Do you ever talk and wonder if anybody is really listening? Well, when it comes to being an electric cooperative with almost 36,000 meters, there are a lot of people to listen to. I believe your cooperative is always listening and trying to balance the needs of a diverse membership.
There are members on both sides of the climate change discussions. At your cooperative, we have chosen not to debate the science. Rather, we have held a steady focus on price over resource. However, when price and resource align, we hedge the bets of every member and choose the cleaner resource.
Over the past decade-plus, our portfolio of power has grown from less than 5% carbon-free to over 60% carbon-free. This has been accomplished with only two rate increases in the last 10 years as well. We heard from members who want a cooperative that is responsible to the environment and from others who want one that is responsible to the pocketbook. We listened.
In 2003, a member had to attend the Annual Meeting to vote in the board election. Many made noise about not being able to be there in person on one specific day. Your cooperative added paper ballots that any member could mail in instead. Members asked for an even easier online option. We are now three elections into voting via the Internet. In 2019, more members voted in a cooperative election than ever before. We listened.
Members asked if we could provide a solar option. Other members didn’t want a solar option that they had to subsidize. Your cooperative put together the first community solar project in the state in 2013. If you wanted solar, you could lease one panel or several panels situated in a joint location next to our office. If you didn’t believe in solar, it didn’t affect your bill. We listened.
Electric vehicles have slowly entered our market over the past few years. Members are showing interest in the technology but remain worried over where to charge them when not at home. Your cooperative formed a partnership with Blain’s Farm & Fleet. Together, the two entities will install the first Level 3 fast charger in our region in early 2020. Anyone will be able to plug in their electric car for a quick charge while spending 30 minutes or less shopping at Blain’s. We listened.
Hardwired phone lines are becoming ancient technology. More and more members with smartphones want to use texting rather than talking. “Why can’t I just text my co-op when I am out of power?” is something we hear members say often. Well, this month, any Cherryland member will have the ability to do just that. Progress reports and restoration notifications will also be sent by text—no waiting for someone to answer the phone or punching buttons through an automated voice system. A simple text will get lineworkers rolling to turn the darkness into light once again. We listened.
Taking hundreds and thousands of comments, wants and desires and turning them into reality is often not an easy task. But it comes with the business and is something every employee at your cooperative takes seriously. We may not be able to solve every problem, want or need, but I can promise you one thing… we will listen.