Emergency water container sale

EWEB customers can purchase three-gallon, BPA-free water containers for $5 each, while supplies last, in the customer service lobby.

Purchase your water containers between 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. in the atrium. The account-holder must be present, and the charge will be added to your EWEB bill. Limit four per customer.

Commissioners approve 2018 budget with no price increase

Our Affordability Initiative is already delivering positive results for customers, with a water price decrease set to go into effect Feb. 1, 2018, and no electric price change for the second year in a row.

EWEB commissioners voted unanimously on Dec. 5 to adopt a 2018 budget of $300.9 million – $6.1 million less than the 2017 budget. The improved financial position allowed us to absorb the estimated $2.7 million impact from the Bonneville Power Administration’s wholesale price increase for energy without passing those additional costs on to our customers.

Launched last spring, our Affordability Initiative seeks to deliver value to customers and to better align spending levels to what our customers-owners expect.

The initiative builds on a multi-year program to improve the financial strength of EWEB by reducing operating costs, paying off or restructuring debt, delaying or reducing certain capital projects, and eliminating some programs that don’t directly impact safety or reliability.

In 2017, financial savings initiatives included:
•$1.9 million of O&M savings
•Staff reductions that will reduce net labor costs by $3.8 million in 2018
•Electric utility defeased $35 million in debt, saving $3.2 million in debt service for 2018
•Water utility paid $11 million to the Electric utility for reducing intercompany debt for an overall $600,000 savings in debt service

This work directly supports Phase I of the Strategic Plan to enhance customer confidence.

The tangible results of these efforts include an overall water price decrease of about 3 percent. On average, residential customers will realize a 4.5 percent drop in water prices effective Feb. 1.

Electric prices will not increase in 2018 – marking the third time in four years that we have been able to keep electric prices flat. We did not increase electric prices in 2017 or 2015.

Some of the key 2018 budget assumptions include:
•0 percent health insurance premium increase
•3.5 percent wage escalation
•Retail electric load approximately the same as 2017
•Slight increase in water consumption

The decrease in water prices is largely achieved by removing a 3 percent price increase was implemented in 2014 for development of a Willamette River water filtration plant. Our emergency water supply program is now focused on developing our capabilities to deliver water at a number of distribution sites throughout the community. The 2018 budget includes $1.3 million for alternative water supply projects and programs.

While reducing costs, we have been able to retain programs that are important to the community and our customer-owners. The 2018 budget includes an increase in spending on conservation incentive programs of approximately $250,000 compared with 2017 program levels. And we continue to be a strong community partner as evidenced by our Customer Care Program that provides bill payment assistance for limited income customers of approximately $1.5 million.

“The 2108 budget positions both the electric and water utilities to continue financial resiliency enhancements and to rise to the challenge of enhancing customer confidence,” said GM Frank Lawson in a memo to the Board of Commissioners. “I’m proud of how EWEB has rallied around this new focus, and I want to thank staff, management and commissioners for their assistance in helping achieve our mission ‘to enhance our community’s vitality by delivering drinking water and electric services consistent with the values of our customer-owners’.”

Midgley Fitness Center Decommissioning Update

We applaud our retirees who make a commitment to exercise and use the Midgley Fitness Center. We recognize this has been a fantastic benefit that has been available to retirees and eligible family members. Unfortunately, come December 31, 2017 the Midgley Fitness Center will no longer be accessible for employees, retirees or family members.

In its place we are excited to share a partnership with International Fitness has been extended to the EWEB family. Beginning January 1, 2018 employees, families and retirees will receive no enrollment fees and a reduced rate of $9.95 per month per person or $159 per year, per person – removing the one time annual club enhancement fee of $39. International Fitness offers over 100 classes per week between their various locations, including top of the line resistance training equipment, free weights, and cardio machines. Additional amenities vary per location but include swimming and water activities, steam room, saunas, indoor basketball courts and an indoor soccer field.

More information will be available in the coming weeks on this new resource to help you achieve and maintain healthy lifestyles. If you have questions you may contact HR at 541-685-7552.


Another Run to Stay Warm is in the record books

Many thanks to all the runners and volunteers who participated in Sunday’s event!

More than 1,000 runners and walkers participated in EWEB’s 11th Annual Run to Stay Warm on Sunday, Nov. 19.

It was a beautiful day for the 5K/10K/half marathon. Over the last 10 years, the race has raised more than $200,000 for EWEB’s Customer Care Program.

Run to Stay Warm is made possible through the support of nearly two dozen local businesses and organizations who sponsor the event, as well as many wonderful volunteers.

Thank you to all EWEBers who came out to support this year’s event!

Scott Sinclair (Carmen Smith) and Greg Finn (Meter Reading)

Commissioner Sonya Carlson

Shane Buck (Water)

Zulema Jones (Customer Solutions) and Jared Rubin (Environmental)

It’s not too late to volunteer for Run to Stay Warm

Now in its 11th year, the Run to Stay Warm is EWEB’s premier community event. All proceeds benefit our Customer Care Program to help income-eligible customers who are having difficulty paying their utility bills. Each year the program helps thousands of families stay warm during the winter months. To date, the Run to Stay Warm has raised more than $212,000 for Customer Care!

We’re looking for volunteers to help with day of tasks including handing out medals at the finish, helping the kids during the Kids’ 400m dash, keeping participants hydrated in the water trailer, and more! If you’re interested, click this link to sign up for a shift or contact jennifer.connors@eweb.org for more information.

Open House draws in customers with a variety of interests

Around 70 people turned out for EWEB’s second Open House event of 2017.

Customers were able to wander from station to station, learning along the way about energy and water efficiency incentives, power resources and pricing, EWEB’s approach to electric outage restoration, tree trimming practices, and emergency preparedness.

In addition to chatting with utility experts, customers could take specific actions like update their account information for better outage reporting, and sign up for new tech-enabled services EWEB will offer in the future as part of our Modernization Program.

“We updated 48 phone numbers and had 25 accounts opt-in for AMI,” said Customer Service Specialist James Palmer.

The family-friendly event included an electric safety demonstration that captivated several kiddos–not to mention the adults!

Nearly two dozen EWEBers staffed the evening event that took place in the HQ North Building, while Executive Team members and Commissioners circulated the room interacting with customers and answering questions.

Staff and Commissioners fielded a variety of questions, from “What is EWEB doing to prepare for EVs?” to “How can I increase my water pressure.”

Many customers were interested in energy efficient appliances.

One employee described the diversity of people and topics served by the event. “There was a real range. We had a woman who didn’t know what hydro power was, and then we had a man who was tinkering with the concept of putting batteries in his garage to store his solar panel generated energy.”

As usual, employees were up to the challenge of assisting and supporting an array of customer needs.

“I’m always impressed when I see you interacting with customers with such knowledge and pride,” GM Frank Lawson wrote in an email to the Open House staff. “You make me proud to be an EWEBer!”

GM talks utility goals and direction at City Club

In his Oct. 13 presentation to City Club of Eugene, Frank highlighted staff’s hard work and creative thinking as driving EWEB’s success.

This was Frank’s second visit this year to City Club, a civic group that explores local, state and national issues and aims to influence public policy and community decision-making.

The presentation focused on emergency planning and power portfolio decisions—the two “big ones” in EWEB’s strategic plan—as well as the reasons behind the utility’s affordability initiative.

“It isn’t that we want to be cheap or just think short-term,” Frank said. “Cost is a component of customer confidence, and controlling costs creates financial headroom so that we can continue to make investments in areas that are important to the community.”

One of those areas is water reliability. Frank discussed the utility’s move away from a second water filtration plant in the short-term, and our focus on developing multiple water sources that can serve the community in a disaster.

“A Willamette River filtration plant is part of our long-term plan, but we recognize there would still be vulnerabilities even with a second plant,” he said. “When you’re not sure what kind of disaster you’ll face, the best decision is to give yourself several options, which is why we’re focused on diversifying our water sources.”

Frank also touched on EWEB’s power supply portfolio and the need to develop a deeper understanding of customer consumption patterns.

“The energy market is so dynamic that we no longer talk about ‘balancing’ supply and demand, but rather ‘synchronizing’ supply and demand on a seasonal, daily, hourly and even within-the-hour basis,” he said. “We are looking at every resource in our portfolio, investing in new power modeling techniques, and developing programs that can help interested customers shift their consumption patterns, all with the goal of achieving more resilient and flexible delivery.”

Frank credited staff for demonstrating grit and creativity in the face of intense change.

“We’ve thrown a lot at the utility in the last year. I’m very thankful and very proud of the people who work at EWEB. We’re asking them to do a lot of new things. We’ve challenged what we do and how we do it. And employees are responding with innovative ideas, creative thinking, and looking at the challenges of the future with a new set of eyes. We have a great workforce and they know it’s up to them to be stewards for the utility and the community going forward.”

You can listen to a full recording of Frank’s presentation on the KLCC website at http://klcc.org/post/city-club-eugene-ewebs-new-strategic-plan.

Staff consolidation plan takes a major step forward

EWEB will retain a customer service presence downtown, and other headquarters staff will begin moving to the ROC later this year.

Management and staff have been working for months on a staff consolidation plan by evaluating work needs, customer interests, and space options. A key ingredient to planning the sequence of a move and a new layout at ROC involves how we handle EWEB’s customer service presence. Should we retain a presence downtown? If so, where and how many staff?

Management looked at several options, including:
· A limited customer service center at ROC
· A full-service center at the existing HQ building
· Purchasing or leasing a different building somewhere in Eugene

At the Oct. 3 board meeting, commissioners directed staff to maintain some level of customer service downtown. That could be at the existing headquarters—in either the south or the north building—or in a different space somewhere in the downtown area.

There are advantages to maintaining customer service at the HQ building, mainly around visibility, access, and the availability of public meeting space. But there would be some hurdles to overcome if we were to maintain some or all customer service functions at HQ. For one thing, we don’t need as much physical space as the north and south buildings afford, so configuring our space needs in a way that optimizes the rest of the site for other uses would be a challenge. There are also potential complications around parking if we sell or lease parts of the headquarters site.

One thing was clear from the board—they do not want to operate customer service out of the Roosevelt facility.

“Looking at the social and economic profiles of our customers, it would be a burden for many people to travel out to the Roosevelt location,” said Commissioner Brown.

Other commissioners commented that our customer service center should not only be easy to access, but also present a friendly, inviting feel. The board agreed the ROC is not conducive to a community-oriented customer service center.

GM Frank Lawson indicated that this key piece of direction from the board clears the way to begin moving some staff to ROC as early as November-December, with the majority of moves occurring in early 2018.

“Consolidating the majority of staff at Roosevelt will result in efficiencies and cost-savings that will translate into increased customer trust and confidence,” said Frank. “This has been a long-time in the works, and I think we’re ready to go forward, not just with the physical move, but more importantly, with discovering new and improved ways of working together.”

What customer service functions will remain downtown and where to locate them is the next priority decision. “I’m interested in exploring options around what the HQ facility might look like different circumstances,” said Frank. “Our goal is to meet customer needs while maximize the value economic value to the community.”

A next round of discussions with the board regarding the future of the headquarters building will be scheduled within the next few months.

Commissioners OK draft budget with no price increase

The draft 2018 budget proposes no increase in electric prices and a three percent decrease in water prices. EWEB Commissioners at their Oct. 3 meeting expressed unanimous support for the draft budget.

This spring, we launched the Affordability Initiative to make the prices we charge customers for water and power more affordable, and to create the financial capacity for investments that support our newly-adopted strategic plan.

We are executing this strategic effort to control costs through efficiency improvements, workforce reductions, debt restructuring and program adjustments. The first goal of the initiative is the permanent reduction of $15 million from EWEB’s budget by 2020. We are making significant progress on this important goal.

This initiative, coupled with efforts over the past two years to reduce debt, lower operating costs and defer or delay certain capital projects, is already showing results. Going into 2018, EWEB is in the best fiscal shape we’ve been in over the past decade.

Holding the line on–and reducing–electric and water prices are demonstrable actions that provide tangible results to our customers.

“But our objective is not just cost and workforce reductions,” said GM Frank Lawson. “The much-improved financial position creates the financial headroom for EWEB to make the strategic choices that benefit our customers now and in the decades to come.”

The Board will hold additional discussions and public hearings on the proposed 2018 budget at their November and December meetings, and will approve the final budget at the Dec. 5 meeting.