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INTERNET SERVICE TOPS COOS-CURRY'S LIST OF PENDING PROJECTS

By BRIAN BULLOCK

At Coos-Curry Electric Cooperative's 64th annual meeting Saturday, most of the information delivered was about the Internet.

Ben Doty, a consultant working with the cooperative, said he is in the process of bringing Noah Net to the South Coast.

Coos-Curry is utilizing a previously dark fiber optic line strung by Bonneville Power Administration to enlighten computer users in Coos and Curry counties.

"It's all about vision. This manager and board have the vision to see where this co-op is going," Doty said.

He added that this network would provide information and improve "the quality of life where you live."

Much like electricity did nearly a century ago, Doty said high-speed Internet service would create a "Columbia River" flow of information to the South Coast. When questioned by some seniors about how this service would help them, he said it would improve medical services, educational opportunities and many other social service programs.

"If you want to take fourth year Russian and live in this community, you can do this. These are things that make life here equivalent to, and in my mind better than, life (in a metropolitan area)," Doty said.

He said Noah Net would be running by September and would probably be offered by Coos-Curry Electric sometime during the first quarter of 2003.

The electrical system used to power Noah Net is in good shape according to Coos-Curry Electric Co-op President Grant Combs and General Manager Jim Arntz.

Combs said the co-op is in better shape than most energy companies.

"This will be the fifth year that I have talked about deregulation," he said. "To make it short, deregulation became effective March 11 of this year. We had the option of not participating in the program and that is what we did."

"If, in the future, deregulation would be in the best interest of you the consumer, the board will reconsider entering the program. I don't see this happening, but we will keep that option open," Combs explained.

Combs said the co-op's health allowed it to hold rates throughout last year's energy crisis. He also said the two 10 percent increases scheduled for this year should carry it for several years.

"We believe that these rates will be sufficient for the foreseeable future. As I indicated last year, we will hold the line where we can and not pass the entire increase on to you," Combs said.

Arntz agreed the co-op is very healthy, but said the energy problems are not a thing of the past.

"While some new generation has come on line in the past year and other projects are still in the construction phase, it is not enough to carry us through another drought or prolonged severe weather event such as a summer heat wave or winter deep freeze," Arntz said in his message.

"Generation projects that were being planned have been delayed or dropped due to the current low wholesale prices. Additionally, as the economy starts to recover and loads increase, it is anticipated that demand will exceed supply, which will drive prices up again," he added.

Energy generation was on the minds of the audience members. One member asked about wind power, which was discussed this week in Portland.

Arntz said each year Coos-Curry gets approximately eight to 10 contacts from people interested in developing wind generation projects. He said that type of energy generation hasn't yet panned out in Oregon.

"I think the main difficulty is we have pretty extreme levels of winds here," Arntz said. "I think they have trouble finding a turbine that fits this area."

He also said wind energy is still too expensive. A good wind generation system would produce approximately 100 megawatt hours. Arntz said demand in the Coos-Curry system is only about 40 MWH.

Fuel cell energy was another question offered by the audience. Coos-Curry Electric had a fuel cell in its Port Orford office in April.

"It worked. It worked well. But it was very expensive," Arntz said. "Eight to 10 years down the line it might be cost effective enough to put a small fuel cell in instead of running lines to remote areas."

In other business, four board members were re-elected to additional terms. David Itzen, Zone 2, Vern Kolen, Zone 3, Richard Hildebrand, Zone 6, and Combs, Zone 9, were all chosen to continue on the board of directors. All were unopposed on the ballot.

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