This year’s annual cooperative membership meeting was held Saturday, Sept. 17, at Thomas Walker High School in Ewing, Virginia. Due to ongoing concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the social activities such as health checks, lunch, live music and bucket truck rides were limited to ensure the safety of our members.

Board Vice President David Kindle called the meeting to order, and cooperative employee Danny Sexton gave the invocation. John Hoyle, director of accounting and finance, presented the annual financial report, highlighting PVEC’s growth and stating that the cooperative is financially sound.

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

As the last two years have demonstrated, we never know what challenges tomorrow might bring. So, for the third year in a row, we’ve modified our meeting to protect the health and well-being of our members. Just like last year, our program has been scaled down but will cover all the requirements. So, for now, our hope is that next year we will meet at Claiborne High School and, once again, be able to have our regular activities such as free health services, bucket truck rides, lunch and door prizes. In the meantime, we must continue to take preventive measures while we conduct the business of the cooperative.

The past year has been VERY challenging for our cooperative as it has with other electric utilities; nevertheless, it has been filled with growth and progress. This growth has come as we were faced with high inflation, supply-chain issues and labor shortages. Over the past year, your cooperative has seen growth in membership as families leave their home states and relocate to Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee. Affordability is a key motive that beckons many to relocate to our service area, and this has been accelerated by the pandemic as families want more space to raise their children and live out their lives in less hectic communities. Although natural disasters have led to industry-wide material shortages that have been driving up material costs and creating long delivery times, your cooperative has continued to meet the increasing demand for new electric services in a timely manner.

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 and Tennessee are both making enormous investments to close the digital divide. Since last year’s annual meeting, our partnership has been awarded approximately $17 million in grants, with the most recent grant being awarded just two weeks ago. In two years, PVECFiber has built over 1,800 miles of fiber backbone and connected nearly 4,800 families and businesses with high-speed broadband. It will take a few more years 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.

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 nearly 700 transformers for 881 new services. Construction crews have installed or replaced nearly 1,100 poles and built or reconductored over 63 miles of overhead and underground lines. We are also in the second year of a five-year plan to upgrade our AMI system that allows the cooperative to read over 33,000 meters every day. We are in the process of replacing aging breakers in our substations and distribution lines, and we have plans to upgrade relaying in our substations as well. In efforts to improve reliability, we are committing more resources to our vegetation management program. This has included adding traditional tree-cutting crews and something new to us called a Jarraff cutter. It is a machine that has a telescopic boom with a circular saw blade attached to it. It can safely trim tree branches up to around 80 feet high. Be on the lookout for it in your area. It’s really something neat to see in action. The equipment upgrades and renewed focus on vegetation management demonstrate your cooperative’s commitment to providing the safe and reliable service you’ve come to expect.

As John (Hoyle) reported, your cooperative remains financially strong and well-equipped to handle the challenges that lie ahead. We also have a financial consultant look over our finances, and I’m happy to report the financial health of the Cooperative will remain strong for the foreseeable future. To take this a step further, your Cooperative is financially strong while our members enjoy some of the lowest electric rates in the Tennessee Valley. Due to our strong financial position, I’m pleased to report that along with our partners at the Tennessee Valley Authority, we were able to give back $40,000 to our communities to assist families having difficulty paying their electric bills.

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

For the last two years, TVA has approved a special Pandemic Relief Credit and a Pandemic Recovery Credit to help communities and businesses recover more quickly from the pandemic, and, both years, PVEC’s board of directors passed the entire credit through to our members. The latest credit will end this month. However, TVA’s board of directors approved a 2.5 percent credit through fiscal year 2023 to all electric utilities in the Valley. Most utilities are keeping all or a portion of the credit to offset rising material and labor costs. I’m happy to report that at the last Powell Valley board meeting, your board of directors has, once again, made the decision to pass the entire 2.5 percent credit (approximately $1.5 million) directly to its members. So, this is certainly great news for all of the members of our cooperative.

I would like to thank Thomas Walker High School for allowing us to conduct the annual meeting here, and I’d like to thank Mitchell and Mike Cosby for providing the sound system for today’s meeting. Also, we have two of the four winners of the Washington Youth Tour with us today. Please stand and be recognized: Hannah Daniels from J. Frank White Academy and Anna Hopkins from Hancock County High School. Congratulations on your successful short stories. Last but certainly not least, we have with us Todd Blocker, vice president of member relations  with the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, of which your Cooperative is a member. The TECA office is located in Nashville. Thank you, Todd, for making the drive up and being with us today.

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 2022 annual meeting and allowing us the privilege to serve as your energy provider. Together, our future looks very bright!

During the business session, presided over by Board Vice President David Kindle, incumbent directors Allen Parkey, representing District 4; Lena Short, representing District 5; and Garry Russell, representing District 9, were re-elected without opposition. After the votes were tallied in the election for District 1, incumbent director Tracey Sharp was declared re-elected to the board of directors.

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

We look forward to one day being able to join together with the co-op community in fellowship and enjoy great entertainment and food. You, the members of Powell Valley Electric, are the heart of this cooperative. Thank you for your support as we work to continue to provide safe, reliable and affordable power.

— Brad Coppock