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Halfway to Summer

Early August marks the halfway point of the calendrical summer season – although most of us view Labor Day as the end of “real” summer. (Students may view the start of school in August as the end of their summer!)

The late and wet spring and resulting delayed planting have caused many challenges in what seems to be somewhat unusual weather patterns this year. Let’s hope for a good growing season and a long, warm, and dry harvest season to lead into winter.

We recently took some time to visit our daughter in the state of Washington. I’ve included a few photos of the trip along with this article.

It is a beautiful state with a stark contrast of geography from Puget Sound in the Seattle area, to the awesome sight of Mt. Rainier in the Cascades mountain range, to the high desert conditions and minimal plant life in the east side of the state.

We were fortunate to visit Vancouver and participate in Canada Day on July 1 (their Independence Day), as well as to enjoy the traditional July 4th celebrations and fireworks in eastern Washington. We also toured Reactor B at the Hanford facility. This was the first reactor in the world to manufacture plutonium during World War II. Some of the plutonium from that site was used in the bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki Japan, which effectively ended the war. It was amazing to see what was accomplished in such a short time to build a manufacturing complex with nearly 50,000 workers in the middle of a desert in eastern Washington during that time frame without computers or modern construction equipment. Many of the technological advances from that era have changed the way of life for us as compared to our grandparents’ generation and helped to shape the modern geopolitical world.

For those of you that were not able to attend our Annual meeting in early June, I did want to pass along one of the topics I discussed. As I have previously mentioned, EIEC completed a Cost of Service Study in 2018, and we are preparing for the follow-up rate study later this year. EIEC has not changed its distribution rate components since 2013. We will need to adjust our rates soon (our current 2019 budget year has no increases). We are continuing to review and analyze the cooperative’s needs and will keep you advised of any Board decisions.

The end of August brings the start of football season and cooler evenings – make sure to support your favorite local high school and college football teams.

Cooperatively,
Bob Hunzinger

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Stay Back and Stay Safe

Working with electricity can be a dangerous job, especially for lineworkers out in the field.

In fact, USA Today lists line repairers and installers among the most dangerous jobs in the U.S. That’s why for Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative safety is the number one priority. This is not empty talk. Over time, we have created a culture of putting our crews’ safety and that of the community above all else.

Our mission is to provide safe and reliable energy to you, our members. Yes, we strive to deliver electricity to you 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, but equally important, we want our employees to return home safely to their loved ones. This requires ongoing focus, dedication, vigilance, and your assistance to make that happen!

Distractions can be deadly.
While we appreciate your kindness and interest in the work of our crews, we ask that you stay back and let them focus on their task at hand. Even routine work has the potential to be dangerous, and it takes their full attention and that of their colleagues, who are also responsible for the team’s safety. Distractions can have deadly consequences. If a lineworker is on or near your property during a power outage, for vegetation management or for routine maintenance, please allow them ample room to work. These small accommodations help protect our crews–– and you.

If you have a dog, try to keep it indoors while lineworkers are on or near your property. While most dogs are friendly, some are defensive of their home territory and can’t distinguish between an intruder and a utility worker.

We recognize that for your family’s safety, you want to make sure only authorized workers are on or near your property. You will recognize Eastern Illini employees by their clothing, hard hats, and the service trucks with our name and logo on them. You may also recognize our lineworkers because they live right here in our local community.

Slow down and move over.
In addition to giving lineworkers some space while they are near your property, we also ask that you move over or slow down when approaching a utility vehicle on the side of the road. This is an extra barrier of safety to help those who help all of us.

While cooperative crews and linemen work outside all year long, in the summer more projects are set in full motion: right-of-way tree trimming, pole inspection and pole replacement, power line placement, line laying and more. One of our top priorities at Eastern Illini is to bring you, our members, reliable power. These projects help ensure we can reliably deliver power to your home or business. Just as important to us is safety of both you and our employees.

When signs that indicate any type of construction ahead are placed on the side of the road, please pay attention. These are typically bright orange diamonds that say, “Utility Construction Ahead.” These signs are there not only for the workers protection, but for yours as well. If you see any of those signs, please slow down and, when possible, move over. We ask that you vacate the lane closest to the EIEC vehicle that is working near or on the side of the road.

For more than two decades, speeding has been involved in one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities. As you come up on a utility construction zone or approach EIEC employees who are trimming trees, replacing poles, or repairing damaged lines, slow down to 20 mph below the speed limit.

We understand you have places to be and are sometimes are in a hurry to get there, but simply taking the time to slow down and move over in a construction zone will ensure both you and our crews stay safe.

Our lineworkers perform an invaluable service and we care about them deeply. With your help, we can make sure they go home to their families each and every day.

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An Efficient HVAC System

Ah, summer. It has finally arrived. It’s the perfect time of year for cookouts, swimming pools, camping––it’s the ideal time to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends. And when it’s time to come back indoors, there’s nothing better than that cool blast you feel from your home’s air conditioning unit.

Your heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system is essential to keeping your home comfortable during summer months, and if it breaks down, it’s also the most expensive equipment to repair or replace. Luckily, there are simple steps you can take to lengthen the life of your HVAC system.

Change or clean filters.

Dirty filters block airflow, which can greatly decrease the efficiency of your system. The Department of Energy recommends changing or cleaning filters every month or two during the cooling season. If your unit is in constant use or is subjected to dusty conditions or pet hair, consider checking filters more frequently.

Periodically clean the HVAC unit.

Outdoor condenser coils can become clogged with pollen, dirt and small debris. Use a hose to spray the HVAC unit once each season to ensure maximum airflow. (Warning: Do not use a pressure washer as it can cause damage to the equipment.)

Clear space around the HVAC unit.

Dryer vents, falling leaves and grass left behind from the lawnmower can create buildup. Remove any debris around the HVAC unit. If you have foliage near the unit, trim it back at least 2 feet around the condenser to increase airflow.

If you want to evaluate the efficiency of your HVAC system, try this quick test. The outdoor temperature should be above 80 degrees, and you should set your thermostat well below the room temperature to ensure the system runs long enough for the test.

1. Using a digital probe thermometer, measure the temperature of the air being pulled into your HVAC filter.

2. Measure the temperature of the air blowing out of your A/C vent.

3. Subtract the A/C vent temperature from the HVAC filter temperature. You should see a difference of about 17 to 20 degrees. If the difference is less than 17 degrees, you may need a licensed technician to check the coolant. If the difference is greater than 20 degrees, your ductwork may need to be inspected for airflow restrictions.

You should also have your HVAC system periodically inspected by a licensed professional. The frequency of inspections depends on the age of your unit, but the Department of Energy recommends scheduling tune-ups during the spring and fall, when contractors aren’t quite as busy.

When HVAC equipment fails, especially in the dog days of summer, it’s not only inconvenient and uncomfortable, but it can also be expensive to repair.

Remember, your HVAC system runs best when it’s regularly cleaned and serviced. With a little maintenance along the way, you can add years to your system’s lifespan.

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2019 Youth to Washington D. C. Trip

What do you get when 62 students from 26 Illinois electric and telephone cooperatives join more than 1,800 of their peers from across the United States? You get the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) Youth to Washington Tour.

Four local students represented Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative during an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. from June 14 – 20 as part of the annual Youth Tour. The 2019 Youth Tour delegates from Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative include Shelby Basham, Ashkum; Cameron Douglass, Rossville; Liam McMullin, Loda; and Dane Thorne, Onarga.

The students toured Capitol Hill and met with U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth and U.S. Representatives Adam Kinzinger and John Shimkus. They also visited historical and cultural sites including Arlington National Cemetery, the Supreme Court, President Lincoln’s Cottage at First National Cemetery, a variety of memorials and the U.S. Capitol.

“Youth Tour is a great opportunity that changes these students’ lives,” says Bob Hunzinger, president/CEO of Eastern Illini Electric. “This experience helps prepare them for their futures. After touring our nation’s capital, meeting congressional representatives, learning firsthand how our government works, and finding out more about how cooperatives operate, they return home with valuable knowledge and memories that will last a lifetime.”

Since 1964, the nation’s cooperative electric and telephone utilities have sponsored more than 60,000 high school students to visit Washington, D.C.

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Kilowatts & Brats: Aug. 19, 2019 5:30pm – 7:30pm

Join us for a member appreciation event at Riggs Beer Company in Urbana, IL on Monday, August 19, 2019 beginning at 5:30 p.m. EIEC will provide the brats and a great atmosphere. Lemonade, pop, water, and nonalcoholic beverages will be provided. Beer and other alcoholic beverages may be purchased at the event. Complimentary brewery tours will be given throughout the evening.

Let us know you’re coming and how many people will be joining you by completing the form below by August 14th. We look forward to seeing you at Kilowatts and Brats!

Online registration is closed. Please call 1-800-824-5102 to register.

 

 

 

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Board Chairman and CEO Report

On behalf of Eastern Illini’s Board of Directors and employees, we would like to welcome you to the 2019 Annual Meeting of Members! Thank you for attending your annual meeting. We hope you enjoy the day with your family, take advantage of the activities and food, and learn a little more about how EIEC is much different than other utilities.

As a member-owned cooperative, we provide you – our members – with reliable electricity and excellent service. Our employees live in this area, just like you, and we are dedicated to improving the quality of life in rural east central Illinois. We would like to provide a few highlights from the past year:

SAFETY
Our driving and continual focus for the cooperative is the safety of our employees, our members, and the general public. The commitment to safety is reflected in the support of our Board of Directors, management, and our employees. The main portion of our safety goal each year is to experience zero lost time incidents. We did not achieve that goal in 2018, as we experienced one lost time event. For 2019, our safety goal is to experience zero lost time incidents and we are committed to achieving that goal.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
Eastern Illini is not just in the business of selling electricity. We are also working to improve the quality of life for our members and our communities. This year marked the second year of our Empowering Education Grant Program which provided $20,000 to 40 deserving teachers throughout our communities to help fund engaging projects for their students.

Electric Vehicles (EVs) are gaining in popularity. We purchased a fully electric Chevrolet Bolt EV in 2018. The operating costs of EVs are less than half that of traditional vehicles. We are also exploring ways to help establish charging networks in our area. Be sure to stop by and see the Bolt during the annual meeting.

MEMBER SATISFACTION
EIEC employees and Directors take pride in providing the service level our members deserve and expect. Each October, we include a survey with our billing. This survey typically covers topics such as member service, employee professionalism, rates, programs, and reliability. We also include questions to calculate an American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) score. In 2018, our overall survey results were very good, and we received an ACSI score of 88 (out of 100)! This score places us in the top 15% of cooperatives across the nation. We are proud of the level of service that we provide you, and we are constantly looking for ways to improve.

FINANCIAL UPDATE
2018 was a good financial year for your cooperative. Operating margins totaled more than $1.4 million, with total operating revenues of $34.9 million. These margins are in addition to the $800,000 margin rebate that was returned to members as a bill credit on the December 2018 usage bills. Equity for the year ended at 49.60% which is above our benchmark target. Our debt service coverage metric exceeded our lender’s requirements. These two factors allow us to optimize our borrowing costs.

MARGINS AND CAPITAL CREDITS
Each year, we review our revenue collected compared to our expenses in providing electric service to you. A positive difference is similar to profit, but for a not-for-profit cooperative it is referred to as operating margins. These margins are then allocated as capital credits to be returned to you at a future date.

Our Board of Directors have set a goal of returning margins back to our members on a 25-year cycle. We anticipate reaching this goal in 2020. In 2018, we retired nearly $1.6 million in capital credits to members who received electric service in 1988-1991. For 2019, we are budgeting a retirement of over $1.5 million for the years of 1992 and 1993. This return of your equity, or prior investment in EIEC, is one of the unique benefits of membership in a local, not-for-profit cooperative.

RATES
EIEC has not had a distribution rate adjustment since April 2013. We are pleased to inform you that there is no increase budgeted in our distribution rate for 2019. However, we do pass along any increases from our wholesale power provider as necessary, in the power cost adjustment portion of our billing. Our wholesale power costs reflect the capacity, energy, and transmission portions of electricity pricing delivered to the EIEC metering points.

In 2018, we completed a cost of service study to help determine our future revenue needs, along with reviewing the fairness of the cost allocation among members in the various rate classes. We plan to conduct a rate study later in 2019 utilizing these cost of service results. The rate study will help to determine the level of future increases in our fixed cost components (monthly base charge and possibly a future demand charge component) while reviewing the appropriate level for energy (kWh) charges.

TECHNOLOGY
As the technology around us continues to change rapidly, we are always on the lookout for technology that will allow us to better serve you. Our online and smart phone account portal – SmartHub – continues to evolve. SmartHub lets you easily and conveniently pay your bill, view your electric use history, report an outage, and more. You can sign up for your FREE SmartHub account by visiting our website at www.eiec.coop. We continue to embrace technology in our daily operations and member services, using programs and analytics to assist with automated service orders, mapping, system analysis, staking, outage management, and many other applications.

POWER SUPPLY
About 60% of our power is provided by the Prairie State Generating Campus coal-fired power plant, located in Washington County, Illinois. Our wholesale power provider, Prairie Power, Inc. (PPI), owns 130 MW of this facility, along with various other natural gas fired generation units. On the renewable front, PPI has two solar panel arrays and a small portion of wind energy provided by the Pioneer Trail Wind Farm near Paxton.

PPI also contracts for power supply in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) market. PPI is continually monitoring existing and future market trends in balancing the decision of owning or contracting for future generation resources, to provide you with supply diversity and a stable long-term portfolio.

RELIABILITY
Our distribution system performed well this year, resulting in an available reliability of 99.985% (excluding major storms and transmission supply outages). Even with the inclusion of major storm events and transmission supplier outages, our available reliability was 99.96%. We continue to monitor and upgrade our system to maintain the high level of service you’ve come to expect. Power from PPI is delivered through the Ameren 69 kV transmission system. Annually, nearly one-third of our member’s average outage time is a result of outages on the Ameren system that impact EIEC power substations. We continue to work with Ameren and PPI to improve their service and reliability.

CHALLENGES
Rural areas in general are experiencing population decline and a lack of adequate job opportunities, along with inadequate internet access. The EIEC territory experiences similar trends, which leads to flat or minimal energy sales growth.

We continue to monitor and evaluate the generous State of Illinois’ renewable incentive program, primarily for wind and solar. Distributed generation such as these renewables may present significant challenges to our current business model and rate structure. All members share in the cost of assets and annual expenses. Any loss of kWh sales and revenue resulting from member owned generation (such as solar) must be re-allocated and recovered from the total membership.

OPPORTUNITIES
Most of the recent additions in energy sales in our territory has been driven from existing member expansions of grain, livestock, and other agricultural related businesses. We continue to work with our members to optimize the value they receive from electric service.

We are in our 82nd year operating a successful electric distribution cooperative, and we appreciate the confidence that you have placed in us and our employees to represent your interests. We hope you’ve enjoyed this brief recap of our 2018 performance. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tom Schlatter, Board Chairman

 

Bob Hunzinger, President/CEO

 

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