This year marks the 80th anniversary of Cuivre River Electric Cooperative. The founders of the cooperative could never have dreamed of drones, LiDAR, geographic information systems (GIS), advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), SCADA systems, outage management systems, and other equipment and technology we use today. The founders dug holes for poles by hand, climbed poles to string wire, and asked members to read their meters. Yet the foundation they laid has allowed CREC to be successful today.
Your cooperative continues to experience rapid growth. During the past year, we surpassed the 70,000 meter mark. Construction is continuing at a fast pace and we estimate another 1,500 meter sets in all areas of our service territory.
Just as 2020 brought us the pandemic, 2021 started with challenges of its own. In February, we experienced the “polar vortex.” With it came record-breaking low temperatures, not only for our area but for the majority of the United States, including parts of Texas that saw temperatures dip below zero. Scattered across a large geographical area and lasting for many days, the extreme cold taxed the nation’s electrical grid like never before. Nineteen states, including parts of Missouri, implemented rolling blackouts, primarily due to a lack of natural gas supply. Some blackouts lasted for days and went hours at a time, in severe weather, with no power. Missouri’s generation, transmission, and distribution cooperatives, including CREC, were able to provide power throughout the storm and avoided rolling blackouts.
This highlighted the need for a diversified generation mix. Our power supplier, Associated Electric Cooperative, was able to utilize multiple generation sources during the storm, allowing electric cooperatives around the state to avoid shortages. Reliability is of the utmost importance, especially in extremely cold weather, and our diversified generation portfolio was able to deliver this reliability when it mattered most.
As part of this mix, our renewable energy generation continues to grow. For the past year, 25% of our member load was delivered using renewables. An additional 471 megawatts of wind were added in 2020, bringing total wind generation to over 1,240 megawatts. This combined with hydro generation from Table Rock Dam continues to increase our percentage of renewable energy delivery.
Our rates have only risen one time in the past 11 years, and during that time, CREC has absorbed significant cost increases from our power supplier due to demand charges, as well as price increases in materials and equipment. Energy rate increases coming soon from our power supplier are beginning to create rate pressure on CREC’s financials. As we continue to evaluate the increases in costs, we will strive to continue to keep your rates as low as possible.
CREC’s power reliability continues to rank as one of the best in the country. Our power delivery percentage for the past year was 99.96%, meaning your power was on over 99% of the time, on average. No one likes the power to be off, but with storms, animals, equipment issues, and traffic accidents, sometimes outages happen. Our linemen take great pride in restoring your power as safely and as quickly as possible.
Return of capital credits continues to be a focus of your cooperative. This year the Board of Directors approved $7.7 million in capital credit retirements, a new record amount. In the last five years, CREC has returned over $33 million to our members.
CREC is proud to be a part of the communities in which we serve. Our Operation Round Up program, thanks to pennies rounded up on your bill, has given back over six and a half million dollars since its inception. This includes scholarships, assistance with medical bills for those in need, charitable programs through a variety of organizations, and many other assistance opportunities. Our Cuivre Cares program, made up of employees and their families, has service projects scheduled throughout the area.
From 1941 to 2021, CREC has been, is, and always will be focused on those we serve—you the member. We’re proud to have successfully navigated many challenges in the last 80 years. As we look forward, we know there will be new challenges ahead and are confident we can meet them and continue to provide you with the superior service you expect. It is truly our pleasure to serve you.
Diane Saale, Board President
Doug Tracy, General Manager/CEO