2020 Annual Meeting CEO Address
CREC’s General Manager and CEO Doug Tracy kicked off the co-op’s 78th annual meeting with highlights of the past year, a new era and a new mission and vision.
“2020 has been an interesting year to say the least,” Tracy said. “Covid-19 has caused nearly everything about our way of life to change, and your cooperative is no exception.” Due to the pandemic, CREC closed its offices to the public in March. Office employees worked from home for several weeks while linemen and outside personnel changed work procedures. CREC suspended disconnects for over three months. “We knew our members were impacted as well,” Tracy said. “Through it all our employees did an outstanding job keeping the lights on, processing requests for services, answering billing questions, and continuing to serve our membership in the quality manner you’ve come to expect.”
New Era for CREC
As mentioned in the annual report, Tracy noted that the Board of Directors recently adopted a new mission statement which states that Cuivre River Electric will “Be a progressive leader in the energy industry, empowering employees to serve our members using innovative energy solutions, while safely providing reliable service at the lowest possible cost.”
“Our new headquarters facility will help us accomplish this mission,” Tracy said.
Along with the pandemic, CREC also completed the first phase of the co-op’s construction project in Troy. “On July 20, we moved into our new headquarters building. This was the culmination of nearly three years of preparation and planning. I’m happy to report that the project has stayed within budget and is ahead of schedule,” he said. “CREC now has a state-of-the-art facility that will take us into the future for years to come.” The new headquarters replaces a building that included parts that were nearly 60 years old. The new building will significantly lower maintenance expenses, is much more energy efficient, and has improved functionality to help serve members better. The facility provides much needed space. Since the last expansion, meters served has grown from approximately 40,000 to nearly 70,000. “We now have places to park our trucks and equipment under shelter which will protect them and extend their useful life. With nearly 38,000 square feet of office space, we now have space for our employees to work, meet, and collaborate like never before,” Tracy said. Enhanced technology features help to improve efficiencies, save money on travel, and collaborate between offices. The new headquarters also provides a safe and secure environment for both employees and members. A dedicated community room is available and can be used by nonprofits for meetings. “We’re still not done as we are underway with phase two, which includes a remodel of our Operations department, additional warehouse space, and an employee parking lot. This phase should be completed by the end of this year.”
An important part of the mission statement says that CREC will “provide service at the lowest possible cost.” Tracy emphasized how CREC wants to keep the streak going and have now had only one rate increase in the last 11 years. “We’ve kept your rates stable even while our cost of power has gone up. Our cost of power is determined in two parts, cost of energy and demand. Even when your cooperative faced increases in both of these components in 2017 and 2018, your rates remained stable. As proud as I am of our new headquarters, I’m even prouder of the fact that we built this incredible facility with no increase in your rates,” he said
The new headquarters also did not impact CREC’s retirement of paying back capital credits. Just a few months ago the Board of Directors approved another capital credit retirement in the amount of $6.7 million. This retirement was approved two months early to try and help CREC members as they dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic. “We’re proud of the fact that since 1976 we have returned over $100 million back to you the members. But even more, the amounts retired recently have set record amounts returned. Just in the last four years, members have received over $30 million dollars in checks and bill credits,” Tracy said. Capital credits are an important part of the cooperative difference. “We’re proud of the amounts we’ve returned to you. It’s another way we keep your net cost of energy low.”
The mission statement also says that CREC will provide “reliable” service. CREC employees work to keep the power flowing through lines that are susceptible to all kinds of situations that could interrupt the delivery of electricity. While no one likes their power to be off, even for a minute, with nearly 6,000 miles of line, it can happen, Tracy commented. “But in spite of this, the co-op’s Average Service Availability index came in at 99.96%, which represents the percentage of time we ‘kept the lights on’ for members. That’s a number we’re proud of and will continue to work hard to keep it there,” he said.
CREC Vision Statement Developed
Even with 2020 being a year like no other, CREC has worked to continue to fulfill this mission statement and provide our members with the service they have come to expect and deserve. “But we don’t want to only concentrate on the present, we also want to look to the future. To that end, the Board of Directors and senior management developed a vision statement for CREC. The vision statement states that Cuivre River Electric aspires “To be a trusted energy partner that is prepared to embrace opportunities in a changing utility industry while providing our members maximum value and improving our communities.”
As part of the “changing utility industry,” CREC’s power generation mix continues to add more renewable energy options. Two additional wind farms are scheduled to go online in 2020 increasing CREC’s contracted wind energy to 1,240 megawatts. Hydro and wind power continue to be larger parts of the generation mix to our members.
CREC’s Operation Round Up program eclipsed the $6 million mark this past year -- $6 million that’s gone back to help those in need in the co-op’s communities. The Cuivre Cares program made up of CREC employees, also participated in service projects for Emmaus Homes and Habitat for Humanity during the past year. The co-op’s right-of-way department, for the third consecutive year, participated in the Saluting Branches campaign to help keep Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery looking nice for honored veterans.
Tracy said that 2020 will go down as one of the most memorable years in the history of CREC, in bad ways related to dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, and in good ways with moving into a new state-of-the-art headquarters facility. “Even though 2020 has been a unique year in many ways, our focus has remained on you the member, just as it always will. In looking ahead to 2021, we again anticipate that rates will remain stable. We will continue the return of capital credits to you, and we’re excited about the possibilities 2021 will bring,” he said.
A Thank-You to Retiring Board Members
Tracy recognized two board members who recently retired from the Board: Keith Luecke, Board member for Warren County District 2, completed his last board meeting in June of this year as he moved out of CREC’s service area. “Keith served on the Board for five years and we are thankful for his service.” Troy Galloway of Lincoln County District 1 also retired from the Board, having served for 12 years. “We thank Troy for his years of dedication to CREC,” Tracy said. “These two directors, as the rest of the Board, work hard with management to set a ‘member first’ mentality in the decisions we make, and to set a vision for the future of your cooperative.”
Tracy also thanked employees whom he said have endured a year like never before. “From our office employees who turned their kitchens and dining rooms into offices to take billing and engineering calls, to our linemen, engineers, mechanics and right-of-way departments who changed work procedures to socially distance yet continue to keep the lights on for our members, to our building maintenance employees who sanitized and cleaned our facilities on a constant basis, our entire team stepped up in a big way,” he said. As CREC continues to monitor the pandemic, employees will continue to serve members and do what it takes to deliver safe and reliable electricity.