A crowd of nearly 10,000 leaders and guests from America’s electric cooperatives descended upon San Antonio, Texas, March 1-6 for 2024 NRECA PowerXchange and TechAdvantage.

NRECA’s annual meeting of members kicked off with opening remarks from NRECA CEO Jim Matheson highlighting cooperatives’ role as the leading voice on reliability. “Being cooperatives makes us instantly accountable,” he said. “That word makes us public servants; it binds our reputations together. It calls on all of us to do the right thing.”

Panel Discussions

As electric cooperatives face hurricanes, floods, wildfires and other natural disasters, there are ways to prepare more effectively, co-op leaders said at PowerXchange. Co-ops are accustomed to working with one another to provide mutual assistance after major disasters, but it’s also important to have strong connections with local and state emergency response officials, co-op leaders advised during a panel discussion about how to prepare for a natural disaster.

Filling out applications for federal grants is a lot of work, but the rewards can be millions of dollars to help electric cooperatives withstand natural disasters, expand broadband service and develop clean energy projects, co-op CEOs told their colleagues during the panel on federal funding.

After enduring unprecedented rolling power curtailments, electric cooperative leaders from Tennessee and Arkansas offered key advice on how to communicate with members amid increasing threats to reliability.

As massive amounts of renewables and distributed energy resources are set to come online and more dispatchable generation to meet demand is expected to exit the grid, electric cooperatives are rethinking how to maintain reliability for their members, a panel of co-op leaders said.

From left, NRECA President Tony Anderson, REC President and CEO, John D. Hewa.
Photo courtesy Rappahannock Electric Cooperative.

REC Recognized for DEI

Rappahannock Electric Cooperative President and CEO John Hewa was awarded the 2024 Curtis Wynn Diversity Champion Award, which recognizes utilities that best demonstrate achievement in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion within the workplace. 

“I am humbled and honored to receive an NRECA award that bears Curtis Wynn’s name,” Hewa said. “For me, receiving this award is beyond motivating to uncover what more I can achieve with our fantastic team of employees, board members, and caring culture at Rappahannock Electric. Each of us are remarkably similar and unique in the same moment.”

Hewa led the development of REC’s diversity, equity and inclusion plan, which focuses on leadership and strategy, employee education and awareness, and recruitment and retention. The plan has increased employee engagement, collaboration and a sense of belonging.

“While we can’t possibly envision the great things to come, we at REC are thankful that our DEI plan makes way for the critical discussions and has us pointed in the right direction,” Hewa said. He noted that REC’s diversity, equity and inclusion plan supports not only the cooperative’s employees, but also its members.  

Added NRECA President Tony Anderson: “John and Betty have demonstrated exceptional achievements as they worked to advance diversity, equity and inclusion within their cooperatives. Each has worked to foster cultures of belonging that enabled employees to feel valued and empowered.”

Cal Ripken poses with Choptank Electric Cooperative directors and guests. From left, Kristen Nickerson, Amy Brandt, Donna West, Cal Ripken, Clarice Mathies. Photo courtesy Choptank Electric Cooperative.

Stars on Stage

On the morning of March 5, MLB Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. addressed attendees and answered a few pre-submitted questions, including one from Choptank board member Donna West, who asked him what he thought of current MLB players who require rest days, and if he ever had to play injured as he performed in 2,632 consecutive games over more than 16 years.

That evening, musician and BARC Electric journeyman lineman Will Reid opened up for country music star Josh Turner with a crowd-pleasing performance. Reid is an accomplished singer-songwriter with a hit single, “Albuquerque,” that charted on “MusicRow CountryBreakout Radio.” His first album, recorded in Nashville in February, is expected to be released this summer. Read more about Reid in a recent feature written by NRECA’s Cathy Cash.

Read more about this year’s PowerXchange at  https://www.cooperative.com/news/Pages/default.aspx.