North Fort Myers, Fla., June 25, 2014 –In today’s world electricity is an essential. Where would we be without our electronic gadgets, air conditioning and appliances? Con artists know this and they have made energy customers one of their favorite targets across the country. LCEC continually warns customers about scams as techniques seem to advance as quickly as technology.
One of the most popular scams right now is the Green Dot scam. Typically, a fraudulent caller will contact a customer and demand payment for their energy bill within an hour to avoid disconnection. The scam artist will advise the customer to purchase a Green Dot credit card available at drug and convenience stores. The customer is instructed to call a toll-free phone number to pay their bill with the card. Many utilities, including LCEC, are reporting these scammers are targeting Spanish-speaking and foreign language populations. In more frequent cases, restaurants and businesses have been contacted during their busy hours. In some cases the scammer has the customer’s account number and address.
The newest scams are email based. An email sent to the customer looks like it came directly from the utility. The message has links for online bill payment but they really connect to malware that collects banking information and passwords for the dishonest scammers. Scams are getting more sophisticated but customers can defend themselves using old-school methods:
If approached by a scam artist, contact your utility and local law enforcement. Your report could prevent others from becoming a victim to these frauds.
North Fort Myers, Florida. June 24, 2014 – Last week, LCEC completed construction of the new North Trail Substation and associated transmission line that will increase the capacity in the North Fort Myers service area and meet the current and future energy demands of LCEC customers. With the growth over the years on Highway 41, adjacent substations served the entire energy load of homes and businesses in the area. The location of the new substation is closer to the vicinity of new growth so it relieves the burden on neighboring substations and infrastructure. The design also allows for future expansion as load continues to grow in northern Lee County.
The LCEC design philosophy is to construct facilities to serve customers from two sources. This allows the substation to be utilized to reroute power from other area substations in order to restore power quicker to customers in North Fort Myers and Cape Coral during storm restoration or an emergency.
June 23, 2014 – What does it take to get your power back on after a major storm? At LCEC it’s more than meets the eye! Would you believe 250 pounds of beef jerky, seven tractor trailers of Gatorade and daily 5 a.m. wake-up calls? That’s what it took to restore power to all customers after Hurricane Charley in 2004.
“After Charley, our entire customer base at one time was without power,” said LCEC Public Relations Manager, Karen Ryan. “It was a great test for our restoration plan and preparation for what the next few months and years would bring. Some of the lessons we learned, were to make sure we secured resources quickly. We were good at that and it worked in our favor.”
Before Hurricane Charley was a category 4 major storm, LCEC was in hurricane mode.
“We had fuel providers on site so we make sure that our vehicles were ready before the storm even arrived. We already put things in motion to secure out-of-town crews, tree trimmers, materials and suppliers. We also had to make sure that the field workers have food during their long work day, so we set that up. An entire field kitchen was constructed and we served at least 1,500 meals a day,” explained Ryan.
And for Charley, just like for Wilma a year later, during and after a storm, everyone at LCEC is part of the company’s restoration plan. Even family members are put to work!
“There might be someone from the IT department taking customer calls. Or someone from accounting might be delivering materials or food to our crews,” Ryan said.
Some other jobs assigned to employees are very specialized and outside of the typical job description, such as laundry duty.
You might not think about it but when you have 500 people working out in the field and they’re not from here, and the temperature is hot, and at times they are in mud up to their neck trying to restore facilities, laundry becomes a pretty important support function.
LCEC was well prepared for Charley and Wilma because of the work that takes place year round.
“We believe that proactively maintaining our system and managing our vegetation really helps when it comes to storm season. One of the biggest causes for wire down and broken poles is flying debris and trees,” said Ryan.
And this storm season, LCEC has another tool, an updated systems operations center, the nerve hub of the power grid. From there, employees can monitor weather, power facilities, and crews.
An electronic wall board helps to coordinate all efforts and streamline a lot of processes. Before the new technology, employees had to leave their computer and go to a static map on the wall to make updates. There was one view of the system.
With a solid restoration plan in place, LCEC is ready for whatever Mother Nature brings our way.
“The most important things customers should remember are to stay safe around downed power lines and be patient. We are very good at restoring power and we do have a proven method for restoration,” Ryan said.
Power companies focus on getting critical, emergency responders and essential services up and running first, then branch out to the more populated outage areas.
Customers are warned to never touch a downed power line, it may still be energized. Instead, make sure to report any power line that is on the ground by calling 239-656-2300 or visiting www.lcec.net. Also, be careful of power lines buried under piles of debris, when cleaning up after a storm.
Access an LCEC Hurricane Guide and other useful storm links at the LCEC Storm Center. https://www.lcec.net/reliability/storm-center
June 17, 2014 – Earlier this year, LCEC Board of Trustees approved an equity distribution of $6.1 million to current and inactive customers and an additional distribution of $6.1 million to memberships that have been closed since 2006. LCEC has returned more than $220 million to customers over the years, which is among the best of the 800 cooperatives in the United States.
Equity is the value of the investment customers/members make in LCEC. Customers provide a portion of the capital necessary to operate the business through the payments they make each month. Without this investment, LCEC would be required to borrow additional funds from outside sources to provide electric service, resulting in higher base rates. Each year, once operating expenses are paid, the amount that remains is the net margin. The Board of Trustees review the LCEC financial position annually to determine if a portion of the net margins can be distributed to members.
Customers receiving a distribution of less than $250 receive a credit on their bill and others receive a check.
Visit http://www.lcec.net/equity/ for more information about equity.
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