On Thursday, August 26, Republican Virginia gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin, along with Republican Del. Ronnie Campbell of Rockbridge County, met with Virginia electric cooperative leaders for an inaugural visit.

BARC Electric Cooperative hosted the event in Lexington. CEOs from five Virginia co-ops, along with staff from Old Dominion Electric Cooperative and the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives, participated in a roundtable discussion with Youngkin focusing on Virginia cooperative’s contributions to the rural communities they serve and needs for the future related to opportunities with solar, rural broadband and economic development.

BARC CEO Mike Keyser kicked off the event with a presentation on the cooperative business model, leading to discussions of how cooperatives continue to innovate to meet community needs. Youngkin and his staff were able to gain insight into how and why Virginia cooperatives have expanded available services beyond electricity to meet the needs of their members.

CEOs discussed challenges cooperatives face with rural broadband deployment and funding, electric rate structures, utility-scale battery storage and maintenance of complex electric infrastructure and grid security while also focusing on decarbonization and renewable energy opportunities.

Youngkin elaborated on his priorities, if elected governor, with a great focus on economic development, job creation and workforce training. “Innovation is the key to growth and builds opportunities. I am pro-business, pro-economic development and pro-growth”, stated Youngkin.

Youngkin discussed his support for programs such as the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative to help fund broadband deployment into rural communities, and the need for these programs to move faster. He expressed interest in understanding the pros and cons of fiber and if there are opportunities where other technologies could be a better solution. Youngkin applauded the co-op business model and expressed support for the various co-op projects across the state.

—Report by Tish Blackwell, Director of Communications, BARC Electric Cooperative