June 2022 Light Reading

Download June 2022 Light Reading (PDF)

First year of electronic voting a success

Board of Trustees announces 2022 election results

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As a member-owner, you help to run your Co-op through nine elected representatives. These reps form the governing body of the cooperative as the Board of Trustees. Each year, three of the nine Board of Trustees seats come up for election. 

This year, the three incumbent Trustees were unopposed. Article VI, Section 6 of the Co-op’s bylaws require an election whether a race is contested or not.  

Results received from the independent election processing company Survey & Ballots Systems (SBS) showed a total of 6,848 ballots received. Of those ballots, 4,860 were paper mail-in ballots and 1,988 were e-ballots. 

  • District 1, Stacey Schnebel, 5,427  votes
  • District 4, Steve Streich, 5,379 votes
  • District 7, Gary Boe, 5,670 votes

This year’s election was the first in which electronic voting was available to members, via an emailed ballot, on the My Co-op mobile app, or on the Co-op’s website. These new voting options gave members more ways to participate in the election. 

E-voting saves your Co-op significant paper and postage costs, which helps keep rates low. 

If you’d like to opt-out of future paper ballots, update your voting preferences here.

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Flathead County leads Montana in EV ownership

Libby Charging 1
Libby Charging Station

Conversations about electric vehicles (EVs) are overheard as frequently these days as EVs themselves are seen in Flathead Electric Cooperative’s service area. At your Co-op’s Annual Meeting, held April 23, members had questions about EVs and their impacts on area electricity rates and reliability. On May 11, members attended a Libby ribbon cutting for a new EV charger and asked more questions. Weekly at the Co-op’s main office, members borrow EVs to drive and ask questions then, too.

Your Co-op loves questions – asking them on your behalf is a huge part of what we do as your electricity provider and answering them for you is what you can expect from your member-owned, not-for-profit cooperative. So, what can we tell you about EVs and how they impact your Co-op, and you? At this point, a lot.

We know that the highest concentration of EV owning Montanans is in Flathead County – in fact, we have almost two times more EV owners than Gallatin County, the next closest! We’ve come to understand that EVs, like most everything else we buy, come with pluses and minuses. We realize that some of our members are interested in EV technology, while others are decidedly not. We’ve spent years researching EVs and their impacts on our local grid, our region, our nation, and our world – and we’ll continue to do so.

All of this to say that your Co-op doesn’t take a position on EVs themselves, but we recognize that more and more of them are on the electrical system we manage. We can’t predict how quickly EV numbers will grow, but it’s our job to plan for them. We do know that if we properly prepare, EVs provide an opportunity to expand services to members in a way that could benefit everyone.

For example, the amount of power an EV can draw while charging is comparable to that of a single-family home in the morning, when everyone turns up the thermostat, toasts a biscuit, and dries their hair. If your Co-op educates its EV-owning members about best charging practices, and the EV owner chooses to charge the car overnight (as opposed to the morning and evening residential peak times) then that EV is actually beneficial to our grid.

How? Because at night, there is plenty of spare electrical capacity. The capacity must be there all the time to meet the morning and evening demands of residents, and the more consistent needs of commercial and industrial members. However, electricity is cheaper to purchase and to manage when the demand for it is constant and predictable. Said another way, reducing stress on the grid generally eases stress on wallets, meaning that the Co-op can purchase more power for less money when it is able to request power more consistently in a 24 hour period, and then pass those savings onto you. That’s how EVs can benefit a system (and you as a member), whether you decide to purchase an EV or not.

Libby Charging 2
First charge in Libby on May 11, 2022

Your Co-op isn’t advocating for more EVs on the system, but we know they are coming, and we have done our homework to manage their presence safely and affordably, and to make them work for the overall membership.

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Frequently Asked Questions about EVs

EV icon

Why does the Co-op own EVs and allow members to borrow them?

Your Co-op isn’t in the car business. We are in the business of providing education and awareness to our members about the growing EV industry, which has significant impacts on electric utilities. That’s why we offer our members an opportunity to try one of these vehicles.

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Does the Co-op’s system have the capacity to handle EVs?

Yes, it does at this time. The energy industry is constantly changing, and your Co-op will continue to monitor power supply and electrical demand (from EVs and beyond!) in the future and adjust as necessary.

Charging Station Icon

What is the difference between Level 1, 2, and 3 charging stations?

Essentially, the amount of time it takes a station to charge an EV. On average, Level 1 (standard 120v outlet) charges 2-5 miles per hour; Level 2 (typically used for residential charging) charges 10-20 miles per hour; and Level 3 (commercial DC fast chargers) charges at 3-15 miles per minute, depending on the vehicle’s voltage capacity. 

Money Icon

Who is paying for the car charging stations?

It depends on the station. Town Pump recently received a federal grant to install Level 3 chargers at multiple Montana gas stations. At the Co-op’s Libby station, EV owners will help to pay for the station each time they charge up, as the station’s infrastructure costs are included in the base rate, just as general electrical infrastructure is included in residential base rates. EV owners charging at home typically purchase a residential charging unit and hire an electrician to install it.

97 percent carbon free icon

 

What is the fuel mix for charging EVs?

We’re glad you asked. In the Flathead valley service area, about 97% of our electricity comes from carbon-free resources.

*NOTE – initially this newsletter published our energy mix as “97% Carbon-Free Hydropower” however this was a mistake – our power mix is 97% carbon-free, and about 80% of that carbon-free power comes from hydroelectric dams. We apologize for any confusion!

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Co-op Connection

Get to know the people working for you.

Stacie-Erickson

Stacie Erickson — Billings and Collection Supervisor

Q. What does the Billings and Collection Supervisor do for the Co-op? 

A.I’ve been here twenty years and help to supervise eleven amazing employees! I oversee billing cycle processes and the member information database. I review all collection procedures and help with capital credits. I ensure professional, courteous member service. I monitor special payment arrangements and oversee low-income energy assistance programs. 

Q. What’s the best part of your job? 

A. This is a great place to work! I enjoy learning something new every day. The people at the Co-op are all so talented and we all care so much about our members.

Q. What’s your favorite thing about living in the Flathead Valley? 

A. I love spending time with my husband, daughter and Goldendoodle puppy. We enjoy camping, boating, floating, hunting, fishing, and hiking. I especially enjoy raising my daughter in Columbia Falls – it’s growing fast, but still has that small-town feeling

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Congratulations to 2022 Scholarship Recipients

Your Co-op announces 2022 Scholarship recipients! A total of $117,000 – funded by unclaimed capital credits – was awarded.

Scholarships

Bigfork High School

  • Lillian Peterson | FVCC | Graphic Design
  • Elliot Sanford | UM | Geosciences
  • Levi Taylor | FVCC | Elementary Education

Columbia Falls High School

  • Mae Anderson | UM-Western | Business Management
  • Alexis Green | FVCC | Business
  • Cade Morgan | MSU | Kinesiology
  • Haily Mundel | FVCC | Welding

Flathead High School

  • Gabe Felton | MSU | Electrical Engineering
  • Rylee Houser | MSU | Music Performance
  • Cerise Lee | FVCC | Veterinary Science
  • Caden Masa | MSU | Electrical Engineering
  • Grayce Siderius | MSU | Agriculture

Flathead Valley Community College

  • Shanna Adams | FVCC | Medical Laboratory Technician
  • Luke Dahm | FVCC | Registered Nursing
  • Mackenzie Reiss | MSU | Nursing

Glacier High School

  • Zach Lapke | FVCC | Engineering
  • Aysha McCubbins | UM-Western | Secondary Education
  • Elijah Mildren | MSU | Architecture
  • Bethany Sorensen | University of Great Falls | Exercise Science
  • Michael Super | MSU | Architecture

Libby High School

  • Sidney Rusdal | Miles Community College | Pre-Vet
  • Taryn Thompson | UM | History Education

Montana State University

  • Alyssa Gerspach | MSU | Agricultural Science
  • Landry May | MSU | Crop Science
  • Aurelia Ramsey | MSU | Nursing

Stillwater Christian School

  • Dominic DeMario | UM | Fish & Wildlife Biology

Whitefish High School

  • Cody Berry | MSU | Biochemistry
  • Barret Garcia | MSU | Engineering

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ROUNDUP_REPORT_june2022
Photo courtesy of Logan Health

1,000 Child Bike Helmets Funded by Roundup for Safety

The Roundup for Safety Board funded about 1,000 child bicycle helmets for free distribution at Logan Health’s 6th Annual Spring into Safety Kids Day, held May 7th. The helmet grant totaled $7,965. Over the years, Roundup for Safety has provided funds for about 5,700 child bike helmets for the Spring Into Safety event. 

Logan Health invited area youth to bring in their bikes for a spring maintenance checkup. While mechanics checked out the bikes, Logan Health workers properly fitted helmets for the kids. Montana Highway Patrol also hosted an education bike safety road course.  

Logan Health Injury Prevention Coordinator Dan Daub said, “As the region’s healthcare provider, we see what happens when children have accidents when they’re not wearing helmets, and we want to do everything in our power to prevent these injuries, some of which are life changing.”  

In awarding community safety funds, the Roundup for Safety Board of Directors noted the grant’s focus on teaching children and their families about bicycle safety, and Logan Health’s goal to provide riders with the knowledge required to make better, safer decisions for themselves and those around them while riding bicycles. The Board also acknowledged the many community partnerships that make the Spring Into Safety event possible, including cash donations to cover shipping for the helmets, volunteer lunches, advertising materials, and countless volunteer hours.

May Projects Funded

  • Ravenwood Outdoor Learning Center AED with pediatric pads $1,359 
  • Good Grief Group — Life jackets $1,500
  • Flathead Area Mountain Bikers Assoc. — Bike helmets $650
  • Columbia Falls Swim Team — AED and swim lesson equipment $4,500
  • Columbia Falls Community Market — Traffic cones and signage $598

Roundup for Safety Celebrating 25 Years in 2022

Since 1997, you’ve rounded up your pennies for community safety in a big way!

Lifetime Project Funding

$4,441,702

2022 Project Funding

$81,534

Figures current through April 30, 2022. 

RoundUp for Safety Flathead Electric Cooperative

ROUNDUP FOR SAFETY is a voluntary program for Co-op members who round up their electric bills to the next dollar. This money is managed by an independent board and goes into a fund for community safety projects.

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