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BREC employees singled out for storm efforts

 

 

Buckeye Rural Electric Cooperative (BREC) members gave linemen and other employees a standing ovation at the 2012 Annual Meeting of Members Saturday.

They applauded co-op workers for their performance in the wake of the devastating June 29 windstorm that left much of the state without power for a week.

“We lost 80-percent of our electric distribution system,” said Executive Vice President and General Manager Tonda Meadows in describing the impact of 50- to 90-mph winds that sent hundreds of trees crashing into lines and broke 70 poles. “All parts of our service territory suffered damages.”

BREC also encountered difficulty with telephone, radio and Internet communications, Meadows told the 1,500 co-op members gathered at the University of Rio Grande’s Lyne Center.

“We communicated with many of you on Facebook,” she said.

Line crews worked hundreds of hours in triple-digit temperatures to restore power over the co-op’s nine-county service area.

“Your kindness and encouragement during the storm outages meant a lot to us,” she added.

Board of Trustees President Dave Lester agreed that co-op employee efforts “went way beyond” the norm and showed their commitment to BREC members.

“They fought 100-degree temperatures and hung in there,” he said, “and they worked without an accident.”

In voting for trustees on the board, three incumbents running without opposition were returned to their seats. Lester, representing Lawrence County, Everett Holcomb, representing Athens, Meigs and Vinton counties, and Dennis Blakeman, representing Jackson County, were re-elected.

Meadows noted that BREC’s financial performance allowed patronage capital totaling more than $1.5 million to be returned to members in 2011. She said 2011 was one of the most successful years in the co-op’s history, thanks to cost control efforts and other operating efficiencies. Net margins were $3.3 million.

“We are working for you,” Meadows added.

A guest speaker warned BREC members of the “ever-changing array” of regulations affecting their power bills.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules aimed at coal-fired power plants and coal mining have driven up the cost of wholesale electricity for co-op members across Ohio, said Bill Roberts, vice president of finance and chief financial officer of Buckeye Power, Inc., the generation-and-transmission cooperative that supplies electricity to the state’s 24 distribution co-ops.

“About 20 percent – or 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour – of what you pay is due to environmental upgrades at Buckeye’s power plants,” said Roberts. “We have achieved best-in-class environmental performance. We are burning coal with very little emission of conventional air pollutants, but it has come at a cost.”

Many investor-owned electric utilities have decided to close power plants because of mounting regulatory requirements. Buckeye Power started 10 years ago to upgrade its generating units with the latest environmental technology and equipment.

BREC members also were introduced to scholarship winners and NRECA Youth Tour participants.

In an Annual Meeting tradition that started several years ago, currently serving U.S. military and reserve members and veterans were recognized.

The popular pancake breakfast and Holzer Medical Center Health Fair preceded the business session. Clowns entertained kids with balloons, and the children of registered members received backpacks full of school supplies.

Prizes — including certificates for bill credits, pork meat from hogs shown at the Jackson County Fair, chest-type deep freezers, gifts and certificates to Wal-Mart and restaurants donated by numerous vendors and a large-screen TV — were awarded at the conclusion of the meeting.