Southside Electric Cooperative is financially strong, and armed with a new strategic plan, its leaders are looking to a bright future focusing on providing safe, reliable and affordable electricity for members while keeping an eye on innovations in the power industry.

That was part of the message SEC members would have heard from Cooperative leadership at the Sept. 23 annual meeting had Tropical Storm Ophelia not been raging across the service area. The storm’s steady rain and gusty wind knocked out electricity for members and, due to safety concerns for members driving to the meeting, led Cooperative management to alter plans. Only the Board of Directors met to confirm the non-contested election of Dr. Frank W. Bacon, Brenda H. Johnson and Sarah W. Saunders to additional three-year terms on the board.

“It was disappointing to have to change this year’s annual meeting. However, with the storm bringing down trees, breaking poles and causing power outages, we felt the safest action was to alter our plans. We did not want to put anyone in a dangerous situation,” President and CEO Jason Loehr said.

Below are some of the remarks Bacon, chair of the Board of Directors, and Loehr had planned to make at the meeting.

In his comments, Bacon noted the cost reduction by Old Dominion Electric Cooperative, SEC’s wholesale power provider, which went into effect Aug. 1. SEC passed that $8 per megawatt hour reduction on to members. He also mentioned the board-approved $2 million capital credit refund.

Bacon said SEC’s budget provides the resources “to invest heavily in sound infrastructure maintenance and upgrades to keep the power flowing reliably.”

Over the last year, Loehr reported SEC replaced more than 1,700 poles, installed over 750 new services and removed more than 7,000 trees from outside the right-of-way that were deemed high risk.

“SEC is financially healthy,” Loehr said. He added that active services had increased to more than 58,000 with a total infrastructure investment of $401 million over 8,400 miles of line and more than 13,000 square miles of service area.

Bacon and Loehr thanked the members for the opportunity to serve them and noted the continuing importance of investing in Southside Virginia. Two examples of that are SEC’s leadership with Southside Virginia Community College’s Power Line Worker Training Program and this year’s awarding of 30 Southside Opportunity Fund scholarships.

Each touched on SEC’s new four-year strategic plan, which Loehr said was developed with member feedback and collaboration between board members and employees. That plan focuses on people, power delivery, member engagement, financial health and being future ready.

Loehr encouraged members to use SEC as a resource for help during outages, becoming more energy efficient, saving money on their electric bills, buying an electric vehicle and installing solar panels and batteries.

“We have the knowledge and resources when it comes to power delivery; let us be Here For You every step of the way when making those decisions.”

–Report by Mark Thomas, Senior Community Relations Coordinator, Southside Electric Cooperative.