In February, a rogue polar vortex swept deep into the southern US, freezing generation plants and water distribution systems. Power outages, rolling blackouts and boil-water notices followed, as did, infuriatingly, tales from customers staring at $6,000 power bills while burning furniture to stay warm.

When things fail that spectacularly, ratepayers understandably look at their own systems wondering if they might be at risk.

Luckily, Springfield is part of a regulatory framework that includes reliable access to power generation and transmission. The system has been tested, most notably by the 2000 California deregulation fiasco that rocked power markets all along the west coast. The framework held, and SUB’s further adherence to a public utility model allowed us to make quick, money-saving decisions unique to Springfield.

Despite robust reliability and an excellent track record, public power works best when ratepayers make the power of their voices known. Here’s what that power looks like:

Know what it means to be a public power customer

SUB is one of five public power utilities in the Eugene/Springfield metro area. Some customers in nearby communities are served by investor-owned utilities. So what’s the difference, and why should ratepayers care?

• Board Members are locally elected and live 
in Springfield. That means decisions come from neighbors who know what it’s like to live here and who will be affected by the choices they make.

• Board Members have a fiduciary responsibility to you, not to stockholders. That means ratepayer service and satisfaction, not profits, is their bottom line.

• Decisions are transparent. Want to know where funds are being spent this year, or what rates are forecast to be each year for the next 10 years? Financial and planning reports are available for public review 24/7 on SUB’s website.

Make your voice heard

As a public power ratepayer, you have a say in utility decisions.

• Attend monthly Board Meetings, held the second Wednesday of each month, starting at 6 p.m. It’s easier than ever. You can dial in by phone, or attend virtually via an internet link. The monthly agenda, as well as call-in numbers and links, are on our website.

• Participate in annual Budget Committee Meetings, which begin in late summer and are open to the public, with the same remote attendance options as Board Meetings. The committee itself comprises all five elected Board Members and at least five Board-appointed citizen ratepayers, and the meetings are open to ratepayers.

Note: Budget Committee meetings are where sleeves are rolled up and vital planning work gets done. If you are interested in utility projects, how they get prioritized, and the rate impacts of those priorities, these meetings are for you. Decisions that are debated and determined here go on to be integrated into a proposed budget that the Board considers at year end.

Another note: individual rate increases, if anticipated in the approved budget, will go through separate public hearings to ensure transparency, and to make sure new or newly relevant information can be heard before rate votes are taken.

Sound interesting? Watch for meeting announcements on social media and SUB’s website.