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Members Participate in the 81st Annual Meeting of Coastal Electric Cooperative

          On October 1, 2021, the 81st annual meeting of the membership of Coastal Electric Cooperative was held.  This is the second annual meeting in the cooperative history conducted without an in-person meeting.  Instead, a virtual annual meeting was held utilizing drive-through registration and voting, followed by a live stream business meeting hosted on the cooperative website.  With 2 days of registration and voting, beginning on Thursday, September 30th, 1,332 cooperative members registered and voted for trustees in 3 of the 9 cooperative districts.   Members voted and elected Mr. Terry Hoff to District 6, filling the vacant seat previously held by Mrs. Judy Reeves.  Also re-elected were Mr. LaVern Polk to District 1 and Mr. Harold Rhodes, Jr. to District 8, who ran unopposed.

          Chief Executive Officer, Mark Walling, spoke during the online virtual meeting, thanking everyone who was involved in the execution of another successful drive-through style and virtual annual meeting.  He also gave a report on the financial strength of the cooperative stating that the co-op has a total of 11,875 active services.  Total utility plant grew $2,475,741 (3.9%) from March 31, 2020 to March 31, 2021 totaling just under $66 million.   Capital credits totaling $201,000 were returned in December of 2020 to members under a plan that was approved by the membership at the 2018 annual meeting, which will return the same amount per year for a 6-year period.   In the past 10 years, over $3.5 million has been returned to current and past members in the form of capital credits. 

          Mr. Walling outlined many of the challenges of keeping rates stable with minimal growth and increasing cost. One of many in-house efforts to cut cost, is reducing the workforce.  Over the past year, the Coastal workforce has been reduced by 10% simply by utilizing new technologies, increasing efficiencies and not having to replace some of the retirees. 

          He informed the membership that over half of Coastal’s expenses is the cost of the energy that we purchase and have transmitted into our territory.  “Fortunately, the costs of generation and transmission have stabilized in recent years.  As part of the settlement in the nuclear plant litigation, Santee Cooper has locked their rates through 2024.  Also, Central Electric, our direct provider, has recently entered into some large purchase power agreements for solar-generated energy that will hedge against the volatility of fuel such as natural gas generation” he stated.

          With the combination of stabilizing wholesale energy prices, and cost cutting and efficiency improvements, Mr. Walling was pleased to announce that there will be no energy rate increases for 2022.  This will make 8 consecutive years with no energy increase.

          Mr. Walling spoke to the multi-year projects the cooperative has completed and those in progress to continue to improve the reliability of our system.   To top the list, the Islandton substation was completed and brought into service in February of this year.  This new substation has been under construction for some time now and is a welcome addition to the Islandton, New Hope, and Toby’s Bluff communities, greatly enhancing the service to the area.  In addition to this, the cooperative is continuing to invest in smart grid equipment to improve the reliability of the grid by installing intelligent devices throughout the system allowing for quick restoration of service to portions of the system when an outage occurs. 

          Lastly, Mr. Walling announced the cooperative reopened the Member Investment Program in June of 2021.   This “win-win” opportunity for all active cooperative members will offer a high interest rate, CD like investment opportunity for our members while assisting in reducing the borrowing cost of Coastal – all in turn will keep electric rates down. 

          For more information on the member investment program please call 843-538-5700.