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Report details VEA economic impact

Some of the recent moves by Valley Electric Association, like signing contracts for federal facilities and joining the California Independent System of Operators (CAISO) have made the news, but a study commissioned by the cooperative details all the economic impacts VEA has on the community.

VEA doubled its assets from $159 million in 2008 to more than $314 million in October 2013, with more expansions expected to create another $25 million in assets by the end of this year.

The cooperative said their purchasing activity of goods and services grew from $13.6 million to $57.2 million between 2009 and 2012, capital improvement spending soared from $7.5 million to $52 million, between those years, much of it on the new 80-mile, northwest transmission line.

The co-op also built 12 miles of 138-kilovolt transmission line for that project, another six miles of transmission line to the Nevada National Security Site from the innovation substation near Mercury, 33 miles of new distribution line north of Beatty and transformers at the Sandy, Vista and Beatty substations.

The $36.6 million contract to operate the electrical distribution infrastructure at Creech Air Force Base, the $61.6 million contract to provide electric service for the Nevada National Security Site and joining CAISO created 13 jobs at VEA since 2012, all of which are skilled or professional positions, the co-op reported. In 2010 VEA had 81 employees, by October 2013 that number grew to 112, a 38 percent increase; using a 1.9 multiplier developed by the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives, VEA projects those positions create 95 additional indirect jobs.

Valley Electric expects the federal contracts will help avoid a rate increase until 2018, a two-year extension from earlier estimates. VEA states its residential members saved 7.6 percent annually from 2008 to 2012, with the VEA rate of 10.9 cents per kilowatt hour compared to the national average of 11.8 cents, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

VEA provided more than $2.9 million in loans to finance solar hot water heaters, the co-op reported, adding the program created another nine to 12 local jobs for other companies, adding $5 million in payroll and $1 million in state and local taxes.

Nearly 800 members took advantage of the zero-down, zero-interest financing to purchase the units, VEA estimates ratepayers will collectively save $34 million over a 20-year period from 2009 to 2029.

The program helped VEA receive the 2013 Community Service Award for Energy Efficiency from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

VEA reported spending $4.4 million with a variety of local contractors from 2008 to 2012 and an additional $3 million among a number of other local vendors.

The co-op refunded $3.6 million in capital credits to VEA members between 2008 and 2012, the study said.

VEA contributed annual property taxes ranging from $625,164 in 2007 to over $1.6 million in 2013. Those tax dollars go primarily to Nye County, but also Clark, Esmeralda and Mineral counties in Nevada and Inyo and Mono counties in California. Sales tax contributions ranged from $153,732 in 2007 to $1.2 million in 2013, of which 3.5 percent went to Nye County, the rest to the state of Nevada.

VEA said it contributed $356,000 to charitable efforts from 2008 to 2012. The Lighthouse Assistance Program that helps low income members pay power bills ranged from $25,246 to $41,390 annually with more than $160,000 in combined contributions over the five-year period. The scholarship programs which award high school students scholarships ranging from $500 to $1,000, amounted to $8,000 in total scholarship contributions by 2012.

The Fill the Bucket Truck school supply drive gathered more than 1,667 cubic feet of supplies since 2007.

Operation Roundup, in which members can round up their bill to the next dollar, accumulated $2,434 in 2012. The funds are distributed by the Charitable Foundation, VEA employee contributions helped donations to that foundation climb from $5,000 in 2009 to more than $14,400 in 2012. They covered $3,400 for the Beatty community pool and more for Beatty and Sandy Valley youth programs, weather and insulation assistance for the Nevada Outreach Training Organization, and the purchase of Energy Star heating and air-conditioning equipment for the Sandy Valley Keystone Enrichment Foundation.

The cooperative brought $7,500 in donations during the 2012 holidays to organizations like the Salvation Army, Food for Thought, Toys for Tots and the Amargosa Christian Fellowship among others. Donations went to purchase a new scoreboard for the Amargosa Valley Community Center.

Power from the Renewable Energy Test Center, run by a Fremont, Calif.-based company that tests its solar panels behind the VEA building, is donated to area senior centers.

Looking ahead, VEA is proposing a $7.3 million, 230-kilovolt transmission line in Eldorado Valley during the next two years; an $11 million, 138-kilovolt transmission line in Pahrump in the next two years; another $5 million in distribution projects throughout 2014 and the Nevada West Connect Transmission Project, a 300-mile, $500 million, 230-kilovolt project that will improve reliability in the northern VEA service area and promote geothermal energy development.

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