Members approved two changes to the co-op’s Articles of Incorporation and re-elected Andrew Farnham, board chairman, and Mitchel Headley, vice chairman, to the board of trustees. Farnham, serving district 1 which consists of Florence, Northwest and St Joseph townships in Williams County will begin his third term as trustee. This will begin the second term for Headley who serves district 2 which consists of Carryall, Hicksville and Milford townships in Defiance County.
Members enjoyed a meal then heard reports on the state of their cooperative from North Western Electric officials. They also congratulated the 2015 scholarship recipients and participants of the Washington, D.C., Youth Tour, an annual trip for two students in North Western’s service area.
In addition, North Western member Gertrude Studer was recognized for having attended all 79 of the cooperative’s annual meetings.
Board Chairman Andy Farnham reported that the cooperative was able to refund just over $1 million of patronage capital credits to members in the past year, signaling that North Western Electric is in strong financial shape.
“A total of all retirements for the life of the co-op now equals almost $14 million,” Farnham said. “We rank in the top 2 percent nationally of cooperatives who give back the most capital credits.”
North Western Electric President and CEO Darin Thorp addressed three major areas of the cooperative’s focus: providing members with safe, reliable and affordable electricity. He noted that North Western Electric has reduced average outage times to only 52 minutes — that means electricity was flowing 99.99 percent of the time in 2014.
“In other words, if our members ever did have a power outage, in less than one hour, they were likely to be back on,” Thorp said. “Based off historical data, our 2014 time of 52 minutes will likely rank us in the top 10 percent in the nation and one of the best co-ops in the state for outage restoration.”
Reliability is, in part, a trade-off with affordability, Thorp said, because it requires investment in infrastructure and maintenance. High-cost, low-benefit federal regulations are the main threat to affordable, reliable electric service for all Americans, but especially for those in rural areas, like North Western Electric members.
Doug Miller echoed those sentiments. Miller represented Buckeye Power and Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives, North Western Electric’s power supplier and statewide support organization, respectively.
“The good news is that the big investments in our power plants are behind us, and we now have some of the lowest generation rates in the Ohio generation market,” Miller said, referring to a decades-long, $1 billion upgrade to emissions-control equipment on Buckeye Power’s coal-fired power plant. “Our biggest drivers for cost increases now come from increased transmission costs and greater environmental regulations.”
Miller outlined proposed regulations by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that aim to lower carbon dioxide emissions from power plants — and add as much as $50 per month to North Western Electric members’ bills.
“Your board and management at North Western are working hand in hand with the staff at Buckeye Power and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association to request improvements to the final rule,” Miller said. “We are also pursuing legislative fixes to the rules.”
The EPA’s final rules for power plant emissions are to be published in June. Members can visit www.Action.coop for more information about the issue.
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