As 2016 came to a close, Central Lincoln’s employees were already working hard to deliver some exciting new changes for 2017. Our mission is to provide the people of Oregon’s Central Coast with reliable and affordable electricity in the tradition of public power; and we aspire to excellence in all we do.
Every two years, we work with our Board to develop a set of business strategies that move us toward that mission and vision. The six strategies that currently guide our work are:
First Things First – Deliver on our mission by building on our strengths: fiscal responsibility and responsiveness to our customers.
Create a Customer-Centric Culture – Provide customer value by interacting in new ways and educating our customers about what it means to be a utility of the future.
Engage Our Employees Fully – Maintain a high-performing workforce through employee engagement and by focusing on safety.
Achieve Excellence Through Planning – Enhance our operational excellence through comprehensive and robust planning.
Leverage Technology & Integrate Our Business Systems – Maximize the value that Central Lincoln’s customers receive from past, present and future investments in technology.
Preserve Product Affordability – Preserve and protect Central Lincoln’s solid financial foundation and manage the impact of future rate pressures.
Lots of words, I know. So I asked a few members of Central Lincoln’s Leadership Team to talk about their work that directly ties to those business strategies. Our commitment to you is to “stick” with our resolutions and increase the value you receive from your community-owned electric utility.
By the way, the picture of Ticker at the top of this month’s Coastlines appeared on the front page of the Register Guard during Lane County’s ice storm last month. Central Lincoln’s operations folks spent ten days providing mutual aid to our neighboring utilities. It’s one of the ways we work together to manage customer impacts and it guarantees we’ll get the support we need when the emergency is ours. Happy New Year!
Strategy: Create a Customer-Centric Culture
Behind the scenes at Central Lincoln we have talented and dedicated staff who have been working hard putting many new software applications in place including our new customer care and billing system. We are excited that this spring we will begin to roll out this new system with many additional features. The new online system is called SmartHub, and it’s a new way for us to interact with you.
SmartHub includes a secure and easy-to-use app for customers to use their mobile devices to manage account information, pay Central Lincoln bills, sign up for paperless billing and set up automatic payments.
We will also be pleased to offer a new pay-by-phone system, giving customers the ability to check their account balances, pay their electricity bills and to sign up for automatic, recurring payments by phone 24 hours a day. It will be a safe and secure automated system, and we think you’ll like how easy it will be to use.
Later this year, we plan to roll out an additional feature in SmartHub that will allow customers to monitor their electricity usage. And, hopefully by the end of this year, customers will have the option of pre-paying for their electricity. Stay tuned!
Strategy: Leverage Technology
A project that will result in even better customer service is our mapping project – and it will be done in the spring. Every line, every utility pole (we have 22,524), and every transformer in the Central Lincoln system will be pegged using GPS (global positioning system) technology. This will improve our response times in the event of an outage. Our personnel will be able to see on a visual display exactly where our lines, transformers and substations feed electricity into neighborhoods.
The new system will give us the ability to simulate a switch order – show what will happen and where it will happen – before we do power switching. Switching is interrupting the flow of electricity or diverting it from one part of our system to another, and the risk of an accident happening during switching is something we’re very, very careful about. Being able to model a switch before we do it will be a terrific safety tool.
Our linemen will have electronic tablets connected to this new mapping system so they will know exactly where to look for issues – especially in our service area where constantly-growing trees and brush can quickly cover equipment.
Our systems engineers will use the new system for analysis, to find weak spots, such as overloaded transformers or lines, so we can better plan and budget for upgrades. The new GPS mapping will also help our distribution engineers, who analyze and plan where and how to best hook up new customers or additional power to existing customers.
I’m eagerly anticipating these innovations this year, and how our employees will use them to better serve you.
Value: We provide critical products and services: Our customers depend on us
At Central Lincoln, we’re taking significant steps to be more prepared in the event of a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake. Last year, we began construction of a new Operations Center in Newport to replace our current 60-year old South Beach facility located in the tsunami flood zone. The new Operations Center, situated at the north end of Newport, will be completed in June and will greatly enhance our ability to restore power after a disaster.
Our substation, meter, and communications shops, which serve all Central Lincoln customers, will be housed in the new facility, as well as, line and tree crews, warehousing and fleet services.
Another exciting project planned for 2017 is the remodel of the office and Operations Center in Florence. Although this facility is located outside the tsunami zone, retrofits are needed to meet seismic standards and will help us recover after a major event.
A new look for both of our northern and southern Operations Centers in 2017 – that’s exciting!