Our purpose is to ensure that you enjoy the benefits of safe and reliable electric service.
WOEC is overseen by a democratically elected Board dedicated to keep the coop financially viable into the future. There is no direct governmental oversight such as the PUC (Public Utilities Commission) since WOEC isn’t allowed to sell to everyone, but is limited to service within its set boundaries. This is referred to as a “natural monopoly”; this is required to maintain a revenue stream to protect the viability of the coop so it can continue to serve its members.
A General Manager, an Office Manager, a Chief Financial Officer, and an Operations Manager run WOEC at the management level. They are non-union. Support staff covers billing, and member services, etc. The support staff is union, as are the linemen.
Linemen are union and go through multi-year training/apprenticeship program before they are certified to work on the grid. To become a lineman apprentice, you must be at least 18 years of age, have a high school diploma or GED certificate, and submit an application to a local Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (JATC). Some JATCs have additional requirements: a grade of C or better in algebra and a commercial driver’s license. Once someone applies to an apprenticeship program, they have an interview and safety orientation before being paired with power company linemen and starting on-the-job training and classroom instruction. An apprenticeship is a system of training a new generation of practitioners of a trade or profession with on-the-job training and often some accompanying study (classroom work and reading). Apprenticeship also enables practitioners to gain a license to practice in a regulated profession. Most of their training is done while working for an employer who helps the apprentices learn their trade or profession, in exchange for their continued labor for an agreed period after they have achieved measurable competencies. Apprenticeships typically last 3 to 7 years. People who successfully complete an apprenticeship reach the “journeyman” or professional certification level of competence.
The Coop already uses mostly government backed low-interest loans through the RUS that do not have an early payoff option. This precludes the use of USDA grants. Even if there were grants available, simply applying doesn’t imply that they will be received.
This is how WOEC has been run for 75 years. Here’s why: As originally conceived, an electric cooperative is designed to run on low-interest government loans. An electric utility is a natural monopoly with a dedicated revenue stream, and thus the lender (taxpayer) is guaranteed payback. That’s why there are audits by the lending agencies. The expectation is the entity will outlive its current management, board and many of its members, but it must stay financially viable to serve members generations into the future.
The money must be borrowed, otherwise it comes directly from the ratepayers in what could often be an extreme bump to the monthly bill. There is no reason for a member to pay today for a substation or other system upgrade that is still going to be here and working decades from now. It’s unreasonable to ask members to fully pay for something today when they may not be here to use it in 10 or 20 years.
Things in a utility system constantly deteriorate and wear out and are in need of replacement. New debt is brought on as old debt is retired. That’s how businesses work.
WOEC, like other rural electric utilities, accesses funding for capital investment projects through the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corp., known as CFC, or through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service.
Running on a debt system is what makes the cooperative business model sustainable.
Understanding the Need for Debt Ruralite February 2019, Page 4