Isn’t it funny how things can take shape by chance? I really hadn’t considered what I was going to share this month, but as I sat down to pen some poetic and insightful nuggets of information for you, an underlying theme began to jump out at me. Last month, I touched on how much of what we achieve at the cooperative is centered around listening and learning from our membership. Well, here we are again. I find myself drawn to the topic of listening, observation, and learning.
I recently attended the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s CEO Conference where I had the opportunity to listen, observe, and learn from 360 electric cooperative CEOs and industry experts from across the United States and Canada. As I said last month, it really is amazing what we can learn from listening and observing.
One topic that really resonated with me is the changing electric utility environment. Industry trends suggest that energy costs are on the rise and sales are flat or declining. The electric utility industry as a whole is in a state of change; therefore, cooperatives are building strategy around the changing environment. Operating an electric distribution utility now and into the future will involve dramatic changes in planning, engineering, and operations as well as new approaches to management, finance and business. New energy, information and communications technologies can be a challenge. At the same time, they can enable electric cooperatives to maintain their legacy of meeting their members’ wants and needs with the best possible reliability, economy, efficiency, and service.
After listening to these discussions at the conference, and observing what my peers across the country are doing, I could not wait to get back to my team and continue our work. While we continue to develop our long-term strategic plan, I am proud to say that we are among the leaders in preparing for and implementing strategy to carry our cooperative into the changing electric utility environment.
We have made dramatic changes to our right-of-way program, resulting in improved system reliability for our members. Through the addition of smart meters, and technological improvements to our system, members have access to real-time use data through SmartHub. We’ve added several new communication tools to share information including Facebook, town hall-style meetings, and member connect meetings.
Additionally, we are working with an independent professional to conduct a cost of service study for Decatur County REMC to ensure our rates are being applied in a fair and equitable manner. Just as the industry trends, so does our use and demand. These studies are a standard tool used to 1) determine if the revenue generated is covering the costs 2) determine if any subsidies are occurring between classes and 3) determine cost-based rate components. We are conducting our research to ensure the most appropriate outcomes, products, and services for our members.
We continue to develop and implement strategy that will move our cooperative forward and best meet the needs of our members. However, we need your help — we want your input. If you have ideas, thoughts, or questions, we want to hear them. I am actively seeking members to engage with my team and myself. If you are interested, please call the office at 812-663-3391 so we can schedule a meeting, or simply stop in and ask for me.