Pride in Performance

CREA’s 75th Year Filled with Service, Albeit Virtual

By Jeff Hauck, CREA President

Jeff Hauck, CREA President

CREA began 2020 by celebrating its 75th year serving as the statewide trade association for Colorado’s electric cooperatives. At the annual meeting in February, we heard from a group called Wine to Water about the importance and need for clean water and electricity in many countries around the world. In anticipation of sending Colorado line crews to Bolivia, those attending the annual meeting assembled water filters to send with the crews to help the villagers. We also heard from several amazing speakers who updated us on energy issues in Colorado, and we had the opportunity to meet with legislators at the State Capitol. CREA kicked off 2020 with a bang.

A month later, the world changed as the COVID-19 pandemic spread. Colorado Country Life magazine published articles about resources and fun things to do from home. Mountain Parks Electric, along with all of your co-ops, shut down its office, sending employees home to work and figure out how to run the electric co-op remotely.

Along the way we all began to attend virtual meetings. CREA gathered some of the leading industry speakers and brought them to our computers. We covered topics such as heat pumps, the path to creating an RTO, what co-ops are doing to recover from the pandemic, electric vehicles, energy storage and research related to carbon sequestration and usage as we listened on our computers and tablets.

The pandemic wasn’t the only challenge for Colorado’s electric co-ops in 2020. Wildfires of historic scope swept across several co-op service territories. Firefighters battled the Lion Fire in White River Electric’s territory and the Pine Gulch Fire near Grand Valley Power. The Grizzly Creek Fire threatened Holy Cross Energy’s service territory, the Cameron Peak fire burned co-op lines in Poudre Valley REA’s service territory, and the Williams Fork and East Troublesome fires caused significant damage in Grand County where Mountain Parks Electric serves. One of the ironies of all these fires is that CREA had to reschedule its wildfire webinar because our speakers were working behind the scenes to support the firefighters and work with communities to save lives and property.

Since CREA was not able to participate with NRECA International in building power lines in Bolivia because of the pandemic, the board approved allocating $50,000 of budgeted funds to a Wildfire Relief Fund overseen by the Colorado Electric Educational Institute, the philanthropic arm of CREA. Tri-State also donated $50,000 and with donations from co-ops, their employees and Colorado Country Life readers, we raised $118,000.

The CEEI board disbursed that money to Mountain Parks employees who lost their homes in the fire and those whose homes were significantly damaged, as well as to first responders whose homes were damaged by the East Troublesome Fire and relief organizations in Mountain Parks service territory. Funds were also donated to small, rural fire departments in Poudre Valley REA’s territory and to a paramedic service in Holy Cross Energy’s territory.

Although 2020 was a challenging year in many respects, CREA rose to the challenges. The CREA staff made the transition from working out of the office to working virtually and continued to offer the same services as always, just in a different format.

The safety and loss control team met with co-op employees in person where they could and provided online training when they couldn’t. I especially want to recognize the safety team for its help when my co-op, Mountain Parks Electric, initiated the mutual aid emergency assistance program. CREA worked with the Mountain Parks team to coordinate assistance from many of the co-ops to help us rebuild the backbone of our electric system that burned in the wildfires.

Education classes continued. Some in-person meetings were postponed, along with director and employee training, but CREA staff quickly scheduled virtual education opportunities to take their place.

The board also seamlessly switched from in-person meetings to successful virtual meetings.

The government relations team was active during the bifurcated 2020 legislative session throughout the summer. They worked hard to get to know new legislators elected in November, especially the Denver metro lawmakers who don’t have co-ops in their legislative districts so that they understand the important role we play in keeping the lights on across Colorado. They also prepared a Wildfire Mitigation and Vegetation Management white paper that is serving as a foundation for legislation CREA is initiating in the 2021 legislative session.

The communications team continued to carry our co-ops’ message to our consumer-members through social media and Colorado Country Life. Amid all the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, CCL provided a reassuring connection between our co-ops and our consumer-members in an uncertain time.

There were a few other good things to come from 2020. I’m a granddad and love it!

Thank you for your continued support of CREA through the challenges of 2020. We look forward to continuing to serve you for the next 75 years.

Jeff Hauck