The daily operation of Ashland's Electric System is carried out by its 16 employees through 123 miles of distribution lines serving approximately 12,800 customers. In addition, the utility maintains approximately 23-hundred wood poles and the distribution side of the Mountain Avenue substation and the Nevada Street substation.
The utility maintains a fleet of trucks and has its own warehouse facility, including an inventory of wire, transformers, meters and other items needed to keep the system in first-class operating condition and able to respond quickly to service needs.
The utility's worst disaster occurred in 1990 when during a month-long cold spell when a natural gas line malfunctioned and electric use soared. A transformer on Nevada Street overloaded and knocked out electricity to half of Ashland. Within 24 hours, BPA responded by moving in a portable substation and electricity was restored. A third substation was installed on North Mountain Avenue in 1995. The utility is now able to transfer loads during peak winter and summer use hours more efficiently and has additional capacity to meet future needs. Ashland's one-half million-dollar parts inventory also ensures the ability to respond quickly to virtually any unforeseen local electric outage. The utility also absorbs the cost for lighting Siskiyou Boulevard, the downtown area, Highway 66 and neighborhood safety lights.
Only 11 Oregon cities own and operate municipal electric systems and Ashland's utility was the second one created in Oregon. Iinvestor-owned utilities make up 80-percent of the electric customer base in Oregon, while municipal utilities, electric co-operatives, and public utility districts provide service to 20-percent of the electric customers base.
By the early 1980s, with energy costs skyrocketing, a decision was made to ask Ashland voters to approve the financing of a new hydroelectric generator at the site of the original 1908 power plant. The new generator doubled the plant's original capacity to 750 kilowatts. The Reeder Gulch hydro-plant only produces approximately one percent of Ashland's electric demand today, it remains a symbolic reminder of Ashland's electric history and is a cost-effective renewable resource.
The remainder of Ashland's electrical energy is purchased directly from BPA.