Annual report highlights community giving and service

The second annual Community Investment Report is a reflection back on some of the important programs the utility, and our employees, were involved in during 2016.

EWEB’s Community Investment Program includes mandated investments, fundraising activities, employee volunteerism, community service projects, events, sponsorships and donations.

EWEB invested more than $16.4 million back into the community in 2016. The vast majority of that investment is either mandated (by our charter, FERC license agreements, etc.), or Board-directed. A small annual budget is allocated for “discretionary” giving with guidelines to ensure consistency and transparency for how we invest our customers’ dollars for the betterment and well-being of the community we serve.

There were many opportunities for employees and retirees to get involved last year. EWEBers answered the call to help with Food for Lane County, Run to Stay Warm, McKenzie River Clean Up, Butte to Butte, Day of Caring, Power Readers, and many more events.

The goal of this report is to summarize and highlight the outstanding work we do to improve the quality of life in the community by supporting schools, helping people regain stability in times of hardship, protecting drinking water, promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy, encouraging personal emergency preparedness, and more.

We do this work because, as a customer-owned utility, our role in the community is more than a provider of water and electricity. We are committed to strengthening the community and enhancing the quality of life for the people we serve.

View the 2016 Community Investment Report.

Signing up for the Eugene Marathon? Want to join TEAM EWEB?

With the Eugene Marathon around the corner, if you plan on participating in the half or full race by using the EWEB Discount: CWC17EWEB you can receive $10 off your participating fee.

Signing up as a member of TEAM EWEB through the discount code, it helps EWEB earn points for the Corporate Wellness Challenge.

Corporate Wellness Challenge

If you’re interested in joining an EWEB team for the marathon, half-marathon or 5K, contact Taryn Johnson in Human Resources at 541-685-7328 for more information.

Understanding estimated reads, cold weather & high electric bills

Due to the December ice storm and the snow we had in January, meter readers were not able to complete all of their regular routes to read meters. In addition, several days of freezing and below-freezing temperatures in December and January caused electric heaters to work harder than usual. As a result, many customers are experiencing very high bills, and looking to EWEB for answers.

Here is some information that might be helpful to EWEB customers. Customer Service and Communications staff developed these messages for our conversations with customers in the lobby and over the phone, as well as for our social media and traditional media communications. We have also provided a hand-out version of this information in the lobby.

I kept my thermostat set at the same temperature, so why is my bill higher?

When temperatures drop to freezing or below, heating systems have to work much harder, resulting in higher electric usage. Even if you keep your thermostat at 68 degrees all year, you may see your electric bill increase dramatically after just a few days of freezing weather.

The average temperature in Eugene between Dec. 15 and Jan. 31 was 34 degrees. There were more than 20 days during that time period when temperatures plummeted below freezing. According to the National Weather Service in Portland, the 39-degree average temperature in the Eugene area for Dec. 21-Feb. 21 was the coldest since 1984. Many heat pumps turn to backup electric resistance heating in such extreme cold in order to maintain warm temperatures indoors, and these systems can use up to three times as much electricity on the coldest days.

In addition, the increased electric usage during extremely cold weather can move you into a higher energy price category. Current prices are 5.948 cents per kilowatt hour for the first 800 kWh, and 7.435 cents above 800 kWh. We did not increase electric prices in 2017, but the combination of extreme cold temperatures, heating systems having to work harder in general to keep up with the cold, and the possibility of being moved up into the higher usage category could all be reasons for your higher-than-average bill.

If you think your insulation isn’t good enough or your heating system is outdated, remember that EWEB offers free home energy audits, no-cost and low-cost energy-saving tips, rebates and zero-interest loans to help customers upgrade to more energy-efficient equipment. Just visit eweb.org for more information and an online program application.

Why does EWEB sometimes estimate customers’ bills?

Meter readers can’t always complete their scheduled routes due to weather conditions, including the December 2016 ice storm and the heavy snowfall in January 2017, which caused safety issues, made driving difficult and/or created time constraints. Fallen branches and frozen water meter lids may have blocked access to a meter, for example.

Are estimated bills higher than actual bills? If so, why?

Some could be, but in general, estimates tend to be lower than actual usage. The estimates are based on historical usage at the address, so multiple factors would contribute to bills being higher or lower due to an estimated meter reading.

These estimates are calculated by looking at the prior month and the same and prior months last year. For example, estimated usage/consumption for some December 2016 bills was calculated by looking at November 2016, December 2015 and November 2015 actual bills at those addresses.

So, if anything had changed between then and now, and if outside temps were very different this year compared with last year, the estimates will be skewed. As it turns out, electric usage indeed was higher overall this year: average electric usage/consumption in Jan. 2017 was about 371 average megawatts for all EWEB customers. By comparison, in January 2016, our electric load was 323 aMW.

In addition, a customer who may have received an estimated bill this winter may also have received an estimated bill for the same month in the previous year.

How many customers received estimated bills so far this winter?

There were estimated December bills issued to customers on 37 meter reading routes and to customers on 76 routes in January due to ice and snow events in those months. In addition, there were some other meter reading routes that were only partially completed for safety reasons; so, some reads were estimated, but not all. Overall, thousands of customer bills had to be estimated in those two months.

How will EWEB reconcile or “true up” the difference between estimated and actual meter readings on customers’ bills?

Your meter reading is a cumulative, ongoing total of the amount of electricity or water consumed at your residence, similar to how an odometer shows total miles driven in a car. The true-up occurs the next time the meter is read and the customer gets a bill reflecting the latest actual meter reading.

How long will that take?

Most likely just one bill cycle, barring any extreme weather events. The bill cycles that were estimated in January were not the same cycles as the ones that were estimated in December.

Will EWEB notify customers they are receiving estimated bills?

Yes. If your usage/consumption was estimated, you will see the word “estimated” after the meter read on your bill.

Will EWEB work with customers who received higher than normal bills that were estimated?

Yes. Please call EWEB at 541-685-7000 to discuss your situation with a Customer Service representative. We will gladly make arrangements on a case-by-case basis.

We also offer a Budget Billing Program to help balance out the seasonal high and low bills by making the monthly payments more predictable throughout the year. The program allows us to estimate an average payment based on the previous 12 months of actual usage. The open enrollment period begins after you receive your April bill and continues through the end of June.

If you’re struggling to pay your whole utility bill on time, please call us or visit our office. We offer programs to assist customers on a limited income, military households and for those who’ve recently lost their jobs.

Our Customer Care program offers up to $200 to help you pay your bill if you qualify. Help is based on your household income and the size of your household. To apply for the Customer Care program, call the appropriate agency listed below to leave your name and phone number. You will receive a return call when the agency has an appointment available. 

Customers 60 years and older may call Campbell Senior Center at 541-682-5354 

East Springfield and upriver customers may call Catholic Community Services of Springfield at 541-747-8349 

All other customers may call Catholic Community Services of Eugene at 541-345-3642.

Feel free also to direct customers to the new eweb.org Newsroom for information and assistance: http://www.eweb.org/about-us/news.

Water Reliability Team invites you to a habitat enhancement work party

Many hours of volunteer time over the last 40 years have enhanced habitat just upstream of EWEB’s new intake site in the Willamette Confluence Area. Past projects have improved water quality that will benefit our customers when we deliver water from this new source.

There is more work to be done.

Last summer a landowner just upstream of our intake site improved connectivity to ponds and back channels on their land. This winter they are seeking volunteers to help replant riparian forest habitat and continue to clear invasive plants.

Healthy riparian forest shades and cools water which mitigates algae conditions. Planted shoreline naturally filters sediment which reduces turbidity and suspended heavy metals. Connected ponds and back channels provide allow soil particles to settle out before they reach the intake. This restored area will help out the new water filtration plant.

You are invited to join in the fun, rain or shine!

Work party is sponsored by Friends of Buford Park & Mount Pisgah. Saturday, March 11 from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. Contact jennifer.connors@eweb.org for more information and to sign-up.

High-speed fiber internet lights up in downtown Eugene

EWEB, the City of Eugene, and the Lane Council of Governments (LCOG), with support from the Technology Association of Oregon (TAO), are moving forward with construction of the publicly owned fiber network that will connect about 120 downtown Eugene buildings to world-class internet.

This economic development project builds on the success of a two-year pilot, which brought fiber to seven downtown buildings. The pilot demonstrated the benefits of the publicly owned fiber network, partnered with private providers.

Consumers are now able to choose from several internet service providers (ISPs), who are offering faster speeds at significantly lower prices than before the pilot in downtown Eugene. “We have already begun to see the positive impacts of having access to world-class internet in our community. The expansion of the fiber network will be a catalyst for the creation of local high-wage jobs, and will spur economic development opportunities around the region,” said Lucy Vinis, Eugene Mayor.

Funding for the project comes primarily from Eugene’s Downtown Urban Renewal District. In 2016, the Eugene City Council approved a plan amendment that made fiber installation within the Downtown District eligible for up to $3 million of urban renewal funds. The fiber network will be constructed by the City, LCOG, and EWEB, and will be owned by the public. Private ISPs will lease the fiber strands from EWEB and then provide services to individual businesses within the service area. Any qualified ISP can lease the fiber— it is an open-access network.

On March 21, from 5 to 7:30 p.m., the public is invited to attend the Fiber Project Launch Celebration, at 132 E. Broadway. This event will include demonstrations of 10 Gigabit internet access, from internet service provider XS Media, utilizing the ‘open access’ fiber network. The event will also be an opportunity for the community to celebrate this milestone, downtown building owners to learn more about getting connected, and tech enthusiasts to get hands on with 10 Gigabit internet access. Tickets can be purchased for $20 in advance at http://techoregon.org Ticket proceeds will benefit Springfield Education Foundation and Looking Glass Community Services.

Beginning in March, the City of Eugene will take construction orders from downtown building owners through their website at https://www.eugene-or.gov/3367/Fiber. Construction of the downtown network will begin in the spring and is expected to last 18 months.

General Manager speaks to City Club of Eugene about EWEB’s present and future

Frank Lawson visited City Club on Friday, Feb. 20 to talk about “finding true north on EWEB’s compass.”

Frank’s speech touched on what EWEB is doing to maintain resiliency in the face of increasingly more powerful and destruction storms, plans for the riverfront site, Carmen Smith relicensing, capital planning projects, and other challenges facing the utility these days such as the increased cost of employee health care and PERS liability, and development of a second drinking water source.

Listen to the full presentation on KLCC: http://klcc.org/post/city-club-eugene-finding-true-north-ewebs-compass-ewebs-present-future

An additional $100,000 is available to help customers in need following the cold weather

In the weeks following the cold snap in December and January, we’ve heard from a number of customers who received higher than average electric bills. To help struggling families and individuals, we’re devoting an additional $100,000 to our Customer Care programs.

The extra $100,000 is on top of the $1.5 million already budgeted each year to help income-eligible customers and those who have lost their jobs.

To learn more, read the story on our new “Newsroom” on eweb.org: http://www.eweb.org/about-us/news.

Join us Feb. 17 for the Wiley Griffon signage dedication and forum

Celebrate Black History Month with the unveiling of a new historical marker for the home site of one of Eugene’s first African American residents, Wiley Griffon.

EWEB and the local chapter of the NAACP are joining together to commemorate Griffon’s home site, just southwest of the old EWEB credit union building at East Fourth Avenue and Mill Street.

EWEB identified a need for a public recognition of Griffon’s home site while drafting the riverfront master plan several years ago. Our Diversity Team worked with the local NAACP to develop a historic sign to be placed at the site.

A dedication event is planned for this Friday, Feb. 17 at 5:30 p.m. The program includes a dedication by GM Frank Lawson and Eric Richardson of the NAACP, refreshments, and a presentation about how the organization Oregon Black Pioneers and other community members are helping preserve and reveal this rich history.​

EWEB’s website is getting a makeover

We are excited to let EWEB customers know that we are launching a new website the week of Feb 13! The new eweb.org will be easier to view on mobile devices, and we hope it provides a better online experience.

We are redirecting as many existing URLs as possible to relevant pages on our new site. However, if you bookmark any pages or documents on EWEB’s current website, some of those links could result in a “page not found” error message. Please let us if you experience any issues after the launch and we will work with you to provide updated page locations.