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1990’s in Review

  • In 1990, the Board considered leasing the co-op fleet, however, found under further analysis that this was not a prudent move.
  • Several area informational meetings were arranged to provide information to the members.
  • The February issue of Co-op Currents gave an evaluation of the proposed contract to purchase power from the Hydro Quebec power supply source, giving an opportunity by all parties to express their views. The Vermont Public Service Board gave conditional approval of the Hydro Quebec Contract for 340 mw, while reserving the remaining 110 mw for future consideration.
  • On August 14, 1990, high winds tore through the area, causing extensive damage..
  • The 1990’s were marked by an interest in conserving electricity and offering new products.
  • On March 20, 1990, a snowstorm was declared the worst in Co-op history.  The cost of restoration, which took over four days, was $100,000 with over 5,000 members affected.
  • A 1990 Customer Survey to determine how average members utilize their power was sent to over 1,000 Washington Electric Co-op members.  The response rate was over 50%.
  • The Co-op applied for an interest free loan of $100,000 through the Rural Economic Development Association of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  The loan was used to renovate an abandoned elementary school in Marshfield to a multi-use community center.
  • Also in 1990, a petition was received by trustees, with approximately 900 member signatures, to remove or recall five members of the Washington Electric Co-op Board of Trustees. The petition called for a special meeting of members to consider the removal of the officers and trustees (who were named).
  • A Collaborative Study Group proposed eight energy saving programs for Washington Electric Co-op.
  • In 1991, Co-op members voted on whether to receive power from Hydro Quebec which had received partial approval from the Vermont Public Service Board. The membership voted to retain existing contracts and not to increase participation in future Hydro Quebec supplies.
  • In 1991, the Board doubled the line clearing budget to $200,000 annually.
  • The Co-op Board elected to bring suit against the engineering firm that contracted for the Wrightsville Hydro Project.
  • Demand Side Management moved forward and became a major factor when new power supply options were considered.   Washington Electric Co-op filed with the Public Service Board a $3.7 million, five-year plan to implement comprehensive Demand Side Management Programs.  The Public Service Board approved the Co-op’s proposed investment in demand-side management, calling the program “The most comprehensive and ambitious of programs proposed by any Vermont utility to date.”  Co-op members voted 3 to 1 in favor of the Co-op’s proposed investment in energy efficiency programs.  The Co-op moved forward with a $30,000 grant to study lighting and refrigeration in small mom and pop stores in Co-op country.The Rumney School in Middlesex was assisted financially by the Co-op to retrofit all lighting in the rural school.
  • In 1992, Co-op trustees voted to accept the Co-op attorney’s opinion on Hydro Quebec, that the vote of the Board and members was valid.
  • In 1992, the Co-op dismantled the four-bay garage attached to its main office building, and constructed a new addition to the building consisting of office space and handicap ramp.
  • The new Marshfield Community Center, made possible by a zero-interest Rural Economic Development grant sponsored by Washington Electric Cooperative, opened with several types of tenants.
  • The Board approved the twenty-year Integrated Resource Plan. The plan called for economic mixing of demand-side and supply-side resources into a least-cost plan for the future. Sixty farms on the Co-op system were targeted for inclusion in the Demand-Side Management Programs. Also, the Co-op offers $30.00 per unit to change out refrigerators when old ones needed replacement.
  • The Co-op investigated potential for offering a digital satellite TV service to Co-op members, but decided not the commit to this investment at this time.
  • The new trash rack was installed at the Wrightsville Hydro site.
  • The REA denied the Co-op a Section 12 finance application to cover a portion of the Demand-Side Management expenses. The Co-op curtailed a portion of the its Demand-Side Management Programs and continued to seek financing from REA.
  • A Magistrate called for dismissal of Seabrook lawsuits. This cleared the way for the Co-op to recover the million dollars paid to Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Corporation under contract for the Seabrook Nuclear Power Station.
  • In 1993, the Co-op began offering a new home construction program as part of “Energy Efficiency Saves”, the name the Board adopted for its Demand-Side Management effort. Under this program, new homeowners could qualify for assistance in investing in energy-saving measures, as well as rebates under the programs when they qualified. Upon qualification, a member building a new home could also be eligible to receive an energy efficient mortgage. Also, the Co-op offered fuel switching for heat and water heating with savings to be shared as a means to make the switch cost effective. Washington Electric Co-op offered free pick up of old freezers and refrigerators for Washington Electric Co-op members.
  • The East Montpelier Fire Department occupied a portion of the Co-op garage in East Montpelier Village.
  • The Co-op Vice President appeared before the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee on October 8, 1993, to give views on a reorganization plan for the agriculture department.
  • In March 1994, Co-op Currents dedicated the issue to Robert Laclair, a line foreman who died in an automobile accident on his way back to the operations building after a day of work.
  • The Co-op contributed to a new solar installation in Middlesex that charged an electric vehicle on off peak times.
  • The Co-op received the Governor’s Award for its part in Environmental Excellence in pollution prevention.
  • The Manager discussed a new program of competition in the utility industry, which would allow consumers to “choose” their electric supply entity.
  • In 1995, the Co-op won its lawsuit against the Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Corporation, and money previously paid under the Seabrook nuclear power contract ($924,000) was refunded.
  • The Rural Electric Administration (REA) was replaced with the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), which offered new extended programs to provide rural development, water and sewer services.
  • The Co-op Board adopted a new policy aimed at assisting farmers with stray voltage problems. The Co-op hired a forester to manage the Co-op’s new Vegetation Management Plan.
  • In 1996, Vermont contemplated adopting energy-saving building codes, while the Co-op had already incorporated such criteria in its New Home Construction program.
  • The new manager was interviewed on the subject of deregulation of the utility industry.  The chairman of the Public Service Board spoke to the members at the annual meeting, discussing the prospect of competition and reform of the electric industry, and saying the PSB was optimistic about utility restructuring.
  • After two years without a rate increase, the Co-op filed for a 5.0 % increase in rates, 73% of which was due to the effect of the Hydro Quebec power contract. Washington Electric Co-op filed a “proposed” restructuring plan with the Public Service Board. In that filing, the Co-op introduced the idea of developing a “retail company”.
  • The Board found it necessary to oppose some of NRECA’s policies on environmental issues and actively appealed the policies.
  • In 1997, a survey of members found the majority of members were satisfied with service from their Co-op. A “Consumer Company” was formed to create a larger organization that “people could join from anywhere in Vermont.” The Co-op sent a positions paper to the Legislature which “sets out a course and time table that is not unduly hasty or arbitrary and to assure itself that Vermonters are likely to be better off after restructuring than before.”
  • The Co-op recouped $65,000 for Seabrook legal fees in a settlement with co-op attorneys.
    The Co-op used a $30,000 grant to assist the Waits River Store to implement new technology when they expanded store capacity in cooling. Other stores in Co-op country also benefited by the grant.
  • A public hearing was held on the formation of a Vermont Consumer Energy Co-op to be a party to restructuring of utilities.  The Vermont House put the brakes on restructuring as the case for competition was unproven.
  • In 1998, a big ice storm in January caused extensive damage and an outage of 2 to 4 days duration. Orange County, having been declared a disaster area, qualified the Co-op for a reimbursement of approximately $60,000 from FEMA to cover damages caused by the ice storm.
  • The Co-op held discussion groups of members at the annual meeting to elicit members’ views on a variety of subjects. Among those subjects discussed were sources of electricity, competition and choice, products and services, and community involvement.
  • A federal loan of $600,000 without interest was secured through Washington Electric Co-op for construction of the Central Vermont Memorial Civic Center.
    Members of Washington Electric Co-op were given the opportunity to join the Vermont Fuel Buyers Group and save on the purchase of heating fuel and kerosene.
  • The Co-op tested a new concept in micro inverter solar panels and associated equipment. A contest was developed for members interested in competing for one of those systems.
  • In 1999, the Washington Electric Co-op presented a new concept of creating co-op venture utilities in Vermont in a concept paper, “Consumer Ownership of Vermont Utilities.” Staff members of the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association expressed support of the concept before the Public Service Board of Vermont.
  • Washington Electric Co-op opposed the sale of Vermont Electric Cooperative to Vermont Public Power Supply Authority.
  • In May, 1999, the Co-op held a large celebration to commemorate 60 years of providing electric service to rural Vermonters.