Why is the annual meeting held at its current time and location?
The annual meeting is held on the fourth Thursday in June at 4 p.m. because very few members today choose to attend this type meeting and as technology has advanced, we’ve been able to expand member interaction, information sharing and member voting options. This meeting is communicated in advance directly to members through the director election kit sent to all members on May 30 as well as in the May and June Carolina County magazine cover wraps and in the member newsletter and annual report inside those issues.
Several years ago when we saw a trend of declining interest in attending a Saturday annual meeting, we changed to a weekday business meeting that is saving members more than $200,000 per year. At the same time, we increased opportunities for members to participate in director elections to vote by mail or online in addition to the annual meeting. Now, members voting in director elections has increased significantly from a former average of 900 to an eight-year average of 7,000 members voting in our board of director elections.
The primary purpose of the cooperative’s annual meeting is to hear reports from officers on the prior year results, relay upcoming strategic or policy direction, and, after a mont-long opportunity for members to participate in director elections by voting online or by mail, to take final steps in board of director elections for seats that have expiring terms. Videos of key speeches, director elections and other information is shared with members and news media through videos, news releases, website and social media information as well as in our member newsletter sent to every member.
Finally, we’ve had no requests from members to change the date and time. But many have expressed their appreciation for expanded voting options, our efforts to listen and respond on a daily basis, providing multiple avenues for information and the savings from the change in annual meeting format.
Why is there a time limit on questions and comment from members?
We provide an opportunity for member questions and comments that is time limited because interaction with members happens year round. We are always listening and responding to member input and questions every day through many different options: phone, website, four local district offices, email, mobile app, social media, telephone town halls, Member Advisory Committees, Community Leaders Councils and individual meetings with members and community organizations.
Additionally, a time limit is set because the primary purpose of the cooperative’s annual meeting is to hear reports from officers on the prior year results and upcoming strategic or policy direction and to elect board of directors for seats that have terms that are expiring. The only complaint we’ve heard is from certain special interest groups that include members and non-members that want to use the cooperative’s annual membership meeting to advance their own cause and agenda.
We also provide information in our member newsletter throughout the year regarding important deadlines and information for processes leading up to the annual meeting as well as other ways to contact the cooperative at any time.
Some groups have been critical of BRE’s loan-based energy efficiency program.
Blue Ridge Energy helps those truly in need through grants and donations from the Blue Ridge Electric Members Foundation. There are organizations in each county within northwestern North Carolina that exist to assist low-income members with energy efficiency upgrades to their home. The Members Foundation regularly assists these organizations with grants and donations to make life better for those members needing assistance.
One special interest group has insisted that we implement programs that use member money to subsidize low income members’ weatherization and solar projects. This same group also advocates for government-funded programs. Blue Ridge has carefully evaluated these programs and determined that all pose risks to member money, and cause some members to subsidize projects at other member homes. As a cooperative, we’re opposed to using this approach because it’s inconsistent with our values of cost-based service and fairness in cost allocation in our rates for all members.
Additionally, members we’ve talked with have been very pleased that we recently expanded the loan program without putting member money at risk to offer a much higher level for loans of up to $35,000 to be paid back over time, that help make important energy efficiency improvements to their homes. We’ve working with Electel Cooperative Federal Credit Union to offer this program so that members have access to more funds, longer repayment terms, and competitive interest rates.
How do members have input into decision-making of the cooperative?
Member-owners of Blue Ridge Energy have very significant input to decisions the cooperative makes. We are listening and responding to members every day by phone, website, four local district offices, email, mobile app, social media, Telephone Town Halls, Member Advisory Committees, Community Leaders Councils, and individual meetings with members and community organizations, and member-led committees and processes.
The board of directors, which is elected from the membership, along with the CEO, are responsible for making and implementing all key policy and operational decisions.
Our current customer satisfaction scores resulting from these decisions are in the Top 5 nationally for all electric utilities in the USA. Our American Consumer Satisfaction Index score is 88, compared to the national average of 77 for cooperatives and 75 for investor-owned utilities. In addition to listening to members every day, we also regularly track these indicators to help us ensure the input of our members has significant impact on the decisions that the leaders of Blue Ridge Energy make every day. Our decisions will always be in the best interests of the membership of the cooperative.
Blue Ridge Energy