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Membership Matters by CEO Brian Zelenak: February 2020

The Value of Electricity Continues to Shine

By Brian R. Zelenak

SCEC President/CEO

How many of us remember dropping into the office with our parents or grandparents to pay the light bill? Whether you do that in person, by mail, or have an automatic payment plan set up today, paying your monthly bill does a lot more than just keep the lights on.

Electricity keeps us connected to the modern world. Consider all the necessities and conveniences we enjoy in part because of the power lines running to the electric meter outside your home.

Count up your televisions, desktop, laptop and tablet computers, printers, your gaming consoles, cell phones, music and video players and personal assistant devices. Whether they get used every day or just occasionally, the electricity that keeps them working comes from St. Croix Electric Co-op.

Have you looked around your kitchen lately? Between the coffee maker and toaster and the microwave and electric skillet, a lot of us have added several other modern small appliances like crock pots, coffee bean grinders and juice blenders.

If you’ve got a craft nook or workshop, the power tools and machines you use to cut and shape your projects are either plugged in or recharged from the outlets connecting your household wiring to SCEC.

Electricity is the only source for all these devices, along with your lighting and air conditioning, and many of you still rely on dependable electricity for your hot water and heating. The good news is, even as we rely more on electricity, it’s still a bargain, especially compared to other things we pay for regularly.

Since 2011, medical care, residential rental rates and education have increased at rates of 3 percent or more per year. Butter, meat and egg costs have been up by more than one to 2 percent annually, and even bread costs have risen better than a half percentage point annually on average.

Nation-wide, electricity costs have risen about 1 percent a year, while co-ops across the country have reported a decline in the average residential use per household since 2010. That means we’re doing more things with less energy. Kilowatt hour use per household dropped by 8 percent between 2010 and 2016, slightly less than the 9 percent decline reported by all electric utilities, nationwide. 

When it comes to value, electricity is a clear winner, and we’re always looking for ways to work with you to make it even better. That’s why SCEC urges energy efficiency, encourages you to look for ENERGY STAR® appliances, and promotes technology designed to give members more control over their electricity use.

Energy efficient construction, smart thermostats and power strips and appliance settings that shift use to lower cost periods all help reduce our overall power demand. They also give you opportunities to control or even trim your monthly utility bills.

That’s good for families, couples and individuals trying to live within their budgets. And it’s going to become even more important as digital devices and internet-connected technologies become even more important in our lives.

At the beginning of 2018 the average home had 10 Wi-Fi connected devices and that number is only going up.

Technology and the gateways that keep it working use electricity, so you depend upon SCEC for more than just the power that keeps the lights on.

As I paid my bills this month, I couldn’t’ help but notice that my energy bill was about the same as my cell phone payment. While I saved a little when I dropped my landline, five cell phones on a share plan with unlimited data adds up. But I never really think about it. Cell phones and personal digital devices have become a take-for-granted part of our culture.

So why is it that when it comes to electricity – a necessity in our modern world – many of us react differently towards our electric bill than to our cell phone bill? We expect the same reliability of our cell phone carrier as electrical provider – we expect electricity to be there at the flip of the switch just as we expect to have cell phone service when we want to make a call.  When either are not available, we get frustrated.

Hey, I’m no different – I expect the lights to come on every time, too. And as the CEO of St. Croix Electric Cooperative, I have a special responsibility to make sure your electric service is safe, reliable, and affordable. But I also believe that when compared to other necessities in today’s world and other commodities, electricity remains a great value.

That’s why we’re always working to provide service that’s reliable, keep it affordable, and make it even more valuable to our member – you, your family and your neighbors.

Until next month,

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