October is National Co-op Month

As an electric cooperative, our top priority is always to provide reliable, affordable energy to you, the member-owners we serve. Because we are a co-op, our mission is to enrich the lives of our members and serve the long-term interests of our local community – and this mission has never been more critical than in recent months. One of the seven principles that guides all co-ops is “concern for community.” To me, this principle is the essential DNA of Nodak Electric, and it sets us apart from other electric utilities.

October is National Co-op Month, and electric cooperatives across the country are highlighting the many ways we “Power On.” Keeping this theme in mind, I recognize the essential role we play in serving special communities like ours.

Who would have fathomed back in March, that the COVID-19 virus would amount to a test of our community and our nation? The changing circumstances due to the pandemic have created both challenges and opportunities. During the past several months, we’ve all been challenged to operate differently, and Nodak has stepped up to help our members and strengthen the safety net for our more vulnerable neighbors.

As an essential service, and to ensure reliability of your power supply, we modified our operations to safeguard business continuity. Our line crews and other employees began working to maintain separation from each other to ensure we have healthy employees ready to serve you. Some staff worked remotely. In the office, we limited and modified meetings and gatherings to allow for safe separation. We also adjusted our walk-in office availability and in-person service calls to ensure the health and safety of our employees and our valued members. In addition, we initially postponed our annual meeting and finally held that meeting as a “ballot only” meeting to protect our membership. For the health and safety of everyone, we think these measures were the prudent course of action for the times.

For our members impacted by COVID-19 who needed help with their electric bills, we waived late fees and service disconnections for several months and worked with those hit hardest to make special payment arrangements.

And while we certainly missed visiting with you in person, we found new ways to stay connected. As a member-owner, you can now virtually transact all your business with the cooperative online if you choose, including signing up for new services. We also ramped up our social media efforts to help you stay better informed and added additional content to our website.

I tell you about all these efforts not to boast about Nodak Electric, but to explain how much we care about the communities we serve – because we live here, too.

We’ve seen other local businesses rising to meet similar challenges during this time, because that’s what communities do. While the challenges caused by COVID-19 have been daunting, I’m heartened to see how everyone is pulling together.

In 1939, Nodak Electric Cooperative was built by the community to serve the community, and that’s what we’ll continue to do – Power On.

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Daily Cycling Of Electric Storage Heat To Begin In Late October

Members heating with electric thermal storage, such as thermal storage room units, thermal storage furnaces or slab/in-floor heating, should turn on their heating system prior to Oct. 15 to allow a heat reservoir to build up before daily cycling of loads begins. The actual date cycling begins varies each season. Thermal storage heating is controlled each day from 7 a.m. to noon and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.

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Who Owns What?

Electric co-op owned equipment vs member-owned equipment

Nodak Electric Cooperative is committed to the reliable delivery of power to our members.

When power interruption occurs, we work very hard to restore service as quickly and as safely as we can.

With so many different pieces of equipment that make up the electrical system, it can be hard to know what equipment belongs to (and is repaired by) Nodak and what portion is the member’s responsibility (see illustration on this page).

Nodak lineworkers maintain all 8,082 miles of line that make up the system, including your individual service all the way to the meter (and meter disconnect – if we installed it – below your meter).

Due to insurance, liability and safety reasons, lineworkers cannot work on anything past the meter or on any equipment mounted on a building.  Please contact a licensed electrician to help you with your electrical projects.

Members are responsible for equipment between the meter and home or business, including the overhead or underground service line that leads into the structure and the service panel (fuse box).  Please call a licensed electrician to make repairs.

Whether it’s Nodak’s line or member-owned line, please be aware when planting trees, shrubs, etc., of not only the overhead lines but also underground wires.

If you have questions on who owns what, please contact us at 800-732-4373.

 

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Electric Off-Peak Heat Rates Begin Oct. 1

Members with subtractive or separately metered off-peak electric heating systems will be charged the applicable off-peak rate for energy usage beginning Oct. 1. The off-peak rates will continue to be charged for energy usage through May 31, 2021. Current off-peak rates are $0.062/kWh for long-term and $0.077/kWh for short-term controlled systems (price includes the $0.004/kWh renewable energy market adjustment charge). It is a good idea to inspect, clean and test your heating system before cold weather arrives. Please check to make sure all of your electric heat circuit breakers are on prior to Oct. 1.

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Four Ways To Be Cyber Safe

We all know the internet can be dangerous and scary. Experts warn of a triple threat these days. First, scammers are taking advantage of COVID-19 uncertainty, from offering phony cures and tests to promises of financial assistance. Second, with more people working from home due to social distancing, there may be fewer office-based security measures in place. Third, the FBI warns that increased use of mobile banking offers more chances for cybercrime. So, here are four cybersecurity tips to keep you safe:

Use strong passwords

And change them regularly – many sites and apps make that easy to do by clicking on the “forgot your password” link. The best passwords are at least eight characters and include different types of characters – try using a memorable verse from your favorite song and adding a few numbers and special characters ($!_&), or even a space. If you are like most people, remembering all your passwords is a challenge.

Choose a security option based on the value of what you’re protecting. The options you use to secure your bank and retirement account passwords might be different than how you store your social media passwords.

Password apps keep them in one place and may be a great option for some passwords, but you can be in big trouble if you forget the password that lets you into that app. Keeping passwords on paper or in a notebook might be more secure than using the same password for everything, depending on how secure and hidden that paper is from other people at the office or kids at home.

Install software updates

Your apps and operating systems will periodically send updates. Install them – they often include protections against the latest security threats. But remember, those updates come from the apps and not from emails or social media notices. An email containing an update may be a scam – instead of clicking on the link, go to the app’s website to see if there really are updates available.

Use two-factor authentication

That phrase is just a fancy word for a technique that adds an extra layer of security in addition to a password. Banks increasingly use this system – when you try to connect with them, the bank may text a code number to your phone that you type in to complete the sign-in process for your account.

Keep in mind that answering a security question is similar to having a password – both are something you know. Answering a security question won’t provide the same level of additional security as that of a second factor. A second factor will be something you have, like your phone to receive a passcode, or something you are, like a biometric fingerprint, in addition to something you know, like a password or security question.

Think before you click

Be wary of any offer or link that comes through the internet, whether by email or social media, or even a phone call instructing you to get online. Don’t click on a link unless you know for certain what it is. Ideally, you should be expecting to receive the link. Even emails from friends should be suspect – hackers can impersonate someone you know to send a link or an attachment, and either can result in you downloading malware that can take control of your computer in ways you may not even be able to detect.

If you have any doubt, whether it’s a link to a software update or an attachment to a funny cat video, give the sender a phone call to find out if they really sent it or if it’s a scam.

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Rescheduled 80th Annual Meeting Held

The 80th annual meeting was held at Nodak Electric Cooperative’s headquarters building in Grand Forks, N.D., on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020.

During the meeting, directors Cheryl Osowski, Peter Naastad and Steve Smaaladen were reelected for a three-year term and the minutes of the 79th annual meeting were approved. In further action, Steve Smaaladen was selected as chairman, David Kent as vice-chairman and David Brag as secretary/treasurer.

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Bird On A Wire

If you look up at overhead power lines, it would not be surprising to see birds sitting on the wires. While it is safe for a bird to do so, it is not safe for people to be near overhead power lines. So how can birds sit on a power line unharmed? Safe Electricity reveals insights into the “bird on a wire” phenomenon and separates fact from fiction.

It is a myth that all power lines are insulated with a protective coating that prevents shocks. Most power lines are actually not insulated. The coating that is on lines is actually for weather proofing and will not offer any protection from the electrical current.

In order for an electrical charge, or electrons, to move from one spot to another, it must be in contact (or sometimes close proximity) with conductive material that has at least two different points of potential. Electrons will move toward lower potential. That is why it is said that electricity is always looking for a path to ground (lower potential).

A bird remains safe because it is sitting on a single wire and is at one point of contact – and consequently one electrical potential. If the bird sitting at this one potential was to also make contact with another object of different potential, that bird would be completing a path to ground, causing severe electric shock or electrocution. For larger birds with wider wingspans, reaching and touching another cable is a real hazard.

Getting near overhead power lines is also a serious hazard for people. The utility crews who work near overhead power lines must wear appropriate safety clothing, use tested safety equipment and take training to be able to do the installation, maintenance and repair work they do. It is vital that safety equipment is regularly tested as even nonconductive materials, such as rubber, wood or plastic, can conduct electricity if damp, dirty or damaged.

Safe Electricity encourages everyone to be aware of their surroundings and shares the following safety tips:

  • Always look up and look out for overhead power lines.
  • Keep yourself and any tools or equipment a minimum distance of 10 feet away from power lines in all directions at all times.
  • Remember that getting too close to a power line, even without touching it, is very dangerous.
  • Avoid working directly under power lines.
  • When working with tall equipment such as ladders, poles or antennas, carry them in a horizontal position as to not risk making contact with overhead lines.
  • Always assume that power lines, even if they have come down, are live and carry an electrical charge.

To learn more about electrical safety, visit SafeElectricity.org.

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Save Money While At Home

As some co-op members may be spending more time at home, they may also be seeing a surge in home energy use.

Try these tips to help control your energy bill:

  • Program your thermostat to maximize energy savings. Setting your thermostat one degree lower when heating or one degree higher when cooling can reduce energy use by up to 5%.
  • Do full loads of laundry and wash with cold water. Using warm water instead of hot can cut a load’s energy use in half and using cold water will save even more.
  • Air dry dishes. This step can cut your dishwasher’s energy use by up to 50%.
  • Substitute LEDs for conventional light bulbs. Lighting can amount to up to 12% of monthly energy use. LED bulbs can cut lighting costs by 75%.
  • Unplug appliances and electronics when not in use. Small appliances and electronics use energy even when not in use. When powered on, game consoles, televisions and similar electronics are responsible for up to 12% of energy use.
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Grilling Safety Tips

The joys of summer: swimming, fishing and grilling. Enjoy mouth-watering food with safety in mind.

Safety Tips

  • Propane and charcoal barbecue grills should only be used outdoors.
  • The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grill area.
  • Never leave your grill unattended.
  • Always make sure your gas grill lid is open before lighting it.

Source: nfpa.org

Opt For Electric

  • Electric grills are safe and can be used either indoors or outdoors.
  • Grill within minutes: electric grills heat up quickly and efficiently.
  • No gas leaks to worry about.
  • Electric grills require less preparation.
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EV Fast Charger Coming Soon!

Grand Forks will soon be the latest North Dakota city to offer a public fast charging opportunity for electric vehicle (EV) drivers.

In the coming weeks, Nodak Electric Cooperative will unveil a new ChargePoint DC fast charging station in the Wendy’s restaurant parking lot at 3760 32nd Ave. South. DC fast charging allows EV drivers  to charge their vehicle’s battery up to 80% in just 30-60 minutes – a vital resource for those traveling to our community.

Stay tuned to Nodak Electric’s Facebook page and website for more details on this exciting installation!

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Around The Co-Op

Charbonneau Retires

Brian Charbonneau, district crew foreman for the Cavalier service center, retired from Nodak after 30 years of service. A Rolla, N.D., native, Brian attended Bismarck State College for lineman school. He started with Nodak in 1990 and was promoted to foreman in 2012.

 


Foerster Promoted

Mike Foerster has accepted the position of Cavalier crew foreman after the recent retirement of Brian Charbonneau. Mike joined Nodak’s Cavalier crew as a journeyman lineman in 2013. A graduate of Bismarck State College and a Fordville, N.D., native, Mike resides in Cavalier.

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Electricity Brings Everyday Value

Even though I work in the energy industry, like most people, I still don’t think much about the electricity I use. I expect the lights to turn on when I flip the switch and the coffeemaker to work each morning. Because electricity is so abundant, we don’t think much about it. Since many of us have been spending more time at home during the past few months, we have likely been using more energy there. And yet, we still expect an endless supply of power with uninterrupted service 24/7. The only time we really think about electricity is when the power goes out, or maybe when the monthly bill arrives.

Given how electricity powers our modern lifestyle every day, it’s a great value, especially when compared to other common services and expenses. For example, think back to the cost of just about any consumer item 20 years ago. Consider the cost of groceries or a cup of your favorite specialty coffee from a few years back. In comparison, the cost of electricity has remained largely flat, unlike most other consumer goods.

Like many of you, I have a cellphone to stay connected, and I subscribe to cable TV and Netflix so I can enjoy more viewing options. Many of us consider these necessities for modern-day life. We can see what we are getting for our money, and we pay the price for those services. In contrast, when we use electricity, we don’t necessarily “see” all that we are getting for our money.

But considering what electricity does for us, it’s a tremendous value for our quality of life as well as our budgets. For comparison, consider the average rent increase has been nearly 4% from 2014 to 2019 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index, or CPI. The cost of medical care increased 3% during that time, and education was not too far behind at 2.6%. So, where did electricity rank? The CPI shows electricity increased by less than half a percentage point at 0.4% nationwide over that time period.

The bottom line: Electricity brings everyday value. In fact, Nodak Electric Cooperative members on average had electricity available to them 99.97% of the time last year. Considering that electricity is something we all use around-the-clock, I’m very proud of our track record. At the same time, we are striving to increase our service reliability, reduce those brief interruptions and reduce costs. We are continuously working to improve our operations to ensure a smarter grid and ensure we have the right energy mix. Nodak Electric Cooperative provides the reliable service you expect and deserve as a valued member of our cooperative.

We recognize that the past few months have been challenging for many of our members, and we’re here to help. If you have questions about your account, please give us a call. Nodak is your electric co-op, and our sole purpose is to serve you and the needs of our community. That’s everyday value.

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, we made the decision back in March to postpone the annual meeting to a time when we felt safe gathering a large group of people. In light of the continued threat and social distancing guidance, your board of directors has decided to hold an annual meeting as a “business-only” meeting. We have two business items we need to take care of – approval of last year’s annual meeting minutes and approval of the results of the board of directors election. Both of these items will be conducted through mail-in ballots only.

For many of us, the annual meeting is one of the highlights of our membership in the cooperative. With that in mind, it’s a very difficult decision to not bring you all together for an evening of fellowship. Unfortunately, the conditions aren’t conducive to doing so, and we will have to wait until next spring to give it another try. It’s hard to do, but it’s the safe thing to do. Your board chairman and I will record messages for the membership and place them online for you to review. Until we can get together again face-to-face, stay safe, everyone.

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