Southern Illinois Electric Co-op has annual meeting
Members of Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative, SIEC, who attended the co-op’s 77th annual meeting heard reports about financials, results from a member satisfaction survey and other local and national issues impacting the co-op and its rates.
The meeting was Thursday, Aug. 4, at the Shawnee Community College near Ullin.
As a not-for-profit cooperative SIEC returns margins to members when the board determines it is financially feasible.
Members learned that the cooperative would be returning $565,000 in capital credits this fall, noting the cooperative had also returned $585,000 last fall, as well. In total the cooperative has returned over $7.5 million to the members.
SIEC members also learned there would not be a distribution rate increase this year, although there will be a 4 percent increase in the wholesale cost of power that comes from the cooperative’s generation and transmission cooperative, Southern Illinois Power Cooperative.
Executive vice president/general manager Chris L. Bennett said, “We continue to work hard to control our own operating costs. If an increase is needed, we will wait until the spring of 2017 or later, as long as we can still meet our own financial obligations.”
He said the co-op is focused on both quality service and keeping rates as low as possible.
A recent member survey showed 99 percent of the members are satisfied or very satisfied with service they receive from SIEC. Bennett said he was very pleased with the responses and credited employees with the extremely high satisfaction ratings.
He said, “Our industry is a complex one with high power costs, equipment costs, labor costs and environmental concerns and costs. When we focus on any one thing we may not notice other things happening around us.
“It is also important to remember that your monthly bill doesn’t reflect just the cost of your kWh usage, but also the cost of our response to outages, storm damages and the cost of continuous maintenance to our electrical system.”
For example, Bennett reported the cooperative invests over $1.3 million annually on cutting and trimming trees alone, and in total they must maintain over 2,100 miles of distribution line and 14 substations.
Bennett said the neighboring investor owned utility’s rates are lower, but he explained the simple math behind that difference.
He said they have approximately 26 meters per mile of line, many of which are commercial loads. He further noted IOU’s average approximately $75,500 in revenue per mile of line as compared to the cooperative’s average of 5 meters and $12,500 in revenue per mile with very little commercial load.
“It’s true our rates are higher than our neighboring investor-owned utility, but I will assure you, they cannot beat us on service and employee dedication to our members.”
It was also reported that while 2015 was a good year for the co-op it wasn’t as good as 2014.
Sales were down 13.4 million kWh compared to 2014 mostly due to milder weather.
Bennett said 2016 has already proven to be more challenging than 2015.
“We started the year with the flooding of the Mississippi River and the breeching of the levy in multiple places near Miller City,” he said.
“Although FEMA denied any financial assistance to help offset the expenses we all incurred, it did not diminish the response of the residents to the devastation or the accolades deserved for the efforts of all involved to return to normal.”
An outage in July also caused wide spread damage with a tornado causing a lot of damage to trees.
“Large scale outages like these usually come with an expensive price tag that affects all of us,” said Bennett.
Board president Bill Littrell of Jonesboro credited the founders of the cooperative for their vision 77 years ago to bring electricity to rural areas of southern Illinois.
“With a vision for the future forward thinking co-op members also in 1960 took out the first REA loan to a cooperative to build a coal fired steam generating station at the Lake of Egypt,” said Littrell.
“This evolved into a 300 megawatt power plant powered by coal produced here in Southern Illinois and providing hundreds of jobs in mining, transportation and at our plant.”
Littrell reminded members that the co-op is rooted in its local community and looking at the big picture and long-term impacts from a changing utility industry.
He said: “In the past few years we have seen dramatic changes in our industry. Once again we look to the future. We used the latest coal fired generation technology, added natural gas fired generators for peak demand periods, and renewable energy from the Pioneer Wind Farm and hydropower from Kentucky Lake.
“We continue to examine solar power to determine if it fits our mission statement of safe, reliable and affordable power. But in all of these decisions as a cooperative our business model is for the long term.”
During the meeting, members voted to re-elect board members Scott Ury of Anna, Richard Moss of Tamms and Bob McIntosh of Pulaski.
Members also elected Randy Rushing of Metropolis to fill the board seat held by Larry Douglas, who died last December.
The co-op serves approximately 11,300 members over 2,117 miles of line in parts of Alexander, Johnson, Massac, Pope, Pulaski and Union counties.