Mohave Electric Continues to Monitor Situation with COVID-19 Virus

Posted: Friday, March 20, 2020, 12:00 am

Mohave Electric Cooperative’s Board of Directors and management continue to monitor the evolving situation with the COVID-19 virus

Tyler Carlson, MEC chief executive officer said, “MEC will implement our preparedness plans, as necessary, to ensure safe and reliable operations. We know our members count on us to provide reliable service and to keep members informed during this difficult time.”

"Continuity is MEC’s top priority, and our offices and business operations will continue to be staffed and open as long as we are not required to close if mandated by state or federal regulators,” Carlson explained.

“Health experts continue to stress the importance of limiting personal contact,” said Rick Campos, chief operating officer at MEC. “As a precaution for our members and employees, we are asking members to use our alternate options for making payments instead of coming to our office in person.”

Payments can be made electronically by using MEC’s SmartHub or by phone by calling (877) 371-7357 to access the automated voice system. Other services such as connects, disconnects, billing questions, and payment arrangements can also be conducted by calling the Member Services Office at (928) 763-1100.

To help ease the financial burden this situation will cause some members, MEC is temporarily suspending disconnects and late fees until April 10, 2020. Members are encouraged to contact MEC’s member services office at (928) 763-1100 if they are having difficulty paying, and to pay what they can so as not to contribute to a larger problem in the future.

“For our field crews, we have instructed them to minimize member contact according to the CDC recommended social distancing practices,” said Campos. “No shaking hands, and to stay home if feeling ill. And with field crews just like with our Member Services staff, we are providing hand sanitizer for their use on the job. When possible we are postponing in-person meetings with members for new services and upgrades and request that communication be done by phone and email.

“We appreciate the social distance practices our members are also taking when doing business with MEC.”

MEC participated in a special meeting of the Arizona Corporation Commission on March 16 and has provided the ACC with responses to several questions.

Members should continue to monitor the MEC website and Facebook page for updated information.

Arizona Corporation Commission Information Request – Mohave Electric Cooperative

March 18, 2020

Docket No. AU-00000A-20-0050

RE: Commission inquiry into utility preparedness plans to ensure safe and reliable operations during the COVID-19.

  1. What plans is the utility putting in place to ensure continuity of service for customers?
    • Continuity is Mohave Electric’s top priority. MEC anticipates making no changes in its current operations as it relates to service and staff availability. MEC work practices and procedures provide a safe reliable electric service while maintaining the safety of staff, members, and the community. MEC is accommodating every staff member in an effort to keep all staff working safely, including working remotely from home for some staff not considered front-line that deal with our members. Mohave will continue to staff its Member Services Office, Call Center, and the office will remain open at its regularly scheduled hours of business barring closure at the direction of any mandated state or federal regulation; and in that case, Mohave hopes that they would be considered an essential business and exempted from such.
  2. What steps is the utility taking to identify a core group of employees who would be available in emergency situations?
    • None. Mohave Electric Cooperative has a very lean staff, and all are considered a core group. Mohave will accommodate employees who need to be at home and can work from home. MEC has many highly trained technical staff that are utilized during emergency situations. MEC has contracts and agreements in place for specialized services such as engineering, powerline construction, and right-of-way maintenance, that can be deployed as needed. In conjunction of using contractors MEC would call upon other Electric Cooperatives for assistance. Mohave does utilize contractors, but they are not used in its day to day operations.
  3. What designated personnel will be available 24 hours a day/7days a week, or if none, how will customers contact the utility?
    • Mohave Electric currently provides 24 hours a day/7 days a week coverage for member contact. MEC personnel will remain available 24/7 as in the past during times of major events. MEC maintains a staffed call center and member service office during regular business hours and have contracted call center services through Cooperative Response Center (CRC) after hours. CRC staffs the MEC’s phones between the MEC non-business hours, and 24 hours a day on the weekends and holidays. They are equipped to take on MEC’s regular business hours if needed. CRC utilizes secured call centers located in three different states for built in service redundancy. MEC expects no impact on member services just because CRC is not local. CRC has been utilized by the MEC for five years and there has never been issues with CRC’s service. MEC staff will continue to work out of its own call center which could operate 24/7 if needed. MEC will continue to staff its Member Service Office so members can perform all member services functions and has opened alternate service options that allow members to report an outage, pay their bill, schedule a connect or disconnect, apply for services through our SmartHub website or mobile phone application, and through our automated phone system. MEC has communicated these available options through press releases, social media, and the MEC website. MEC members do a substantial business at our Member Services office normally. While we expect that to be reduced, it is not prudent to assume it will completely discontinue.
  4. How does the utility intend to read meters in an emergency situation?
    • Same as today. MEC currently reads most of the meters through our advanced metering infrastructure system. This is an automated system that provides meter reads on a daily basis with no personnel visiting a site to manually read meters. Staff will be made available to tend to in-person meter needs such as establishing service or requests for meter tests (if urgency dictates). Our process requires no change for this COVID-19 period.
  5. Does the utility have a Commission-approved Bill Estimation tariff/procedure in place?
    • Yes
  6. Will the utility rely on its Commission-approved Bill Estimation tariff during the process?
    • Mohave Electric would manually read any meters not responding to our advanced metering infrastructure system before considering utilizing its Bill Estimation tariff. (Refer to Question 4)
  7. Does the utility intend to keep its current payment centers open during this time? If not, how and where will customers be able to pay?
    • Yes, Mohave Electric does intend to keep its Member Services Office open, unless mandated closed by state or federal regulators. MEC has supplied its Member Services Office staff with proper protective gloves, hand sanitizers and germ-killing aerosol sprays to disinfect hands and surfaces. MEC has been and will be encouraging its members to call with their questions whenever possible and to also make payments remotely online, or from the SmartHub mobile phone application, or by the MEC automated phone payment application available to members. MEC has communicated these available options through press releases, social media, and the MEC website.
  8. Will the utility continue to issue month billing statements?
    • Yes
  9. Will the utility issue monthly billing statements even if bills have been estimated?
    • This is not an applicable action. Mohave Electric intends to avoid use of estimated bills altogether. (Refer to Question 4). MEC would issue an estimated bill as a last resort in order for the member to receive a monthly bill. The billing statement would still be issued and the statement clearly notes when the account has been estimated.
  10. How will the utility’s process for handling complaints be addressed during an emergency situation?
    • The handling of any complaints will be done the same way as in non-emergency situations. Staff will be available 24/7 if needed to research and respond to complaints promptly.
  11. Does the utility anticipate changing the process for budget billing customers?
    • No. Mohave Electric does not anticipate any change. Mohave has no residential demand members, nor do we have any residential members who use the time-of-use tariff.

MEC offers more information to address additional questions noted from the March 16 Special Meeting:

  • MEC does not have nuclear plants.
  • MEC does not own or operate power plants.
  • MEC will treat any financial hardship that develops after March 1, 2020 as a pandemic issue and will not disconnect or charge late fees for delinquent or inadequate payments from March 1st to April 3rd, 2020. MEC will, as always, work with people that develop financial hardships during the period to avoid disconnects.
  • MEC staff communicates payment assistance program information to our members. We have a brochure, Programs to help Members Save Energy and Money, to handout and this information can be found on the MEC website.
  • MEC has communicated the temporary suspension of service disconnect and alternate options available to avoid a trip to our member services office through a campaign of press releases, social media outlets, newspaper, radio, and the MEC website.
  • Regarding rural broadband, MEC has had a request for funding a rural broadband program since late 2019. Timely and expedited approval would have helped this situation as we would potentially be moving forward prior to this pandemic.