Ask the General Manager

The questions below were among those asked at this year’s UEC Annual Meeting. We will continue to update the questions below as new questions come our way.

Robert Echenrode, General Manager and CEO
Robert Echenrode, General Manager/CEO
Has UEC suffered wire theft and money lost by profit-taking vandals?

Copper theft is on the rise nationwide, and we have been targeted on several occasions in the past year.

Copper theft is a dangerous crime. It can cause a power outage or fire, it increases the cost of your cooperative, and worst of all, it puts lives at risk.

The lives at risk are many – the thieves stealing the copper, a child or pet who wanders through a hole cut into a substation fence, or a lineworker coming into contact with ungrounded equipment.

Contact our 24-hour call center at (888) 465-5701 if you see suspicious activity, such as an unmarked vehicle around a substation, utility lines, or other field equipment. Your action could protect the reliability of your utility service and you may even save a life.

Do we have any protection from Bitcoin miners using all of our power and driving rates out of reason?

Like many Northwest utilities, UEC has been approached by cryptocurrency mining operations inquiring about the price and availability of power. The reason these companies consume so much electricity is that producing each new bitcoin requires solving a complex mathematical puzzle by computer.

Under Oregon law, we are obliged to serve any load that is willing to abide by our policies.

For our part, new loads on our system, and expansions by existing members, are responsible for the infrastructure costs of serving them power, often paying in advance for their impact on the system.

This policy helps mitigate risk to the membership, minimizes the impact of growth, and ensures that one sector of our membership does not unfavorably impact the other sectors.

In summary, new operations joining our cooperative will not affect our power availability, overtax our system, or increase your rates.

What is UEC doing to protect UEC members from internet hacking and blackouts?

We are ready to respond quickly if we have an incident. On a daily basis, we have access to information clearinghouses on potential threats that help keep us aware, on guard, and prepared. Our physical property is a public asset, and we encourage anyone who sees suspicious activity around a substation or other plant to call police or our 24-hour call center.

How are outages planned for and restored in a timely fashion?

Our goal is to limit the number and longevity of outages. Our crews and system operations team work quickly and diligently to determine the cause of the outage and restore power as soon as it is safely possible. The continued system upgrades that UEC has been investing in have decreased our number of outages and improved our response times. We work to continually improve service to our members.

How does the Board consider vulnerability of substations to criminal attacks?

Incidents of vandalism, tampering, arson and gunfire involving substations, powerlines and other structures have been reported nationwide. Several incidents have occurred in Oregon and Washington.

You can help in our efforts to secure and protect our grid by reporting any suspicious activity.

What is suspicious behavior? It might be hearing an unusual noise or seeing people in or around structures or areas who do not appear to be conducting legitimate business.

It might be people who change their behavior when they notice they have been seen, or a vehicle parked in an unusual location.

To report immediate threats or emergencies, call 911. In other cases, please contact our call center at 1 888-465-5701 day or night and let us evaluate and respond to the information you provide.

What determines the years that refunds of extra funds are disbursed from back to the people (Capital Credits)?

All funds collected above the cost of operation (called margins) are annually assigned to our members in the form of Capital Credits. Each year the board of directors, which are elected by the members, review our financial position and determines the most financially prudent amount of capital credits to pay out.

Since it began Capital Credits refunds in 1960, UEC has returned more than $110 million to members.

You can view more details about our Capital Credits program here.


Is residential solar a smart decision for my home?

Determining if solar is right for your home is a decision only you can make. Our Energy Efficiency team at UEC is happy to meet with you and provide information on your historical usage and review estimates from installers.

You can view more about solar options and UEC energy efficiency programs here.

Metal power poles vs. wood: what’s the benefit?

In some cases, UEC will install iron or steel poles, rather than wood, for transmission or distribution projects. Many variables factor into these choices including: wildfire mitigation, pole longevity, engineering of the structure and project and more.

Overall, the life of a steel or iron pole is nearly double that of a standard wood pole and weighs about half the weight, making them more manageable for UEC crews during installation and repairs.

If you have a question for UEC’s General Manager, submit it by email.