With the American flag softly waving against a curtain backdrop, Hunter R. Greenlaw Jr., chairman of the NNEC board of directors, greeted in-person attendees, as well as the virtual audience.
“Our employees are a force of 56 people,” he said. “When you have over 2,100 miles of line and almost 20,000 meters and almost 17,000 members and you only have 56 people handling all that — that’s impressive. They’re here in the good weather and the bad weather. They’re your neighbors. They’re committed and dedicated, along with the board of directors, to serving you.”
Pamela Davis, vice president of finance, announced that the co-op ended the year in good financial condition despite the unique challenges of the pandemic. Revenues for 2020 were $37,999,904, while expenses were $36,513,052. This contributed to operating margins of $1,486,852.
She also reported that NNEC invested $6.6 million dollars in the electric system to meet growth, improve reliability and upgrade existing facilities. The co-op also retired $1.1 million in capital credits in 2020, its largest-ever capital credit retirement.
Next, President and CEO Brad Hicks took the lectern. “After this most challenging year, we are excited to see that this pandemic will hopefully be ending soon. It is my hope that next year’s annual meeting will be in person once again,” he said.
After thanking the board of directors and employees of the co-op, Hicks proudly reported zero lost-time accidents for last year. He also highlighted the construction of the co-op’s newest substation in Avalon, Northumberland County.
“This new facility will help NNEC continue to provide reliable services to co-op members in surrounding areas,” he explained. He also noted upgrades in additional substations, as well as the replacement of nearly 11 miles of distribution line in Northumberland County.
Said Hicks, “We are investing in our electric grid and we will continue to do this important work to maintain the highest levels of excellence that you all have come to expect from your electric cooperative.”
He also discussed vegetation management efforts, citing 51% of all outages in 2020 were caused by trees. And, of those, 69% were caused by trees that were outside of NNEC’s right-of-way.
“For 84 years, we have provided safe, reliable and affordable electrical service to you — and we would like to continue that history of excellence into the future. We do recognize, however, that there are challenging times ahead for our industry. But we are committed, as a team, to prepare the organization to be as successful as possible,” he said.
Hicks mentioned development of a strategic plan for the next four years, focusing on priorities such as safety and security, culture and employees, operational excellence, member and community engagement, financial stewardship and innovation and technology.
Addressing a few of the co-op’s goals, Hicks mentioned some future projects that include launching a new website, a new enterprise software solution and a new mobile application for members.
NNEC announced its partnership with Dominion Energy to help ensure that the unserved areas of the Northern Neck have access to affordable and effective broadand service. Hicks hinted that additional details about the program will come over the next few months.
Another goal is to “lean into” sustainable technologies. NNEC’s electric generation cooperative, Old Dominion Electric Cooperative, is pursuing proposals to add up to 400 megawatts of solar power to its power mix. “This project will increase the portfolio of our power that comes from solar energy,” Hicks noted.
Hicks was proud to announce that NNEC’s mission statement has been refreshed. The new mission is simple: to improve the quality of life in communities served by NNEC.
Cooperative attorney Fleet Dillard presided over board elections, with incumbents A. Wayne Saunders of Lancaster County, and Holly L. Wargo, of Westmoreland County, reelected to three-year terms.
J. Steve Thomas Sr., was visibly touched as he was honored with a plaque for his 51 years of distinguished service to the cooperative. Thomas had previously received the 1999 Electric Cooperative Leadership Award, awarded by the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives.
— Report by Laura Emery, Field Editor, VMDAEC
Above Photo: Northern Neck President and CEO Brad Hicks and the NNEC Board of Directors. (Photo By: Kyle Allwine)