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Manager’s Message: 2023 Annual Meeting

Brad Coppock, General Manager

Members from across Powell Valley Electric Cooperative’s service area met for its annual meeting on Saturday, Sept. 16, at Claiborne High School. Attendees were served refreshments and enjoyed bluegrass music played by Tennessee 90.

Board President Roger Ball called the meeting to order, and cooperative employee Danny Sexton gave the invocation. John Hoyle, director of accounting and nance, presented the annual financial report. This report expounded on PVEC’s financial stability and steady growth.

I gave an additional report addressing the cooperative’s operations during the past year. Highlights of that report are as follows:

“It’s good to see everyone out this morning, and it’s certainly good to see our annual meeting getting back to normal with music playing, food and door prizes to be given away after the business session.

Tennessee 90 provides entertainment.

“This year wraps up the 84th year since the organization of your cooperative in the fall of 1938. is cooperative has an amazing history, and all of us who work for your cooperative are proud to be part of this great organization.

“Since our last annual meeting, we have been faced with many challenges. Remembering back over the past few months, it seems we experienced windstorms every other week. We also  had two F1 tornadoes that landed in Southwest Virginia this past May and the TVA mandated rolling blackouts during Winter Storm Elliot, but while we experienced these challenges, our cooperative has experienced growth and progress.

Board President Roger Ball addresses the cooperative membership.

“Over the past year, your cooperative has seen growth in membership as families and businesses leave their home states and relocate to East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. And although natural disasters and a foreign war have led to industry-wide material shortages, which has been driving up material cost and creating long delivery times, your cooperative has continued to meet the increasing demand for new electric services in a timely manner.

“Building new electric lines, and maintaining existing ones for reliability, are at the core of our business. Since our last annual meeting, your cooperative has installed or replaced approximately 600 transformers for nearly 900 new services. Construction crews have installed or replaced nearly 1,150 poles and built or re-conductored over 60 miles of overhead and underground lines.

“We are also in the third year of a five-year plan to upgrade our AMI system that allows the cooperative to read nearly 34,500 meters every day. We are also replacing aging equipment in our substations and on our distribution lines. In efforts to improve reliability, we continue to commit more resources to our right-of-way program. We are also making significant investments in cybersecurity to combat hackers  who work to disrupt the daily business of the cooperative. The equipment upgrades, continued focus on keeping our rights-of-way clear and the significant investments in cybersecurity demonstrate your Cooperative’s commitment to provide the safe and reliable service you’ve come to expect.

“Broadband availability has also played a vital part of our cooperative’s growth. Now more than ever, reliable high-speed broadband is crucial for our members living or moving into unserved or underserved areas. As you know, your cooperative partnered with Scott County Telephone Cooperative to form PVECFiber to build a high-quality, reliable broadband network. This is a costly endeavor, so we are working with our partners at Scott County to obtain grants to offset the cost of deploying fiber. Fortunately, Virginia, Tennessee and the federal government are making enormous investments to close the digital divide. Since last year’s annual meeting our partnership has been awarded approximately $18 million in grants. In three years, PVECFiber has built over 1,800 miles of fiber backbone and installed high-speed broadband for nearly 8,000 families and businesses in our service area. It will probably take another year to complete, but rest assured, we are pursuing all avenues to bring affordable, high-speed broadband to all homes and businesses in our service area as quickly as possible.

“As John reported, your cooperative remains financially strong and well- equipped to handle the challenges that lie ahead. This past year, I’m pleased to report that along with our partners at TVA, we gave back $22,000 to our communities to assist families having difficulty paying their electric bills.

“Next, we’ll talk about our long-term partnership with TVA.

“I’m sure many of you remember the record cold temperatures that WinterStorm Elliot brought to much of the country on Dec. 23 and 24. Our power supplier, TVA, saw increased demand for energy with both TVA and your Cooperative setting new records for energy demand. The Tennessee Valley region needed more energy than TVA could generate, and when demand exceeds supply, catastrophic damage can occur to the power grid, resulting in long- term and widespread power outages.

“So, for the first time in TVA’s nearly 90-year history, they mandated rolling blackouts — twice in a 24-hour period. Cooperative employees sprang into action to manage the situation and our efforts minimized the impact on families, businesses and critical infrastructure. After Winter Storm Elliot, TVA determined that more generation is needed to meet the growing demand of the Tennessee Valley.

Director of Accounting and Finance John Hoyle presents the annual financial report.

“Many have probably heard that TVA has announced a 4.5% increase to wholesale rates to build new generation assets. Moreover, TVA has also announced the elimination of the Pandemic Relief Credit; which, for the last three years, the PVEC Board of Directors voted to pass the Pandemic Relief Credit onto PVEC members, which resulted in lower energy bills.

“So, what does this mean to a residential member of the Cooperative? The 4.5% rate increase along with the elimination of the Pandemic Relief Credit will increase a typical residential member’s bill $5 per month.

“Presently, many utilities are adding an increase on top of TVA’s wholesale rate increase, but I’m happy to report that your cooperative will  not be adding a rate increase in addition to the one handed down by TVA.

“It is important to put these changes into context. Even with the increase, Powell Valley Electric Cooperative’s rates remain far below the national average. In June, the national average price for residential energy was 16.11 cents per kilowatt-hour, approximately 5 to 6 cents higher than PVEC’s average residential cost.

“While rates may change from time to time, one thing remains the same: We are committed to improving the lives of our members by providing the best possible  service at the lowest possible price.

“I would like to thank Claiborne High School for allowing us to conduct the annual meeting here, and I’d like to thank Tennessee 90 for the great music.

“Also, we have two of the four winners of the Washington Youth Tour with us today. Please stand and be recognized: Madison Lyons from Clinch School and Anna Evans with J. Frank White Academy. Congratulations on your successful essays. Also with us today is Robbie Ansary, who is the customer relations manager at TVA. Last, but certainly not least, we have with us Jim Robertson, member services manager, with the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives, located in Glen Allen, Va., of which your. cooperative is a member.

Youth Tour delegates Madison Lyons and Anna Evans attend the 2023 Annual Meeting.

“At this time, on behalf of the employees and myself, I’d like to thank the board for their leadership, support and guidance, and I’d like to thank the employees for their outstanding dedication in providing service to our members. They are the REAL power behind our electric cooperative.

“And THANK YOU for being with us for the 2023 Annual Meeting and allowing us the privilege to serve as your energy provider.”

Following this report, door prizes donated by vendors and local businesses were given to members. The grand prize of a Samsung TV was won by Delores Brownell of Tazewell, Tenn.

During the business session, presided over by Board President Roger Ball, incumbent directors Tracey Sharp, representing District 1; Judith Robertson, representing District 3; and Bill J. Surber representing District 6, were reelected to the board of directors without opposition.

During the reorganizational meeting of the board, officers elected were Roger Ball, president; Bill Surber, vice president; and Judith Robertson, secretary-treasurer.

Delores Brownell of Tazewell wins grand prize.