Blue Ridge Energy Passed Through $27 Million In Savings, Hit Expected From Duke Coal Ash Problems

Blue Ridge Energy Passed Through $27 Million In Savings, Hit Expected From Duke Coal Ash Problems
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By Renee Whitener. June 22, 2017. LENOIR, NC — In addition to business reports, director election results were announced at the Annual Meeting of Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation held Thursday evening, June 22, at the corporate office in Lenoir.

COVER IMAGE: Tom Trexler, Watauga District. Photographic image courtesy of Blue Ridge Energy

Elected to three-year terms on the Board of Directors were:

  • David Eggers, Caldwell district
  • Tom Trexler, Watauga district
  • David Boone, Ashe district, and
  • John “Johnny” F. Wishon, Alleghany district.

Over 6,500 cooperative members voted in this year’s director elections, primarily by mail and online. Director election kits including candidate biographies were sent to members on May 24 and included a proxy, postage return envelope and instructions for members to vote by mail, online or attend the annual business meeting. Members who opted to receive the electronic director election kit received their director election kit by email.

The cooperative has passed along $27 million in savings to members the past three years in the form of temporary rate reductions.

The business meeting included a report from Secretary-Treasurer Joy Coffey who stated the cooperative is in sound financial condition and is one of the top performing cooperatives in the nation.

Chief Financial Officer Katie Woodle affirmed that message. She noted the cooperative has been able to pass along savings of $27 million to members in the form of temporary rate reductions over the past three years. Furthermore, the cooperative’s two for-profit subsidiaries contributed nearly $2.8 million in benefit to members in 2016. And in May, members received $4.9 million in capital credits refunds.

Full financial results are available in the cooperative’s annual report, which is published in the June issue of Carolina Country and online at BlueRidgeEnergy.com.

Board President Kenneth Greene recognized the many members serving on committees to ensure Blue Ridge Electric is a member-led cooperative: the Nominating Committee, Credentials and Election Committee, Member Advisory Committees and Community Leaders Council.

Greene noted that through an excellent management and employee team, Blue Ridge is delivering member value. “Our cooperative philosophy drives Blue Ridge to offer even more than the typical business,” he continued. “Simply put, we’re here to make life better for the communities we serve,” he said, recognizing the important role played in meeting that goal by the Blue Ridge Electric Members Foundation. Supported by member and subsidiary contributions, Greene said the Foundation helps members in need of crisis bill assistance and also provides grants for long term quality of life initiatives in the areas of health care, education, economic development, emergency services and more.

Duke Energy’s coal ash issue will have ramifications for the cooperative, estimated at $25 million over a period of years.

In his state of the cooperative address, Chief Executive Officer Doug Johnson discussed the changing energy landscape and the cooperative’s vision for the future. He noted last year’s rebranding of the market name used by the cooperative and its propane and fuels subsidiary. Now known as Blue Ridge Energy in the marketplace, the two companies are aligned under one name to be better positioned to meet the growing energy solutions needs of members and customers.

Johnson also discussed challenges impacting the cooperative such as the Duke Energy coal ash issue. While costs are not yet final, early estimates provided by Duke to the cooperative indicate the impact will be around $25 million to Blue Ridge Energy spread out over a period of years,” said Johnson. More information will be coming to members as costs are finalized.

A significant investment in electric plant for reliability was also discussed. Johnson said

that in order to meet load requirements for future electricity needs, the cooperative will be extending its 230 kV transmission line from West Jefferson to Boone. This $40 million project will include a 230 kV station in the Rutherwood area and should be completed in the next three years.

Johnson also shared that the cooperative and its subsidiaries are achieving stretch performance in key operating areas:

  • On the American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), members rank the cooperative at 88 compared to the industry average of 77.
  • The cooperative ranks in the top quartile for electric reliability. Outstanding safety results are also being achieved.
  • Temporary rate reductions have saved members $26 million over three years.
  • Through WorkSmart, members benefitted from employee-led initiatives to reduce costs, improve efficiencies and utilize new technologies resulting     in over $24.6 million in sustained annual savings.
  • The cooperative’s subsidiaries produced $2.8 million in net benefit to the cooperative in 2016. “Every dollar in net benefit from the subsidiaries is a dollar members don’t have to pay on their electric bills,” Johnson explained. “Our members also own the subsidiaries and we flow those benefits to the cooperative to help keep rates down,” he said.

“Let me wrap up by saying thank you to our employees who are achieving incredible results and helping us meet the challenges of the future,” said Johnson. “Service to others is the highest calling in life. We’re here to serve. We’re here to take care of other people. We’re here to deliver the best experience to those we serve at Blue Ridge.”

The cooperative, which rebranded in 2016 under the market name of Blue Ridge Energy along with its propane and fuels subsidiary, serves some 75,000 members in Caldwell, Watauga, Ashe, and Alleghany counties as well as parts of Avery, Alexander and Wilkes counties. Learn more at www.BlueRidgeEnergy.com and on the cooperative’s social media: www.facebook.com/blueridgeenergy and www.twitter.com/blueridgeemc.

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