Craig-Botetourt Electric Cooperative’s 2021 annual meeting was limited in scope because of health and safety protocols, but the co-op did have a successful 84th annual session on June 5 at its headquarters in New Castle.

Board chairman J.C. Winstead presides over the CBEC annual meeting.

J.C. Winstead, president of the board of directors, called the meeting to order. “I’m glad to see faces out here instead of just a camera,” he noted at the outset of the meeting. The Rev. Bill Frazier delivered the invocation while Troy Duncan, safety and training coordinator, led the Pledge of Allegiance.

CEO Jeff Ahearn introduced board members and their spouses, and thanked the board and the CBEC staff for its support during a difficult year. Jeff presented three high school seniors, Sara Hubbard, Emma Todd and Autumn Hutchison, who were recipients of college scholarships from the Education Scholarship Foundation of the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives.

CBEC Corporate Counsel Compton Biddle presided over the business part of the meeting. He said the cooperative has 5,898 active members, and established a quorum through in-person representation and proxies to proceed with the meeting.

Elected to the board were Jack Harlow from Covington in District 1, which covers the counties of Monroe, W.Va., and Alleghany and Giles in Virginia, and Patrick J. Ryan of Eagle Rock in District 3, which covers Botetourt and Montgomery counties in Virginia.

As board president, Winstead. outlined some of the cooperative’s accomplishments in 2020, even in the middle of a pandemic. He thanked members for their patience and said the cooperative did an excellent job conducting its business while taking safety precautions on behalf of its staff and members.

Still, CBEC completed its new Ironto substation — the co-op’s first new substation since 1976 — and created a subsidiary, Bee Online Advantage, as it starts to deliver fiber-to-the-home internet access. “Our priorities never changed,” he said.

Secretary-treasurer James Huffman reported that CBEC is in a strong financial position. The cooperative had a net margin of $666,710 for 2020. At year-end, CBEC had more than $45 million in total utility plant and sold more than 81 million kilowatt-hours of power, he said.

Emma Todd displays her scholarship certificate with CBEC CEO Jeff Ahearn (l) and board Vice President James Huffman.

In his manager’s report, Ahearn said more than $1.6 million in grants have enabled CBEC to move ahead in its first two phases with Bee Online Advantage to wire its service territory and improve the cooperative’s communications and metering infrastructure. Plans are underway to bring broadband to all of CBEC’s Botetourt County members, with expansion elsewhere a possibility.

Ahearn also explained that rising costs in fuel and other factors have led to a rate case with the State Corporation Commission that is drawing to a close.

The cooperative is looking for ways to offset rate increases in part through the sale of renewable energy credits from hydropower generated by one of its power providers, he noted.

He added that CBEC continues to maintain a vigorous right-of-way program over a seven-year cycle, and that could be moved to a six-year program in the future to ensure a reliable flow of electricity to its members.

“With the lessons learned from last year, your cooperative is stronger and well-positioned to take on the challenges that await us,” Ahearn said.

The meeting concluded as Ahearn presented a resolution from the board to Jasper Persinger, who is retiring as a board member after many years of service.

—Report by Steven Johnson, Vice President, Communications, VMDAEC