Executive report

from Southeastern Indiana REMC’s board president and general manager

Posted on Mar 09 2020 in Southeastern Indiana REMC

Our annual meeting theme this year is “Emerging Technology.”  

The landscape where coal once provided 100% of our generation assets has changed and continues to evolve.  At the end of 2019, it represented 58% of our capacity, with natural gas representing 37%, and renewables 5%. Hoosier Energy now expects to retire its coal fired Merom Generating Station in 2023, transitioning to a more diverse generation mix that includes a combination of low-cost wind, solar, natural gas and storage. In 2014, Hoosier Energy established a goal to have 10% of total generation coming from renewables by 2025. The current renewable resources include landfill methane, hydro, wind and solar arrays.

The clean, reliable electricity Hoosier Energy provides is something we all depend on — and expect — at the flip of a switch. Hoosier Energy recognizes that each form of generation has its pros and cons and works best when taken together. Its “all-of-the-above” strategy includes coal, natural gas and renewable energy sources that are used to provide the best balance between reliability, affordability and environmental concerns. Coal will not be taken out of this mix until 2023.  

Members can also participate in the My Solar program by purchasing a share of the community solar, up to 12 solar panels. This lets your co-op (Southeastern Indiana REMC) and Hoosier Energy know that, yes, it is important to invest in renewable energy.

Committed to saving you money

Southeastern Indiana REMC offers a roster of energy-saving incentives to help lower energy bills, ranging from efficient heating and cooling equipment rebates to lighting upgrades.  Visit TeamUpToSave.com to see the current lineup of savings opportunities available. In addition, Southeastern will continue to provide free home energy audits and promote technology to enable you to find ways to be more energy efficient.

Our board of directors stays committed to a 25-year return cycle of patronage or capital credits. Patronage is being returned this March for 1997 and 20% of 2018 in the amount of $2.16 million. Your cooperative has refunded $25.8 million through the years.  

With continued technology improvements, we remain committed to offering optional rates that allow our members to change use patterns, utilize technology to schedule and monitor thermostats, and receive day-ahead notifications via their smart device. Consider the Time of Use/Critical Peak Rate. If you can avoid the peak hours, this may be the rate for you.

As we continue to move forward with technology improvements, we are planning to introduce a prepaid meter service option for members this year.  This option will allow members to be more engaged in daily monitoring of their electric service.  

We continue to utilize SmartHub, which provides members with greater access to their account information.  Currently there are 10,713 members using this service. Once you sign up for SmartHub, you have access to PDF bill statements, daily and hourly energy use information with temperature correlation, outage information, and you can conveniently make payments and report outages.

We are in the initial stages of developing a pilot program for electric vehicle charging stations.  More details will be shared as we develop the program. 

We are determining if we are able to provide technology improvements to our members by building fiber to the home. This process involves reviewing our member survey data, researching grant opportunities, seeking member support, looking into partnership opportunities, reviewing financial models and developing a business plan. We are not leaving any stone unturned in this process to ensure that we make a well-informed decision.  

Don’t forget our commitment to outage restoration. If you have computer or smart phone access, you can visit our website (www.seiremc.com) and view our interactive outage map. This map is continually updated with the number of members experiencing an electric outage by county or zip code within our service area. You can quickly determine the extent of electric outages occurring on your system in real-time, which will give you an indication of the severity of interruptions caused by storms, vehicle accidents, etc.

If you would like to save money on your electric bill, please consider participating in our load control switch program, which addresses our critical peak load requirements during the hottest or coldest time periods and reduces your bill by up to $60 per year. We want to help you reduce your electric bill.  

The popular generator program is being continued, which is tied to our demand-side management program and provides members the security of automatic switchover to the LP or natural gas fired 22 kW generator during an electric interruption. This cost-effective program has been extremely popular with our members. For 2020, we will continue to offer a one-year financing option, with a quarterly payment plan, to help make the purchase even more affordable.  

Your board continues to oversee the upgrades in your electric system by approving the completion of several projects recommended in our RUS approved four-year engineering work-plan.  

Concern for your community

One of the seven cooperative principles is “concern for community”, and one way your REMC demonstrates its support for this principle is by enabling members to be a part of the Operation Round Up® program. 

This program has been used by co-ops for more than 20 years and allows you to support much needed projects within our service territory. The purpose of Operation Round Up is to collect and distribute funds for charitable purposes within the Southeastern Indiana REMC area.  The money comes from our members who have allowed us to round up their electric bills to the nearest dollar every month. For most, this donation is less than $6 per year. 

You have made a wonderful impact. Because of members like you, we were able to award $136,000 to community projects in our seven county communities in 2019. The Operation Round Up program is present in 86% of the rural electric co-ops in Indiana.

For public safety, we offer a full-scale high-low voltage electrical safety demonstration, which is suitable for schools, fire departments or other large events.

We continue to concentrate on pole replacements, protective device maintenance, right-of-way (tree trimming/removal) maintenance and replacement of older underground primary cable in certain subdivisions.  We have cut down thousands of ash trees caused by the infestation of the emerald ash borer. Because of the increased outages with trees, we changed our right-of-way program in 2018 to a five-year cycle. We now trim ground-to-sky over 600 miles a year.  

To provide safe and reliable power to all members, we must clear all trees that may cause an outage. Not only are we trying to reduce outages, but your safety, the safety of our children and the safety of our employees is of the utmost importance. I trust that most of our members agree.  

We continued our commitment to community by supporting rural electric youth programs such as Page Day, Touchstone Energy Camp and Youth Tour. For many years, we have given three $500 scholarships through the Southeastern Career Center, and we will do that again this year. We will also continue to support the 4-H animal auctions in the counties we serve.  Additionally, your REMC provides corporate sponsorships for many community festivals and events, and we brought the mobile mammogram program from St. Elizabeth hospital to Ripley County again this year.  

Strategic initiatives

Our board and staff have identified eight key initiatives through our latest strategic planning:

  • Comprehensive communication plan: This will allow us to shine a light on how we currently reach out to members and provide a fluid plan to engage members, employees and the communities within our service territory. 
  • Broadband determination: Your board and staff have put a lot of time and effort into determining what steps, if any, will be taken in regard to a broadband fiber-to-the-home project. We will announce this decision at our annual meeting. 
  • New headquarters facilities and succession planning: The succession plan and design for a new headquarters allows us to manage day-to-day activities and right-size our employee base. We will continue to be one of the leanest co-ops in the nation, striving to maintain the quality service expected by our members. 
  • Emerging technologies plan: We will work with Hoosier Energy to research emerging technology and look for financial and environmentally friendly benefits to provide a more diverse electric grid to our members. 
  • Five-year right-of-way plan: Rates will remain stable for 2020.  Your REMC will continue to cover the additional expense to provide safe and reliable electricity to your homes by redirecting our vegetation management program to reclaim the right-of-way in a five-year cycle.
  • Continue the strong focus on safety for employees, members and public
  • Comprehensive financial plan that covers the present and future operations

Our mission is “To safely provide reliable electricity and diversified services to the members and communities we serve.”  

Another successful year

Financially, your cooperative met its mortgage requirements for the year.  In 2019, our kWh sales decreased 2.8% due to weather patterns and efficiencies. Our distribution system improvements and new service extensions in 2019 totaled $7 million vs. $6.3 million in 2018. New services connected in 2019 totaled 251 vs. 278 in 2018, 237 in 2017, and 186 in 2016.  We completed 24 home energy audits, installed 74 generators and 99 demand response units, and rebated $178,550 to members who installed qualified member electrification improvements.

The combined efforts of your nine-member board of directors, 61 full-time employees, and various contractors and consultants resulted in another successful year.

Our focus in 2020 is to provide services that our members, and the generations of members to come, will cherish.