Valley Electric Association continues momentum

Valley Electric Association announced a roaring year for its financials in 2017, along with expansion efforts in a fiber-optic network in Pahrump and beyond and its entrance into the digital phone and TV space.

Thomas Husted, CEO of Valley Electric Association Inc., called 2017 a “historic” year for the cooperative during an annual meeting for the south Pahrump area (District 1) at the organization’s convention center at 800 E. Highway 372 in the first quarter of 2018.

Husted reiterated what was a year of change and advances during the meeting, noting at the lead of his speech to dozens of member-owners, media members, Valley employees and others that the cooperative had reached a margin of $61 million for 2017. That number, he emphasized, was more than the combined total from the over five decades the cooperative has been in existence.

Other highlights reported about the cooperative’s financial health in 2017 included paying down $80 million in long-term debt, putting $50 million in reserves and banking $30 million into a future rate-stabilization fund.

Rates for power, which sat at 10.9 cents per kilowatt-hour, stable since 2010, are projected to be stable through 2024—barring any catastrophic events or things outside the control of Valley Electric, Husted said.

Husted also noted closing on the sale of the cooperative’s 230-kilovolt transmission system to Chicago-based GridLiance Holdco for nearly $200 million. The sale had stalled in the early part of 2017 due to delays in the federal regulatory approval process.

Plans for the Pahrump areas’ expansion into Valley’s fiber-optic network for ultra-high-speed internet are also in the works, which could increase opportunities for area businesses and individuals.

Valley Electric’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Valley Communications Association, also expanded into other businesses that added choices for member-owners of the cooperative, digital phone and television.

Digital services

Valley Communications launched its digital television service and showed off the brand’s new digital phone service during an event dubbed the “tech expo” in the latter part of 2017 at Valley’s conference center at 800 E. Highway 372.

There, dozens showed up to learn about the new products.

During the November 2017 event, Ken Johnson, executive vice president of broadband business for Valley Communications, said Valley was interested in offering potential subscribers “an opportunity to come in, see the product, touch the remote, change the channels and ask questions of the technical staff, so they would be able to have a really good understanding of what the service is,” a report in the Pahrump Valley Times noted.

Kathryn McKenna, chief operating officer of Valley Communications, said the launch was a bit slow to take off, as the company started to find some bugs after things rolled out.

“We kind of had a slower December than we would like, but we’re starting to see customers add on now,” she said. “There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t add a TV or a voice customer.”

Broadband, fiber-optic expansion

Subscribership at Valley Communications has been on the rise for broadband services, and the option to get fiber-optic is heading to several areas in Pahrump through 2018.

At the beginning of 2017, there were just over 2,700 subscribers for Valley Communication’s broadband. That number climbed to 7,180 at the end of December 2017, according to Husted.

Overall, Valley’s broadband service did experience a net loss of $9.5 million for the year, “as designed.” Husted said.

“It’s a fledging start-up business with a very large capital outlay,” he said.

Revenue from broadband had also increased substantially through 2017. Going from roughly $100,000 per month at the start of 2017 and by the end of the year, revenue sat at over $400,000 per month, Husted noted.

Revenue totals hit $3.6 million in 2017, with projections of $8.7 million for 2018.

Husted said about $30 million in capital investment was slated for Valley Communications in 2018, with a goal of hitting 9,500 subscribers by the end of 2018.

It’s not just broadband anymore for Valley Communications, as digital phone services and TV services have come into the picture.

“On a monthly basis, not only will we continue to see those numbers increase, but the revenue per subscriber will increase as they add additional services,” Husted said.

High-tech

Valley Communication’s fiber-optic network is slated to become available in several parts of Pahrump in 2018.

McKenna said Valley Communications began to roll its service out in the first half of 2018, starting with portions of Mountain Falls, near the Winery and south of Basin Avenue and Blagg Road.

She said Valley Communications has a goal of offering service to all homes south of the Basin Avenue and Blagg Road area by the end of 2018. Fiber-optic lines started rolling out in Beatty in 2017.

Speeds on fiber-optic lines can hit up to one gigabit per second. Services in the Pahrump area were pegged to start at 50 megabits per second when fiber rolls out, with prices sitting at just under $50 per month. For the full gigabit service, that cost will reach nearly $150 per month, McKenna said.

In addition to all those offerings, Husted spoke of Valley’s overall portfolio and plans to expand its presence across Nye County and beyond, in some of its business structures.

He was also keen on opportunities related to energy choice. Voters will choose on energy choice in 2018, as there is a ballot initiative for the midterm elections in Nevada.

Other highlights

Peter Gazsy, who sits on Valley Electric’s District 1 (south Pahrump) board of directors’ seat, was re-elected for a fourth term in March 2018.

Richard Johnson, assistant secretary on Valley’s board of directors, holds the District 3 (Beatty) seat and was also re-elected to a three-year term in March 2018.

There are a total of six directors, with two districts per year holding elections.

Contact reporter Jeffrey Meehan at jmeehan@pvtimes.com

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