Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I sometimes receive a check or a credit on my bill from Steele-Waseca Cooperative Electric entitled “Capital Credit Refund”. What does this check represent, how is the amount determined and may I expect to receive additional checks or credits in the future?

A:   A “Capital Credit Refund” is an action taken by the Board to retire patronage capital that was allocated to consumers since the beginning of the Cooperative. The Board determines annually how much can be retired, and for what years. If at the end of a year, there are more revenues than expenses, the additional revenue is allocated to SWCE’s consumers on a patronage basis. These allocations are retained until SWCE is financially able to retire them in part or in whole.

Q: What causes my lights to blink?

A:   Most temporary power interruptions are caused by equipment installed to detect faults on the electric lines. The equipment will de-energize the line and allow the condition to try to correct itself and then re-energize the line. This action results in a momentary interruption. Trees or animals, such as squirrels, contacting lines often cause these conditions. Larger animals, such as cattle, may rub on guy wires and cause the lines to slap together.

SWCE uses several methods in its maintenance program to improve power quality. SWCE crews regularly patrol lines in search of items that adversely affect the lines. The crews trim trees and brush to reduce the probability of momentary outages caused by tree contact with the lines, replace broken or cracked insulators, and repair other items that could cause outages or blinks. If you are experiencing momentary interruptions, please contact SWCE so the cause of the interruptions can be investigated. The problem may be on either SWCE’s system or the customer’s system.

Q: I already paid my bill, why did I get a delinquent notice?

A:   You may receive a delinquent notice or a phone call if your payment is not received before 4:30 pm on the due date.

Q: Could my meter be running fast?

A:   Most meters are mechanical devices and slow down with age and use. Historical tests indicate most meters actually run slow. If you think your meter is running fast you may call the office and request a test done on your meter.

Q: Why do I have to pay a deposit?

A:   A deposit is required to protect the Cooperative’s members from losses due to unpaid final bills. Cooperative members share margins, adversely, members also share losses. To help control these losses, a deposit is required. You will receive interest for your deposit on your monthly bill from SWCE. Deposits refunded by SWCE will be applied on your billing statement.

Q: How do I report a hazardous condition?

A:   A hazardous condition is any abnormal condition relating to an electrical service. This includes damaged meters, low hanging or frayed wires, wires entangled in tree branches, etc. If you notice anything questionable, please report it to Steele-Waseca by phone immediately – we are available for emergencies 24 hours a day every day.

Q: What is the Wholesale Market Adjustment (WMA) on my bill?

A:   The Wholesale Market Adjustment is a charge that takes into account the increase and decrease in prices being charged to SWCE by our power supplier. The WMA fluctuates depending on power demand, the wholesale market price, and customer usage. It is important to note with the WMA, there is no mark-up for SWCE, and the WMA is implemented by most utilities throughout Minnesota and the nation. The WMA was implemented to deal with fluctuations and/or spikes in power costs while keeping the base rate stable.

Q: What is Automated Meter Reading?

A: Automated Meter Reading (AMR) is a system that delivers meter readings to the Cooperative’s billing computer and eliminates the need for members to read their meters. Even though you do not have to send us a meter reading, you should occasionally still check your meter and it’s reading. The Turtle System has proven to be very reliable and efficient, but it’s like any other electronic device-it’s not infallible. We advise our members to periodically compare the readings on their billing statements against the readings on their meters.

Q: What is the Service Charge listing on my bill?

A:   Revenue from the monthly service charge helps finance the capital investments SWCE must make in order to get electricity from our power supplier to you.  These large, long-term investments pay for wire, poles, substations, transformers, and line equipment.  They are separate from monthly operation costs, such as depreciation, taxes, and insurance, which are recovered through the actual sale of electricity not the service charge.  Whether you buy a lot of electricity or very little, SWCE must pay off the loans that are secured to build the substations and lines which serve you. It’s kind of like owning a tractor.  Even though you may keep it in the shed over the winter, the principal, interest, and insurance payments must still be made.  Even though it is sitting idle, the tractor must be maintained or it will deteriorate.

Q: What is a kWh?

A:   Measures like inch, pound and teaspoon are easy to understand because we can see them. The concept of the measure called a kilowatt hour (kWh) is harder to grasp. We use it each day, but it is invisible. To help visualize a kWh, we can define it in terms of the physical exertion a person would have to expend to generate a single kWh. In your home, you would have to beat a batter mixture at an incredible speed, steadily, for 10 hours, to generate energy equal to one kWh. A 150-pound person would have to climb a 1,000-foot flight of stairs nearly 18 times to generate enough energy to equal one kWh. To figure the average kWh consumption for an electrical appliance, multiply the wattage number by the number of hours the appliance operates, and then divide that number by 1,000. Keep in mind that this is an average and appliances vary in size, efficiency and frequency of use.