I recently read a quote I feel summarizes the past year and a half: “Tough times never last, but tough people do.”
I believe these words exemplify one of the most important cooperative principles, Concern for Community. Tough years will come and go, but Central Rural Electric Cooperative will always be here to support you and your communities.
This year’s annual meeting is months behind schedule due to COVID-19, however, I feel it is appropriate to review 2019 and touch on a few things associated with 2020.
|In 2019, you saw your co-op work through a continued decline in oil and gas sales and a realignment with its core purpose – to serve. We looked for ways to improve the member experience and reliability. You also saw us focus on our communities as we increased our engagement with them.
Shortly after 2020 began, we had to close our lobby, and adjust and operate with a remote or split workforce. The employees stepped up to this challenge, and I am proud of how they performed. Oil and gas continued to decline, but growth in a new group of members associated with marijuana grow houses has helped offset that decline.
This time of uncertainty gave us the opportunity to take a moment to contemplate Central’s future and think about various future scenarios. This helped us to recognize the importance of a few key things we know:
- The number of distributed energy resources connected to our system grows year after year – primarily solar;
- The expectations for service reliability and system uptime will increase and are only achievable through application of smart grid strategies; and
- There will be a need to establish rate designs that are more reflective of individual use habits versus a collective pattern.
Having systemwide connectivity is the cornerstone to meeting these future needs, and establishing a fiber network allows for the long-term scalability and functionality needed to endure. This is why your board of trustees voted this summer to extend Central’s fiber network downline across its entire system.
Since fiber is scalable, it allows for the excess capacity to be used to support internet and phone services, which will be available to you as a member. COVID-19 put a spotlight on the digital divide that exists between rural and urban residents, and the need for connectivity was heightened more than ever.
In today’s day and age, there should not be a disparity in quality of life services based on where you live. There should not be instances where children doing schoolwork at home begin with a hurdle in front of them due to either poor quality, high cost or no available internet options.
As an adult, your ability to work remotely should not be dependent on whether or not you live a few miles out of town. Rural members should have access to the same electric system reliability and in-home connectivity as urban areas.
We are excited about the year ahead as we work to make Central the best it can be for you, our members. Thank you for your patience this year. Our goal has been and always will be to provide you with the quality of service you deserve at the most affordable rate possible.
Hunter Robinson, CEO