The forecast for snow and freezing rain is the last thing members of the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives want to hear as they hold their annual meeting in Des Moines. Harry Ruth of the East-Central Iowa Electric Coop in Urbana, is attending the meeting, and says they’re still trying to recover from last year’s storm.
Ruth says, “This last February and March was the worst storm my people can remember, going back to 1975 or before, so we really don’t want to go through that again if we can help it.” Ruth says they’re still in the process of recovering from that storm. “The last storm was a wake up call, we realized we need to be more aggressive in updating our system,” Ruth says,”the problem is of course, that being rural we don’t have the money, that would be generated by a more urban system with high densities.”
Ruth says they have to invest a lot of money for the money they get out of it. For example, he says urban systems can have 30 electric meters per mile, while rural systems will have three-and-a-half. Ruth says the storm last March left them with a massive rebuilding effort. After the storm he says they conservatively estimated they needed to rebuild 10% of their 2,000 miles of line. Ruth says they could have doubled the amount they rebuilt if they had the time.
Ruth says they made progress in getting the lines going again, as they did get everything back up in the air, and totally rebuilt 65 miles of line and are scheduled to rebuild 165 miles in 2008. He says they still have some lines that are not totally back and it could be into next spring before everything is back the way it should be.
Ruth says the co-op’s have to determine how much they can do to improve lines, while keeping things financially viable. He says improvements cost money, and it’s going to impact rates, and they are trying to assess how aggressive they can be without raising the rates too much to members. “We like to keep the lights on, we like to keep the rates reasonable, and sometimes that’s a hard balance, Ruth says. ruth says the co-op have gotten some money from FEMA to help repair the power lines, and that has helped.