all share in making prudent investments in our electric system that maintain a reliable electric grid. We all need a reliable energy grid, so we all share in the cost of building and maintaining it.
- Investment in energy efficient renewables in a cost-effective manner will allow for more of our energy to come from clean sources over time.
- We are protecting against an increasing number of cyber-attacks and must invest in new technology to maintain a secure grid. While Western may be a small cooperative, we work together and collaborate as an industry to share information with each other and industry partners.
- Energy efficiency is the idea that using smarter electric appliances instead of older, gas powered ones can make us more energy efficient today and can allow more of our energy to come from clean sources over time.
- We believe in adding more energy from clean energy sources if it is done responsibly and without shifting or creating additional costs.
- We believe in maintaining a balanced energy mix to ensure 24/7 availability of energy resources.
|Business Structure||501(c) (12) Cooperative|
|Miles of Line||3,991|
|Full Time Employees||58|
Board and Key Staff Additional Responsibilities:
- Western Cooperative Electric’s Board of Trustees consist of 9 member-elected trustees committed to making sound decisions on behalf of Western and our member-owners.
- Western Cooperative Electric is one of six member-owners of Sunflower Electric Power Corporation (SEPC)/Mid-Kansas Electric Company, Inc. (MKEC)
- Western Cooperative Electric’s General Manager and one Western trustee member sit on the SEPC/MKEC Board of Directors to direct the activities and resources of SEPC/MKEC.
- Generation Resources: 8 Owned Generators=1,000 MWs; 4 Purchase Power Agreements =397 MWs
- Transmission Line: 2,369 Miles
- Total Plant: $1,400,000,000 (Generation and Transmission)
- Total Revenue: $270,932,675 (Power Supply and Transmission)
- Consumer-members Served: Approximately 220,000
- Western is also member-owner of the Kansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (KEC), a statewide organization that supports coops in areas such as governmental relations, loss control and safety, regulatory compliance, communications, education and training, and legal assistance.
Current Issues Facing Western Cooperative:
- Electric Rates in Kansas
- Sub. SB 69 is a compromise calling for another study of Kansas’ electric rate issues. Cooperatives and other electric utilities negotiated with representatives of large industrial consumers, the Kansas Chamber and green energy interests.
- Ideally, we would have preferred that a task force, comprised of Kansans, take an in-depth look at key rate issues, but the compromise calls for an independent consultant to perform the study.
- Cooperatives support a broad-based approach to energy policy development that thoughtfully investigates a wide range of energy policies including opportunities for rate relief.
- The compromise bill has been approved by the House, Senate and approved by the Governor.
- Phase 1 of the study expected Jan 2020.
- Western is currently undergoing a Cost of Service Study through an independent 3rd party engineering firm, a second phase of the Cost of Service Study in spring/summer of 2019 will include a rate design analysis.
- Sunflower (SEPC) & Mid-Kansas Electric Company (MKEC) merger expected to be effective Jan. 1, 2020.
- Consolidation of Western’s east and west systems into a single rate structure and a unified set of rules and regulations.
- FEMA Recovery - April 30, 2017, blizzard
- $1.2 million reconstruction work completed, reimbursement received
- Additional $1.2 million work completed, reimbursement not received
- Additional $4.3 million work for line rebuild remains to be completed
- Projected minimal economic growth out to year 2037 (<0.4%).
- Economic development efforts to attract new loads and retain current loads.