Lamar Electric has been purchasing power through another cooperative for a little over 30 years. Recently Lamar reached an agreement that will allow Lamar to secure wholesale power from the ERCOT market. Prior to 2000, every utility in Texas either generated their own power or negotiated to buy power from a generating company. Most rural electric cooperatives banded together with other cooperatives to build or buy electric generating plants or used the combined load to secure a better negotiated purchase of power. In 2000 the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) was formed and now all electric generators sell their power to ERCOT. Entities that serve electric loads in Texas then purchase power based on the ERCOT electric market. Cooperatives that own generating assets, similar to our prior supplier, can use those assets to hedge against market fluctuations, since they are both selling and buying power and can match the buying price to the selling price they can, therefore secure power at the actual production cost. This has been a common practice to give some price stability over a long term.
This change in how wholesale power is purchased will allow Lamar Electric to take advantage of some of the currently lower priced wind and solar power and maintain retail rates much closer to unregulated retail energy providers.” However, I would cautioned that; This change will result in lower retail rates at this time, but the trade-off will be rates that fluctuate more as the ERCOT electric market fluctuates. Due to the continuing low price for natural gas and extensive increase in wind power, most projections indicate the market price for electricity in Texas will remain low for the next several years. Federal government tax credits for wind and solar are scheduled to phase out over the next few years, but congress has extended the deadline every time for the past 15 years. Even with the possibility of phasing out the tax credits for wind and solar, investment in these technologies continues to increase.
This reduction is estimated to be about 2 cents per kilowatt hour. This reduction should start appearing on customer’s bills with the first billing cycle in January.” A part of the Lamar Electric rate is a power cost recovery factor which allows changes in the wholesale power cost to be passed directly to the end customer. Office Manager, Betty Wood, said according to her calculations “this is a reduction of approximately $4 million a year when all Lamar Electric bills are added up.” Katie Morris, our Director of Communications for Lamar Electric, points out “the average residence using about 1000 kilowatt hours a month will see a reduction of about $20 per month.” The effect will be even greater for commercial accounts and those using more electricity.
The Farmer’s Almanac is calling for colder than normal temperatures for southern states during the 2017-2018 winter season. Cold temperatures do not cause outages. However, the Farmer’s Almanac also forecasts that precipitation will be at above-normal levels throughout the country. This is where we begin to start thinking about potential outages.
Freezing rain is the most concerning type of winter precipitation for us at Lamar Electric. Freezing rain is snow that has melted on its way down to the ground and refreezes once it hits the ground, a tree limb or electric wire, causing an unwelcomed layer of ice. Once ice accumulates on our lines it can increase the weight of the line by 30 times, according to The Weather Channel. A half inch accumulation on power lines can add 500 pounds of extra weight. Subsequently, the added weight can cause tree branches, power lines and utility poles to fall. Remember that the added weight doesn’t go away once the above-mentioned items fall to the ground. Our linemen must remove the broken wires, poles, trees that have fallen on the lines, etc., and replace the broken equipment, which takes a significant about of time and man power. Making repairs in freezing rain doesn’t speed things up either! We have contractors that we call if we have widespread outages. In severe cases we even call in other cooperatives to help us restore power quickly.
Needless to say, the weight of the ice causes the wires to sag. Sagging wires in a span can be snagged by a truck driving underneath, pulling down the poles at the ends of the span. This can cause a domino effect in which one pole snaps and forcefully pulls on the wires, causing the next pole in line to snap, which can initiate a long line of poles being snapped. As the ice begins to melt and fall off the sagging wires, they can spring back up and may be damaged as they hit overhanging branches or other wires. This occurrence is called sleet jumping.
Speaking of sleet, you may be keeping an eye on the news and looking out for any menacing winter storm words. Please note that freezing rain and sleet are two different things. Sleet is a snowflake that has melted partially and refrozen before it hits the ground. Freezing rain is a snowflake that has melted completely and freezes after hitting the ground or another object. While accumulations of sleet can make roads treacherous, sleet does not accumulate on powerlines, so ice events with more sleet than freezing rain pose a greatly reduced threat for power outages.
Stay prepared this coming winter season. Winter storms could strike at any time. The following items are a few key items that you may need should a winter storm hit and you find yourself without power:
Battery Powered Radio with extra batteries so you can hear the latest local weather updates
A couple of oil lamps with extra odorless oil for light
Portable cellphone charger to communicate with friends and family and to use in case of emergencies
Dry firewood for your fireplace or wood burning stove, should you have one
Smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector that operate on a battery
Battery powered flash lights
Blankets and sleeping bags
Canned/no-cook food (ex: bread, crackers, nuts)
Manual can opener
First aid kit
These are just a few suggested items. To find a full list of suggested winter preparedness items, please visit the website for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/disasters/ and visit the Winter Weather tab.
We are constantly on the lookout for major storms that may affect our service area. We do our best to remain prepared for any storm that could head our way. We encourage you to also stay prepared and be patient with us should your lights go out during a storm. Our linemen work hard in harsh weather conditions to restore your power as quickly and safely as possible. Winter is coming and we will be prepared; will you be prepared?
Lamar Electric Cooperative visited Bailey Intermediate school last week to teach 5th grade students about electrical safety. “Our safety demonstration creates real life scenarios to display the importance of electrical safety.” stated Lamar Electric Communications Director, Katie Morris. “We call our display Safety Town and we have power lines, a home, a school bus and more to demonstrate what can happen if power lines fall or if a conductor of any kind comes in contact with the power lines. Most importantly, we discussed how to be safe around electricity with the students.” The students recently learned about circuits, conductors and insulators in their science classes. Bailey students tried on the lineman’s thick rubber gloves and attempted to pick up pencils. A lineman’s job is one of the top ten most dangerous jobs in America. These students were able to get a small glimpse into what makes electricity so dangerous and received tips from Lamar Electric as to how to play it safe around electricity.
Lamar Electric’s online payment system will be down due to Scheduled System Maintenance beginning at 5:00PM Wednesday 10/18/17 and lasting until 6:00AM Thursday 10/19/17. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.
Recently Lamar Electric Cooperative did pole top and bucket rescue training. This training is done to prepare linemen to rescue a person who has been shocked while at the top of a pole or when in a bucket. Linemen practiced their rescue using a 175 pound dummy at the Lamar Electric substation in Reno. The electric cooperative’s goal is to have all of the linemen trained to do a rescue and take an injured individual down from a pole as quickly as possible so their fellow employees can begin CPR or administering first aid immediately before medical professionals arrive. Linemen work with thousands of volts of electricity high atop power lines 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to keep electricity flowing. Linemen are often first responders during storms and other catastrophic events, working to make the scene safe for other public safety heroes. In the unlikely event that a lineman is on a pole or in the bucket of a bucket truck and has a major medical emergency (such as an electrical shock) his fellow linemen are the first responders. According to Lamar Electric Director of Communications, Katie Morris, it is not a part of their typical day to rescue a man from the top of a pole or a bucket, however it is vital that they keep the rescue procedures fresh on their mind just in case. Scott Corely, a loss control specialist for Texas Electric Cooperative, assisted Lamar Electric with the training. “This is not a new training for most of these linemen. The majority of these guys are experienced and have been through this training a number of times” said Corley. “This is something we train for and hope we never have to use. This training provides the steps required to keep an injured man and the rescuer safe.” The linemen’s objective is to complete the rescue under four minutes in order to avoid any brain damage due to lack of
oxygen to the injured individual. All of Lamar Electric’s linemen completed a rescue in 2 minutes and 53 seconds or less. Lamar Electric Line Superintendent, Scott Sansom states, “In the 27 years that I’ve been at Lamar Electric we have not had to do a rescue like this. I hope we can go another 27 years without an incident.” In addition to being trained for pole top or bucket rescue, all Lamar Electric linemen are trained in first aid, CPR and AED use.