2024 Annual Meeting Recap

Our 2024 Annual Meeting is in the books, and we were happy to see over 550 members in attendance. For those unable to attend, here is a summary of what was presented to the membership during the meeting on June 7.

This year, we reflected on the journey we've embarked on since our last meeting. Undoubtedly, the challenges have been numerous, but so too have been the triumphs. We've navigated storms, both literal and figurative, and emerged stronger and more resilient each time.

Over the past year our distribution system has provided reliable electric service to the membership. We continue to improve the system by changing poles, upgrading aging and undersized conductors, and maintaining our tree trimming cycles. In 2023 we invested approximately $5 million dollars in our distribution grid, by installing approximately 1800 new poles and upgrading 70 miles of wire. We also completed some capital projects at our Fairfield office. The new mechanics building was finished late in 2023. We also expanded the parking area in front of the office and added a drive-thru drop box to make it more convenient for members to drop off payments.

Financially the Cooperative remains in a strong position to handle future challenges. With the rising cost from our power supplier, Hoosier Energy, we felt it was necessary to implement a 3.5% rate increase this past April. As I outlined in the annual meeting notice, the rising cost of electricity is not isolated to Hoosier, other companies are experiencing similar difficulties as well. The cost of electricity is our largest expense, as almost 70% of all the revenue we collect goes to pay for electricity costs. When these costs are increasing, it has a significant impact on the finances of the Cooperative. We understand that these increases are difficult for the members, and our management and Board of Directors do not take these decisions lightly, but we do not want to jeopardize the financial strength that has been built over the years. In keeping with the Cooperative business model, the board is committed to retiring capital credits back to our members. Members should receive their capital credit check later this summer for half of 2004 through part of 2006, totaling approximately 2 million dollars being retired.

Our cooperative takes pride in providing reliable electricity to you, the members. Hoosier is a key partner in this mission; they don’t just sell us energy. Hoosier has continually upgraded the substations and transmission system that supplies our distribution system. Many of you may have seen the work that was completed at our Wayne City substation, replacing aging equipment with newer, higher capacity equipment. This type of work has been happening at most of our substations.

Hoosier has also installed automated switches on the transmission lines to take advantage of our multiple feeds from Ameren. These switches have been utilized during the recent storms. Ameren has dropped one of these feeds in each of the storms, causing widespread outages, but Hoosier was able to operate the switches remotely and restore power to most of our system within minutes. This is a tremendous asset for our members.

Speaking of Ameren, I know there has been much discussion over the past year about the transmission line that they have proposed to be built from Fairfield to Mt. Vernon. Although we are not involved in this project, it will enhance the reliability for our electric system by creating alternate switching sources that Hoosier can operate, without any costs to the members. I understand that people may not want a transmission line across their property, and I respect anyone's decision to oppose the project, but this could be a benefit to all of the membership. If the project is not completed, our reliability will not decrease from what we have now.

Another issue that is threatening the reliability of our electric grid is the proposed legislation to close coal generation and rapid transition to renewable energy. We continue to advocate at the state and federal level to make sure reliability and affordability are not compromised during this transition. We are not opposed to the use of wind or solar generation, as long as these technologies can support the grid. We support an all of the above strategy for electricity generation.

One of the projects that we are excited to be pursuing to help us meet some of these challenges is battery storage at substations. We have applied for multiple federal grants to seek funding to install batteries at a few substations. If we have substation outages, the batteries can be utilized to supply power. Also, if the grid becomes stressed in times of high demand and we are asked to perform rolling blackouts, we can use the batteries to avoid causing outages to members. Also, we can use the batteries to avoid peak charges from Hoosier to reduce our power costs. Battery projects can help with both reliability and affordability. If the batteries perform as expected, we will consider expanding the project to add batteries to other substations.

Over the past year we have tried to continue to connect with you, the members. You may have noticed some billboards or electronic advertisements. This communication is part of a pilot project with Hoosier to reach out to more of our membership. We are also exploring new ways to get information to the members, through email, text messages and social media. As always, we will continue to provide the newsletter as a source of information. We want to make sure the members are as informed as possible.

The landscape of energy is evolving at an unprecedented pace, presenting us with new opportunities and challenges alike. We appreciate our members' support, as it fuels our vision of a brighter future.