UEC Celebrates 80 Years of Service

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Robert Echenrode
UEC General Manager and CEO Robert Echenrode addresses members during its annual meeting Saturday night.

Umatilla Electric Cooperative celebrate 80 years of “reaching new heights” during its annual meeting Saturday night.

UEC General Manager and CEO Robert Echenrode shared some of the cooperative’s recent accomplishments during his address to UEC’s membership.

Work began in February on UEC’s 31st substation, this one located in N.E. Hermiston.

“That investment will improve reliability and accommodate growth – both for UEC and our partner, Hermiston Energy Services,” Echenrode said. Other new infrastructure includes plans for a new transmission line from McNary to the Hermiston Butte as well as system improvements that are currently under way in several irrigated areas in UEC’s territory.

UEC is continuing to adapt as new technology arrives on the scene.

“We recognize that our industry, like all others, must adapt and evolve faster than ever as technology influences the preferences and behaviors of our customers,” he said. UEC’s automated meter-reading system allows the cooperative to offer new payment options in which a member can pre-pay on their account much in the same way they gas up their car. Customers can pay as they go as much or as often as they like.

UEC has also fully converted to an electronic map of its system that can be accessed by linemen and other staff from tablets and other devices in the field.

“This digital map instantly displays thousands of meters and poles in our system and allows us to respond to outages and other issues with greater speed and accuracy,” said Echenrode. Customers can now monitor the status of and outage from the UEC website and learn about its status, duration and how many people are affected.

UEC has also recently completed a three-year effort to upgrade nine miles of power lines along Highway 204 as well as the electrical services radiating from those lines.

Echenrode said UEC’s efforts have paid off in terms of improved customer service. A recent survey to determine its customer satisfaction index score showed its score has risen 3 points to 84. That compares to a national average of 72 from municipal utilities, 75 for investor-owned utilities, and 78 for other electric cooperatives.

“It is reflective that we are improving our services and reaching new heights by the way we communicate with you, offering new services and improving reliability and offering value-driven rates,” Echenrode said.

As for the future, Echenrode said UEC will remain determined to provide the best service to its members.

“On reflection, our biggest accomplishment over our past 80 years may be our resiliency and commitment to the community,” he said. “We must remain relevant and offer value to our members. UEC has been a community partner and will continue to be involved throughout the areas we serve. To assure we’re still operating in another 80 years, we need to stand together and stand strong. We must demonstrate relevance and provide greater value in order to reach new heights.”