Caring for our Community

The foundation of OEC and OEC Fiber

The Annual Meeting is the perfect time to reflect on the past while building toward the future. As we near the completion of the initial build of our fiber network, a look into our history and where we come from gives us guidance on what path to take next.

OEC Fiber would not exist without OEC itself. The need for reliable and affordable electricity was apparent in 1937. Still, none of the existing electric companies were willing to service rural Oklahoma. That is why a group of intrepid farmers banded together with their neighbors to form Oklahoma Inter-County Electric Cooperative. They went door-to-door to rally the community behind the idea that they could do more together.

OEC has done more for our members than simply turning on the lights. We feed back into our communities by investing in our youth. Youth Tour is an annual event that takes high school students on an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. The vision was for cooperatives across the nation to send students from every state to our nation’s capital to learn about our country up-close and personal. The first tour took place in 1963 with approximately 400 students from 12 states. Now, more than 1600 students participate each year. [4104410214]

Another way we continue to care for our communities is through Operation Round Up®. This program is funded by the generosity of our members. By rounding their bills up to the nearest dollar, OEC has contributed more than $5 million to local service organizations and individuals in need. This program has paid for everything from equipment for volunteer fire departments to dental care for those that would otherwise not have access. By contributing just a few cents every month, our members have helped us change our world for the better.

There are many needs in the world today. And while OEC cannot solve them all, we did find one we could tackle in forming OEC Fiber. Like electricity in the 1930s, the internet is an essential modern utility.

Despite housing our operation in the third-largest city in the state, many of our members had little to no access to internet service. Answering the call, OEC Fiber was formed in 2017 after a survey of our members told us they needed this vital service. This project has reached milestones at a record-breaking pace. As we near the completion of our initial system build with nearly 30,000 subscribers online, it is crucial that we continue to drive forward and find new ways to keep pushing the envelope.

Our commitment to improving lives has led to the development of the OEC Fiber app. We know that everyone has unique needs when it comes to their internet usage. The app allows subscribers to customize their service to meet their individual needs. With the addition of ProtectIQ and ExperienceIQ, our subscribers can rest easy knowing their networks are secure and their families only see the content they want.

Every step of the OEC and OEC Fiber journey is driven by a desire to serve our communities and improve lives. Now, as we celebrate being able to come back together again after so long, we can enjoy what makes us different. The people. Each of us shares the dream of a world built to be better, and with the help of our members and subscribers, we are paving the way to a brighter future.

 

From the Top with CEO Patrick Grace — August 2022

It’s been three years — 1,092 days, to be exact — since we last welcomed you to the Lloyd Noble Center. The board of trustees, our employees and I are excited to come together again for our Annual Meeting and Member Appreciation Night, and we hope you are too.

For those who attended our last Annual Meeting in 2019, this one will look almost exactly the same: entertainment, registration gifts, a $20 electric account credit, a Kids’ Zone, Innovation Expo and, of course, dozens of door prizes.

We’ve had a lot of new OEC members join us since 2019, and I invite you to read through the pages of this month’s Co-op News and use it as a guide to your evening at the Lloyd Noble Center on Aug. 5. We plan each detail with our members in mind and try to make the event as seamless as possible.

One thing that is new this year will be the ticket drawing for door prizes following the business meeting. You might remember names scrolling on the large overhead screens that announced the prize winners the last few years. This year, you will be given a ticket at registration that you must hold onto in case your number is drawn. Registered members may only receive one ticket — we will be unable to replace yours if it is lost. Be sure to hold onto it for the duration of the evening.

I invite you to visit the upper concourse during the evening — an elevator is available on the ramp as you enter — for kids’ activities, a robotics showcase and our Innovation Expo, where our vendors offer hands-on experiences. You can also sign up for additional prizes, and those pursuing post-secondary education can sign up for one of three $1,000 Luck-of-the-Draw scholarships. 

We’ve worked hard to put together a great evening and are excited to see you all there. Stay safe, and we’ll see you Aug. 5.

White-Glove Service

OEC Fiber provides five-star support for subscribers

We expect to see certain things when we walk into a five-star resort. Floors polished to such a high shine we can see our reflection. Large intricately carved wooden welcome desks. Being greeted with a smile and given the royal treatment. We expect our needs to be met. That is the white-glove service OEC Fiber strives to provide to our subscribers.

“We really listen and hear what our members have to say, and we respond quickly,” said one OEC Fiber member service associate.

Providing exceptional customer service is a cornerstone of OEC Fiber. Going above and beyond for our subscribers is the standard. Whether a large corporation or a single individual in a home, taking care of each subscriber is our top priority.

While most companies send callers to different representatives to answer questions, OEC and OEC Fiber do our best to answer them in one place. Our highly skilled member service associates handle billing questions for both electric and fiber services. From the time a service request is received, this team walks subscribers through every step of the process to ensure the subscriber is fully informed and receives the best service.

This is just as true for businesses as it is for individuals. Business subscribers often face unique challenges when setting up their networks. That is why OEC Fiber has a dedicated business team to address their needs.

“It’s about ensuring that business is set up for success,” said OEC Fiber Manager of Business and Sales Development Michelle Hohlier. “It’s not about us. It’s about our membership, and we make decisions with that in mind.”

No two businesses are alike. This team works with them to help build the package best suited to fit their needs. From a variety of phone configurations and features to working with local IT professionals to help ensure their services are maximized, we work tirelessly to ensure each business has everything it needs to get the job done.

The fantastic service provided by the Member Service and Business teams does not stop once the service has begun. OEC Fiber’s Subscriber Support Team is available 24/7 to ensure subscribers stay connected.

“Our team makes use of different diagnostic tools to deep dive into each [issue] that crosses our desks,” said OEC Fiber Supervisor of Subscriber Support David Madden.

This in-house group of experts troubleshoots everything from poor internet speeds to dodgy TV signals. They walk side by side with subscribers to identify the root cause of an issue and correct it as quickly as possible. If they cannot resolve the issue over the phone, a technician is scheduled to make an on-site visit. They replace faulty equipment, demonstrate best practices and do all they can to ensure the subscriber’s service is top-notch before leaving.

“We go above and beyond to assist subscribers,” Madden said. “We educate them about their devices and work with the fiber control room to proactively identify single and multi-user outages to minimize downtime.”

OEC Fiber’s strong dedication to subscriber satisfaction has already led to a customer service award. In March of this year, we were voted Best of the Best in Customer Service by The Norman Transcript. This is a direct result of all departments working together at OEC to provide excellent care and support to all subscribers.

Subscribers are more than just an account number. With OEC Fiber, you are a valued part of the community we love to serve. Our mission statement says it all.

“Our purpose is to improve our subscribers’ quality of life through the safe delivery of highly reliable, reasonably priced fiber services and exceptional customer service.”

“The core values of OEC are the foundation of OEC Fiber,” said OEC Fiber Supervisor of Business Development Jamie Wade. “Think about where the co-ops started. You couldn’t modernize rural America without electricity. You can’t modernize today without the internet.”

Taking care of subscribers is what OEC Fiber does. The white-glove service we provide is a standard we are proud to set and uphold every day.

Stay Fresh

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Five tips for better indoor air quality

We spend a lot of time indoors. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates the average person spends 90% of their life indoors. (I don’t know about you, but I suddenly have the urge to go for a long walk!)

Additionally, our homes are becoming more energy efficient––they’re better insulated and sealed with less ventilation––which is great for our energy bills but not so much for our indoor air quality. 

The thought of breathing in pollutants can be scary, but the truth is, indoor air pollution is common and simply unavoidable. The good news is there are ways you can easily improve the air quality of your home.

Here are five tips to help you breathe a little easier.

  1. Change your air filter often. Clogged, dirty filters reduce the amount of airflow and the HVAC system’s efficiency. When a filter becomes too clogged, the excess dirt and dust are sent through your air ducts, adding unnecessary allergens and other unwanted particles into your living space. During the cooling season (summer months), the Department of Energy recommends replacing your air filter every month or two. This is one of the easiest ways to promote better indoor air quality and energy efficiency.
  2. Regularly vacuum carpet and rugs — especially if you have furry friends. The cleaner the home, the healthier the home. Vacuuming carpet and area rugs once a week can greatly reduce the accumulation of pet dander and dust inside your home. Frequently clean other areas that collect dust, like drapes, bedding and cluttered areas.
  3. Use vents to remove cooking fumes. Those exhaust fans aren’t just for when you burn the bacon. Fans help remove fumes emitted while cooking and eliminate unwanted moisture and odors. They may be a bit noisy, but these handy tools can help you improve indoor air quality while you’re preparing that culinary masterpiece (or even a grilled cheese sandwich!).
  4. Get a handle on humidity. Summer months typically bring more humidity than we’d like, especially if you live in a high-humidity climate zone. Moisture in the air can carry bacteria and other unwanted particles that you eventually breathe in. Dehumidifiers work to remove that moisture from the air, reducing the amount of bacteria, mold and other allergens in your home.
  5. Incorporate air-purifying plants into your living space. There are several varieties of indoor plants that can help detoxify your home from dust and germs found in a variety of home products, furniture and other materials. A few low-maintenance, air-purifying plants to consider are snake plants, aloe vera plants and pothos plants (also known as Devil’s Ivy). These vibrant, lush plants are eye-catching and beneficial for any home. Remember to review care conditions and think about placement for any new plants you add to your home.

Taking simple steps to purify indoor air can improve health and overall quality of life. With a little effort, you can improve the indoor air quality of your home and breathe a bit easier.

 

Live Line

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Bring OEC’s high voltage demo to your school or business

Electrical safety is top priority for OEC employees and top priority for our educational programs. Live Line high voltage lessons are catered to every age group from elementary to professional groups like first responders.

We educate fire and police departments as well as all ages of school groups on how electricity works concentrating on safety, how fuses work, voltage, and the basics of power line design. We present how best to navigate dangerous electrical situations, like car wrecks and downed power lines, with a fully functional and interactive trailer — complete with electrical arcs, a hot dog demonstration and engaging content.

Book the Live Line

All requests are pending weather conditions as inclement weather (and the restoration of power) must take precedent. Please allow a three-week lead on all requests.

Energy Camp Returns

Camp for eighth graders back in full swing following pandemic

Three students represented OEC at this year’s Energy Camp, sponsored by Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives. Landon Reed from Blanchard, Grant Maher from Tuttle, and Joseph Tomas from Norman joined 55 of Oklahoma’s exceptional rising high schoolers who were selected by their sponsoring cooperatives to attend camp this year, which took place at Canyon Camp in Hinton, Oklahoma.

“This year’s camp was one of the best ever,” said Stacy Howeth, OAEC Director of Member Services and Energy Camp director. “I think we’re all so excited to be back together that we saw the experience through a renewed vision. This year’s campers were fun, smart, creative and respectful! It truly was a great group.”

Through various activities at Energy Camp, campers gained a wealth of information about the cooperative business model, power source generation, electric safety, the history of Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives and new leadership and communications skills.

The campers experienced the cooperative business model firsthand by electing a board of directors who then interviewed and hired a camp manager. The elected directors and camp manager maintained leadership roles during camp operations.

Additional camp activities included hands-on electric safety demonstrations including pole climbing, tabletop demonstrations, two renowned motivational speakers and an Energy Battle Tournament (a quiz bowl style challenge about electric cooperative trivia).

OEC’s Education and Outreach Programs Director Tory Tedder-Loffland led campers through Co-opoly, a cooperative education board game that requires teamwork, analysis and decision-making.

Campers also had a crash course on professional life skills such as budgeting, career options, working with people of different personality types, how to write and mail thank-you notes and interview tips and tricks.

Energy Camp is coordinated by the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives. Campers are selected and sponsored by Oklahoma’s rural electric cooperatives.

 

Explaining Your Bill’s Cost Adjustment

OEC rate expert breaks down the Power Cost Adjustment

Many factors can contribute to fluctuations in electric bills. The first, and most obvious, is the weather. We expect our electric bills to be reflective of the different seasons and the changes in routine each one brings. Other events, such as adding members to our household, a leaking water well or the addition of a pool, can cause an increase in costs as well. But what happens when our summer bills are noticeably higher than last summer’s bills when we’ve made no sizable changes? The answer can likely be found in the Cost Adjustment.

What is the Cost Adjustment?

“Rather than generating our own power, OEC purchases the power at wholesale cost and delivers it safely to members’ homes and businesses,” said Key Accounts Specialist and rate expert Tim Ferree. “The Cost Adjustment is a separate line-item on each bill that reflects the increases and decreases of the power we purchase from Western Farmers Electric Cooperative (WFEC).”

Why does the Cost Adjustment fluctuate?

The fluctuation in the Cost Adjustment is caused by changes in the cost of fuel for electric generation, mainly natural gas. Last summer, natural gas costs were around $3-$4/MMBTU — they currently sit at $7-$8/MMBTU.

A portion of OEC’s cost of power is already included in the energy charge, or kilowatt hour (kWh) charge. When the cost of power is greater than the amount included in the energy charge, the Cost Adjustment reflects that increase. When the cost of power purchased is less, the Cost Adjustment appears as a credit on electric bills.

Who is affected by the Cost Adjustment?

For about a year now, the electric industry has experienced record highs in the cost of generating electricity. These increases are caused mostly by the record high natural gas prices but are also believed to be results of the international crisis in Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 winter storm that caused rolling blackouts, inflation and government regulations.

Essentially, all electric consumers are affected by these events and are experiencing increases in their costs of power.

“Despite these hardships, WFEC is a leader in the integration of renewable energy that benefits all OEC members,” said Ferree. “WFEC has been able to maintain a reliable supply of wholesale electric service across their region at a very competitive price.”

OEC prices remain below the national average price of electricity, and we continually work with WFEC to ensure that remains the case.

What can I do in the meantime?

We provide a variety of solutions for those seeking relief from these temporary price increases.

  • Apply for a FREE energy audit through our Home Energy Consultation Program to identify ways your home can cut energy use — and costs.
  • Enroll in hourly or daily high usage text message alerts via the MyOEC mobile app. If your electricity use exceeds your threshold, you will receive a text message and can take immediate action to avoid a high bill. Follow the directions below to sign up.
  • Consider switching to a different rate. We offer three residential rates, each one ideal for different usage types and behaviors. Learn more and switch rates here.
  • Use the MyOEC mobile app to make payment extensions.

Contact us here if you have additional questions regarding the Cost Adjustment or solutions.

 

From the Top with CEO Patrick Grace

We’re now about 18 months removed from the 2021 winter storm that wreaked havoc on the electric system and revealed some vulnerabilities when it comes to capacity concerns. Some of you may have even been affected by the rolling blackouts in February, 2021. While that particular event was a perfect storm of soaring natural gas prices, inoperable wind farms and high demand across all 14 states served by the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), it raised the public’s awareness of — and concern for — a potential repeat event in the future. Because of that, generation, transmission and distribution providers have planned accordingly in hopes to avoid capacity concerns in the near future.

OEC’s wholesale power provider, Western Farmers Electric Cooperative (WFEC), has always conducted capacity planning and is prepared for a wide range of outcomes no matter what extreme weather conditions arise. But, as part of the SPP, we are not only affected by what’s happening locally, but throughout all 14 states served by the SPP.

The good news is the entire electric system is interconnected and designed to help alleviate stressors. This means if one area is experiencing extreme conditions that are putting unusually high demand on one part of the system, power can be rerouted from a neighboring state.

We have always tried to alleviate the load on the electric system during the summer months, which is why we were one of the first co-ops in the nation to launch a time-of-use rate in 2009. We continue to encourage using large appliances during off-peak hours, no matter which rate you are billed. It not only costs less to produce electricity during off-peak hours, it helps prolong the life of existing infrastructure. The longer we can delay building new power plants, the longer we can keep costs low for consumers.

To explore our rate options and see our recommended energy efficiency solutions, visit www.okcoop.org. Stay safe and cool this summer.

From the Top with CEO Patrick Grace

I couldn’t be happier to announce that, after two years of canceled plans, our Annual Meeting and Member Appreciation Night is making its comeback in a few short months. Mark your calendars for Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, for a night of entertainment, prizes and family fun at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman.

We are excited to be able to share an evening with you again after a long break, and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with how we’ve grown and evolved since we last met in 2019. The good news is everything should look the same as past Annual Meetings — our caterer will be back with some delicious barbecue, and we’ll have prizes, the Kids’ Zone, Innovation Expo, entertainment, the $1,000 grand prize and everything else you’ve become accustomed to over the years.

For those who are newer to OEC, we hope you will plan on joining us Aug. 5 to fully experience what it means to be a co-op member. From an area dedicated to kids’ activities and local robotics team demonstrations, to the Luck of the Draw $1,000 scholarship giveaways and more, we have fun lined up for the whole family.

Prior to the Annual Meeting and Member Appreciation Night, we will hold meetings in Districts 3, 5 and 7. We meet at those District Meetings in July with the purpose of electing board trustees to represent members in those districts. Members in those districts will receive special invitations in the weeks to come.

On another note, summer is upon us, and I encourage you to read about our three residential rate options on page 4. Now is the perfect time to switch rates (if you haven’t already switched within the last 12 months). You can view more information and switch rates by visiting www.okcoop.org/rates. Stay safe this month, and we will see you in August.

As Summer Peak Times Loom; OEC and OEC Fiber Unveil Automatic Outage Restoration

NORMAN, OKLAHOMA, May 23, 2022 — Oklahoma Electric Cooperative (OEC) and OEC Fiber are pleased to announce the implementation of the Adaptively Controlled Electric System (ACES) Project. This innovative step toward a self-healing grid employs a group of automatic switches to isolate power outages and redirect electricity, creating a more reliable electric system for OEC’s 45,000 consumer-members.

A multi-year project, ACES is now in the pilot phase, where it has already impacted members by preventing more than 63,000 minutes of outage time. Already the most reliable electric provider among the seven counties it serves, OEC is again revolutionizing the way it provides power to its members.

OEC is now equipped to utilize the lightning-fast communication technology of fiber to better control its infrastructure. The speed and reliability of the fiber itself allows devices to remain in constant communication to prevent outages before they start by using a series of automated switches to isolate the outage and redirect the flow of power to restore service. This way, less members are impacted and line crews are more quickly able to identify the cause of the outage and make necessary repairs.

“The creation of OEC Fiber has brought connectivity to the middle of Oklahoma that wasn’t there before,” said OEC Manager of System Engineering Nick Shumaker. “We now have instant communication with all devices in the field by utilizing fiber, which is how we communicate to all of them in 1/1000 of a second to get up-to-the-minute data and get people’s power back online.”

Oklahoma Electric Cooperative is the state’s largest member-owned electric cooperative and provides electricity to over 45,000 members and 62,000 accounts in seven central Oklahoma counties. The service area includes approximately 5,700 miles of line in over 2,200 square miles. To find out more about OEC, visit www.okcoop.org.  OEC Fiber is a subsidiary of OEC run by employees who embody the same attitude and spirit of OEC you know and trust. Our expert partners, Trans-Tel, Conexon, Calix, and Momentum, not only bring decades of experience, but are dedicated to the subscribers we serve. Learn more at www.oecfiber.com.

 

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