Snow-caused outages didn’t damper annual co-op meeting

The lights went out for about 1,700 of Beartooth Electric Cooperative’s members in the early hours of Friday, Sept. 22. Beartooth crews worked 22 hours restoring power before being sent home for the sake of safety. Electricity for all meters was restored while the annual member meeting was in progress Saturday morning.
Beartooth’s general manager, Kevin Owens, summed up what his audience of rural residents has seen too often in recent years. “With the combination of wet, heavy snow and trees that still had all their leaves, no matter how much trimming we do during the year—power lines are going to go down.” Unfortunately many areas had to be restored multiple times because of trees and limbs continuing to fall throughout the day.
“Our linemen have joined us,” Owens announced near the end of the meeting, adding, “Everyone has their power back.” 
About 200 members of the rural electric co-op were on hand at the Anipro Event Center near Absarokee to hear about the status of their cooperative. As promised, power supply contracts were a primary focus.
“Power is 40 percent of our operating costs,” Owens told the crowd. “It’s a huge plus that we’ve locked up power supply so that over the next ten years we’ll have less than a one percent increase in those costs.”
Owens also described a new advanced metering system the co-op will invest in over the next two years. “It will look like the same meter, but with internal technology for two-way communication. A large flat screen monitor will display our electric system and each meter location. A red meter dot on the screen will indicate no power at that location. It is conceivable for us to know your power is off before you do,” he said. Replacement of the co-op’s obsolete meters will also allow for better use of staff and resources, according to Owens. “We’ll be able to turn a meter on or off with the press of a key rather than sending out a truck and lineman.”
Along with trustees of the co-op’s board, Owens also touted the opportunities ahead for distributed generation—wind, solar and other renewable on-site power.
“We’ll embrace member interest in distributed energy resources, while making sure we treat all members fairly and equitably,” he said. The co-op board and management have scheduled a strategic planning retreat in November that will address the co-op’s handling of member-generated power, net metering and rate structure, among other topics.
 Travis Togo, chief commercial officer at Energy Keepers, Inc. was the keynote speaker at the event. EKI is the tribally-owned corporation of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes tasked with managing the Seliš Ksanka Qlispe hydroelectric project (formally known as Kerr Dam) on the Flathead River. Mr. Togo’s speech encompassed the history of the dam, the win-win business partnership between EKI and Beartooth and the changing landscape in the energy industry.
“Change is happening all over the west,” he said. “The energy picture is changing now and changing rapidly—and these changes are being driven by the consumer.”
Togo pointed out that many municipalities and large power users are demanding clean power sources.
“This is an exciting time,” Togo said. “Beartooth Electric is in the forefront of finding local solutions and others will follow your lead.”


Upcoming Events

Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Tuesdays, Noon, Beartooth Grill, 305 1st Ave. S.
Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Fourth Tuesdays, 7 p.m., Eagles Hall, 313 W. Main, 628-4503
Wednesday, June 26, 2019
10 a.m., Laurel Public Library, 720 West Third Street, Laurel, 628-4961
Wednesday, June 26, 2019
Every Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., check for more info. Find them on Facebook . Email them to find out meeting time and to join: The club will have a meeting or volunteer activity. Meeting location is Sid's East Side Bar & Grill on first and third Wednesdays of each month. Members and guests eat free.  Volunteer activity on the second Wednesday of each month. Check their facebook page for updates.  Every fourth Wednesday is for a club social activity. 
Tuesday, July 2, 2019
Tuesdays, Noon, Beartooth Grill, 305 1st Ave. S.
Wednesday, July 3, 2019
10 a.m., Laurel Public Library, 720 West Third Street, Laurel, 628-4961


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