The 2020 REMC annual meeting was like no other in our 82-year history. COVID-19 made sure of that. I missed looking into your friendly faces while delivering my annual report. I also missed catching up with long-time attendees and the opportunity to meet members attending for the first time. But I am thankful we were able to use a virtual option for continuing our long-standing tradition. This month, I want to review some of the information shared in my report and provide some reflections on 2020.
Your cooperative has been put to the test throughout this ongoing coronavirus “storm.” Even with all the challenges, I am extremely proud of how the REMC team never missed a beat in our desire to continue providing you with exceptional service every day. This was made easier thanks to the technology that was already in place by our IT team.
Many of our office employee team were able to transition quickly to working remotely to stay safe while continuing to serve the membership. I want to thank the Board of Directors for their sound guidance and wisdom, as we had to make some quick decisions and plans to maintain the level of service you expect, while keeping everyone’s safety the priority.
During these uncertain times, we already had in place the tools you needed for Convenience, Choice and Control in managing your electric service, no matter where you are. This year, our focus has been on helping you manage your energy in ways that are most convenient for your lifestyle.
Through your feedback from our surveys, we know that members of all ages are utilizing smart devices and expect their electric co-op to be digitally engaged, as well. Our Mobile App and Online Member Service Portal provide you full access to your account. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in the number of members utilizing these tools. In addition to managing your profile information and payment options, our suite of online services includes convenient ways to pay and receive bills, billing and usage alerts, energy use monitoring, access to our real-time outage map, and much more.
Even with all that this year has brought, our hope is that your holidays will be filled with joyous and memorable blessings.
If you have not downloaded our Mobile App yet, this is a great time to try it out. Every payment made using the Mobile App through December 31 of this year will be entered into a drawing for a $50 bill credit. There will also be a Grand Prize drawing for a Smart Home Package, which includes an Amazon Echo Show, several smart plugs and light bulbs, as well as an ecobee smart thermostat. All of the members who paid using the Mobile App between April and December this year will be entered into this drawing, so don’t miss out!
Your cooperative has also leveraged advancements in technology to offer you a choice in how you are billed using our FlexPay prepaid electricity program. You also have access to timely energy consumption information with the ability to drill into your daily usage charts to see the amount of energy used each hour of the day.
This year we have increased our communications with you through texts and emails. Thank you for the great feedback we have received about the SPOTT Alerts outage texting program that provides vital information about power outage restorage efforts. We are also growing our capability to inform members when our crews are working in particular areas of the system.
But we are not able to provide these updates and information about our recent annual meeting or any other activities happening at your cooperative if we do not have your correct contact information. Please ensure that we have your current home and mobile numbers and email address on file so you can be a better-informed member and receive all the updates and notifications we share with the membership (you can update your information right now with this simple form).
Randolph EMC was formed when members of our local communities banded together to bring electricity and its many benefits to rural areas that were being ignored. Those community leaders recognized the life-changing opportunities that came with electric power and that it was foundational to the promise of a brighter future.
Today, we have embraced new forward-looking efforts to further invest in the people, businesses and communities we serve to continue building on the promise of a brighter future. As a local, member-owned cooperative, Randolph EMC is uniquely positioned to adapt to a changing energy landscape.
Power no longer travels in a linear path. Instead, improvements in technology and the introduction of advanced meters and devices have enabled the two-way flow of energy and communications across the grid. We are also leveraging this modern grid to provide a higher level of service and value, and to empower our members to take a more active role in managing their energy use.
Your cooperative recently implemented “self-healing grid” technology to improve reliability for members. This technology essentially ties together sections of line from two different sources. If a fault occurs within that section of line, the reclosers can isolate the area affected and back-feed the unaffected portions from another source, to bring the lights back on to some members that would otherwise be out of power until repairs are made. The impressive thing is, all this happens automatically within about a minute and can significantly reduce the number of members affected by an outage.
We currently have two self-healing grid installations on the system—one in the Seagrove/Ulah area and one in the Troy area. Both of these projects have already reduced the power outage time for some members.
A windstorm in the Seagrove area last April caused a dead tree outside of the right-of-way to fall onto a line, which took out power to 1,060 members. The self-healing technology worked as it was designed, and within a minute or so, 766 of those members had their power restored.
In August, a transformer failed in the Lake Tillery area and caused an outage for more than 600 members. Again, the system went through its operations to back-feed power from another source and restored power to 258 members.
During both of these events, even though members located close to the cause of the outage remained out of power, 1,024 members only experienced a blink instead of an extended power outage. Our engineering team is currently evaluating where additional installations of this technology would serve the greatest number of members and be cost effective.
Continual investments to modernize the cooperative’s electrical grid will be critical as we plan to meet your future needs and expectations of a more reliable and efficient cooperative. It is an important piece of the puzzle in providing our members and communities with a brighter future.
Even with all that this year has brought, our hope is that your holidays will be filled with joyous and memorable blessings. Please take time to remember the true reason for this Christmas season — the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas to all!
Dale F. Lambert Chief Executive Officer
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Randolph EMC is working to provide powerful new services to our members and to strengthen local communities through innovative energy solutions, economic development and community enrichment.