May 2017 LightREADING Newsletter

Download: May 2017 LightREADING (PDF)


Your Co-op’s hydropower advantage

While many utilities across the country struggle to find a clean, reliable and affordable power supply, Flathead Electric continues to enjoy the benefits of hydropower through the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA).

Although the BPA has capped the amount of low cost power Flathead Electric can purchase each year, the Co-op still obtains the bulk of its energy supply from BPA.

Flathead Electric also continues to explore alternative energy sources. According to FEC General Manager Mark Johnson, this has caused confusion among some members that the Co-op is phasing out hydropower.

“The opposite is true,” he says. “We need to look at other power sources to supply growth on our distribution system, but for the foreseeable future, we will continue to buy hydropower from BPA. We will also be vigilant to protect our members’ preferential access to hydropower as outside interests endeavor to limit hydro-generation in our region by working through the courts to try and remove the four Lower Snake River dams.”

While alternative energy sources are more expensive and the Co-op continues to see steady incremental rate increases from BPA, the good news is that the Co-op’s rates should continue to be among the lowest in the region, as they have been historically.

“It’s all about keeping perspective,” Johnson says, “and holding fast to our hydropower advantage.”

Advantages of hydropower:

  • Hydropower has virtually no carbon footprint.
  • Hydropower is reliable. Unlike solar or wind energy, it is unvarying and independent of weather and other factors. Intermittent resources like solar or wind need hydropower to fill the gaps when the sun isn’t shining and wind isn’t blowing.
  • The hydropower projects in our rivers provide effective flood control for Northwest communities, and have created recreational opportunities as well.
  • Water from rivers is a purely domestic resource that cannot be interrupted by foreign suppliers, production strikes or transportation issues.
  • Even though the law states that existing hydro is not renewable, it is largely viewed as a renewable form of energy that does not rely upon finite resources like natural gas or coal to generate power.
  • Hydropower turbines are capable of converting 90 percent of available energy into electricity, which is more efficient than any other form of generation.


Election results2017 FEC Trustee election results

The Board of Trustees for Flathead Electric Co-op has announced the results of its election. A total of 6,803 ballots were received.

6 – West Valley Duane Braaten 5,967 votes
7 – Kalispell, South of Hwy. 2 Gary Boe 5,830 votes
8 – Bigfork Jerry Bygren
Paul Holland
3,684 votes
2,750 votes
9 – Libby Terry Crooks 5,896 votes

FEC would like to thank Paul Holland who has served on the Board since 2000, and Earl Messick (District 9 – Libby) who has served since 2002 and did not seek reelection, for their many years of service as Trustees. They have served our members with honor and distinction, and we truly appreciate their hard work and dedication.


Annual Meeting highlights

Approximately 650 people (450 members) attended the 80th Annual Members’ Meeting held March 18 at the Canvas Church in Kalispell to enjoy breakfast, socializing and learning about their Cooperative.

  • Reports on the state of the Co-op and industry trends were heard from Co-op management, and candidates for the Board of Trustees addressed the audience.
  • This video was presented in celebration of the Co-op’s 80th anniversary.

  • Graduating high school seniors Tanner Karren, Austin Keller, Nicholas Rohrbach and Zayne Friar won $500 scholarships to accredited Montana colleges. To enter the drawing, students needed to attend the meeting and have a parent/guardian who is a member of the Co-op.
  • Congratulations to attendees who took home door prizes, including Sara Gomes who claimed the grand prize $500 bill credit!
  • Leftover breakfast was donated to the Samaritan House to feed the Flathead Valley’s homeless population.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the meeting. We’ll see you all again in 2018!


Keep poles clear and safe

Often working in darkness, rain, wind, heat and cold to make sure members have power, FEC line crews are trained and equipped to deal safely with natural elements. Man made obstacles on poles, however, can cause dangerous and even life-threatening issues.

Yard sale season is a good time to remind members to never hang anything on power poles. This includes signs and fliers. Staples, nails, tacks and wire can injure line workers or tear the safety clothing that is their first line of defense against electric shock. The integrity of utility poles can also be compromised by damaging their surfaces.


Yeti lineman
Photo courtesy of Alan Lewis Gerstenecker, Kootenai Valley Record

Yeti sighting

What began as a fun art project in Libby has turned into both a fundraiser for the Central School, as well as a popular tourist attraction. Students in art teacher Todd Berget’s class built and painted wooden cut-outs of yetis and placed them in various wooded areas in Lincoln County. The Yeti (also known as Sasquatch or Bigfoot) has become widely recognized in Lincoln County as a symbol of the mystique of the area’s wilderness.

The students enjoyed just watching the cut-outs surprise unsuspecting people for a time, but then the Yetis started disappearing and turning up elsewhere. So, the students started selling them to benefit the school.

Flathead Electric Co-op Journeyman Lineman Cody Katzer commissioned the students to build the Yeti shown in this photo, which now hangs proudly on the FEC radio tower at the Libby Co-op office. With its authentic hardhat, climbing belt and gear, Berget says the Yeti lineman is “the talk of the town.”


Roundup Report: Providing a safer experience in the great outdoors

Roundup for Safety - Ravenwood Outdoor Learning CenterA Roundup for Safety grant will help keep kids and adults safer while enjoying the great outdoors by funding first responder training for staff at Ravenwood Outdoor Learning Center.
Founders Laura and Brett Holmquist witnessed the “nature deficit disorder” trend – kids spending less time exploring outdoors and more time plugged into electronic media. This inspired them to create Ravenwood, offering camps and other activities at their forested sites in Columbia Falls and Creston.

“We work with over 400 kids every season, often in backcountry settings, and this grant will enable us to keep our staff well-trained for any potential emergency,” says program director Jennifer Bresee. “Thank you members of Flathead Electric!”

April 2017 Projects Funded

  • Kalispell Elks Lodge
    Bike Helmets – $1,000
  • Flathead 4-H Foundation
    Safety Shirts – $1,200
  • Kalispell Police (SRT) Department
    Flame Resistant Uniforms – $3,408
  • Kootenai Valley Christian School
    Door Lock – $703
  • Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation
    Radios – $760
  • Montana Kayak Association
    Personal Protection Equipment – $1,000
  • Western Montana Mental Health Clinic
    Defibrillators – $2,000
  • Flathead Area Mountain Bikers
    Safety/First Aid Training – $1,000
  • Whitefish Baseball
    Fencing – $1,500
  • Columbia Falls High School
    Lighting – $6,500
  • Kalispell Youth Softball
    Protective Equipment – $675


You would never just walk away from $48, would you?

Peak Time Rebate Program $48If you have an electric water heater and still haven’t signed up for the Peak Time Rebate Program, that’s exactly what you’re doing.

Signing up takes two minutes, you’ll help reduce your Co-op’s demand on the electric system, and we’ll credit your bill $48 per year. What are you waiting for?
Go ahead…

...pick up the $48.