We know 2021 wasn’t easy for the communities we serve. However, despite the numerous challenges GVEC customers and members faced in 2021, they steadfastly continued to support their Cooperative. For that, we thank you. Your support was instrumental in helping inspire and mobilize GVEC’s workforce as our region reemerged from COVID-19 and battled a historic winter storm.
A Year of Perseverance
When you think about GVEC’s services, the word “storm” is often quite literal. Our team is tasked with providing reliable services through sunshine, rain, snow and now, we can even add pandemic to the list. For GVEC, the word “storm” has come to symbolize much more than weather. The “storms” of the last two years have presented challenges never before experienced by the Cooperative. Through those trials, we’ve taken what we believe to be the necessary steps to emerge strong and keep moving forward in our mission to empower lives.
If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s how quickly and drastically life and circumstance can change. In December 2020, after a year of lockdowns and unprecedented uncertainty, the pandemic appeared to be winding down. A new year, free of 2020’s historic adversities lay ahead in 2021—or so it seemed.
On Friday, Feb 12, 2021, forecasters were projecting an upcoming winter freeze more significant than any experienced in recent years. On Monday, February 15, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) declared an Energy Emergency Alert (EEA) Level 3 and ordered statewide rotating outages to begin immediately, lasting until energy reserves returned to noncritical levels. GVEC conducted 124 rotating outage sessions between February 15 and 19, each averaging roughly 15,000 members impacted.
All of this resulted from a historic winter storm the likes of which has rarely been seen across Texas. Along with the snow and ice Winter Storm Uri delivered, it also brought consecutive days of record-setting temperatures in the teens and single digits. Heaters across Texas went into overdrive, pushing the statewide electric grid to a peak of 69,222 megawatts—the highest winter peak in ERCOT’s existence.
In the midst of rotating outages, some members also experienced weather-driven service outages ranging in length from hours to days. Ice and snow all across GVEC’s 3,500 square miles of service territory, combined with relentless, bone-chilling temperatures, greatly impeded restoration of these outages. Our linemen worked long hours in freezing conditions on consecutive days, battling difficult road conditions, downed lines, damaged equipment and fatigue. However, these dedicated men weren’t alone on those frozen-over fields.
GVEC’s workforce operated throughout Uri with a unity unlike any we’ve witnessed during our decades of service here. With their own homes impacted by rotating and weather-driven outages, many Cooperative staff and personnel stayed practically 24/7 in the office that week. This helped assure that members always reached a customer service representative when calling, no matter the time of day, and that our linemen had constant, urgently needed field support. It also helped guarantee there was always someone tracking outages, processing outage reports and planning restoration efforts.
Thanks to solid design and engineering, GVEC’s electrical system held up quite well despite Uri’s physical impacts. Additionally, Cooperative finances were very strong going in. This allowed us to emerge from the lowest points of that week still strong and to also withstand Uri’s lingering effects of high market prices in the following months. More than a year after, GVEC remains on sound financial footing and continues to retain solid financial ratings even after Uri-related adjustments. Our plan for returning to pre-Uri financial positioning began moving forward shortly after the storm and included rethinking certain planned capital investments for 2021.
Exorbitant Uri-related expenses also forced us to introduce two rate adjustments in 2021—one in May, the other in October. Keep in mind that, as a not-for-profit cooperative, we don’t charge members more for electricity than we pay—rate adjustments are never done out of profit motive. That said, these increases were difficult but necessary, and our Board did not implement them lightly. While government leaders, regulators and industry experts debated how markets should be redesigned and improved, Uri was creating immense uncertainty on the wholesale power market—especially in regard to short-term power supply. Although GVEC does have long-term contracts to cover a significant portion of its load, increases in shorter-term wholesale power compelled us to make the difficult decision to adjust rates.
Moving forward, we’ll continue managing Cooperative money with the same judicious care we’ve exercised throughout our 84-year history. In fact, current projections are that GVEC will return to its pre-Uri financial positioning by 2025. Please know, too, that we’ll continue doing everything possible to ensure Cooperative rates remain competitive and affordable in the years ahead.
Although Uri cast a wide net over Cooperative plans in 2021, GVEC and its members still have numerous accomplishments to be proud of. These include our debut of the “Delivering More” membership rebrand and some exciting news regarding how our electric members and internet subscribers ranked us on the highly-respected American Customer Satisfaction Index nationwide survey. Also in 2021, we returned to fully in-person Cooperative meetings, including District Meetings and our 2021 Annual Meeting. We also welcomed Mr. Leo York to our Board of Directors, representing District 6, and said a fond goodbye to Joe Castilleja after four years of exemplary service.
Despite COVID-related supply chain delays in 2021 and difficulties created by Uri, our expansion of and improvements to GVEC Fiber and Wireless Internet service continued. There were other exciting developments regarding GVEC Fiber and Wireless internet, too, which we’ll tell you more about in the pages ahead. GVEC’s home-services business also experienced supply chain issues, but these didn’t prevent us from having an
overall successful year. The introduction of convenient new financing options for solar, electricians and AC/heating customers in the first quarter supported growth in sales. We also debuted some new home-related services last year with our HVAC and Solar Spec Check inspection services, and our electrician service was busier than ever.
GVEC’s Power Up grant, meanwhile, marked its 9th year in 2021, delivering over $312,750 to local nonprofits, which was more than in any previous year.
We know 2021 wasn’t easy for the communities we serve. However, despite the numerous challenges GVEC customers and members faced in 2021, they steadfastly continued to support their Cooperative. For that, we thank you. Your support was instrumental in helping inspire and mobilize GVEC’s workforce as our region reemerged from COVID-19 and battled a historic winter storm. As we move deeper into 2022 and toward 2023, rest assured that we are here for the good of those we serve. We will undoubtedly continue to meet “storms” of many varieties in our future. Our heritage as well as recent history has taught us we can move forward with confidence. By working together, GVEC will always strive to emerge stronger than any storm that may come our way.
Lewis Borgfeld Darren Schauer
President General Manager and CEO