2021 co-op update
April 29, 2021
from Rick Lemonds
Last spring, I shared a cooperative update with members in Ohio Cooperative Living, and at the time, we were dealing with what we all initially thought might be a few weeks of lockdown to get the spread of a new virus under control.
Here we are, a year later, and like many of you reading this, I’ve now been vaccinated and am finally starting to see some areas of work and life return to a state that looks more like normal. Despite this, some of the things we dealt with during the pandemic, like masks and social distancing, are still going to be a part of life for some time to come.
While we had to cancel member meetings last year, this spring, we were able to hold them virtually, so I enjoyed meeting some of you over Zoom and having the opportunity to provide a bit of a cooperative update. We are optimistic that as more of our employees and members become vaccinated and community spread of the virus becomes less of a concern, that we might be able to hold our annual meeting in person again this fall.
In 2020, many of our members faced hardships such as lost wages, difficulty with childcare, or illness. Our cooperative difference allowed us to respond in a variety of ways, including a slight change last year in how we handle capital credits. Many of our members are curious about how capital credits work, and what it means to you as members, so I want to take the opportunity to help explain that here.
Put simply, capital credits are your investment in South Central Power Company. What does your investment do? For a period of time, it helps fund the cooperative’s operations. These funds are used for everything from storm restoration to system improvements. The collective investments of all our members allows us to serve you. But as you’ll learn, it provides a unique benefit and advantage for our individual members as well.
Ultimately, what happens with that investment? Unlike the payments you make to investor-owned utilities, the investments you make in your cooperative come back to you. Each year, our trustees consider our financial position, and it’s been typical that we are able to return capital credits to members on an annual basis, starting with your 21st year of membership. In 2020, South Central Power paid out capital credits totaling almost $6 million, issued as bill credits or checks.
Normally those credits are issued in June, but with so many members facing economic hardship as a result of the pandemic, we accelerated our normal schedule and returned those in April. This year, your April bill statement included an area detailing your own personal accounting of capital credits. You can retain this statement for your records. It’s another way that we’re different — instead of returning capital to Wall Street bankers, our intent is to eventually return that to you, our members.
As a cooperative, we set ambitious goals in areas like safety, dependability, financial and operational excellence, and of course, member satisfaction. When our trustees and staff had the opportunity to reflect on 2020, we had good news in several areas to celebrate. Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our members and employees, so I’m proud to tell you that our safety record puts us in the top 1% among our peers. We had no lost time or restricted duty accidents and no OSHA recordable incidents, and I am very proud of our staff for achieving such an impressive goal. When it comes to member satisfaction, we made improvements as well, as our American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) survey results told us we’re doing better than ever before. And, we continue to make progress toward our goal of 180 minutes of average outage time per consumer, another metric electric utilities use to measure success.
We are proud of our accomplishments in recent years, but we’re by no means satisfied or complacent. Our trustees and company leaders are setting ambitious new goals and undertaking work and projects to help us get there.
Safe and dependable
While these benchmarks would have been impressive at any time, the fact that we achieved them in the midst of a pandemic, while adjusting to things like masks, social distancing, remote work, and all of the other challenges we faced together, makes me even more proud of what our team accomplished. We hope that the steady improvements we’ve made over several years, and in particular in this last year, served you well as you faced these same challenges, because it’s our goal to keep costs low and be there when you need us.
A culture of service
As a cooperative, we exist only to serve you. That’s true when the power goes out in the middle of the night, but also when you are carefully trying to stretch every dollar and need help controlling your energy use so your electric bill doesn’t get too far out of hand. Our website and app now allow all our members to monitor their energy use on a daily or even hourly basis, so you can compare what’s happening in your home to the energy you used last year — or intend to use — and make the necessary adjustments. We also offer interactive tools and calculators to help you visualize and realize energy savings, but if you’re the type of person who would rather speak to a South Central Power employee, we’ve got you covered there as well. Member service representatives and energy advisors are available Monday through Friday, 8 to 5, to look at your account, answer questions, and offer suggestions, if your goal is to spend less on energy in the months and years ahead.
Supporting our communities
In a typical year, we’d be seeing you more out and about in our communities. We love seeing you at our member meetings, but also at events like the county fairs, where we sponsor events and purchase 4-H animals. We are also proud to support our employees in volunteer efforts across our service territory, providing them with paid time off to do so. In 2020, we were limited in what we could do because of the risk of COVID exposure, and we were also saddened that many of the community events you look forward to each year were limited or canceled. But that doesn’t mean we stood by when it comes to supporting the community.
In the early stages of the pandemic, we were proud to provide two separate grants for $10,000 each to the food banks in Pickerington and Canal Winchester. We make similar community investments every year in different communities across our service territory. But we felt in light of COVID, food pantries were one of the main ways we could make a difference.
Similarly, the South Central Power Company Foundation, which is funded by our members voluntarily donating to Operation Round Up by rounding up their electric bills, found some great ways to help communities navigate
the difficulties of 2020. The foundation board provided assistance with grants to entities like hospitals, schools, fire departments, and clothing banks as well as more than $100,000 in scholarships for high school students planning to attend both academic and technical schools.
85 years of service
In May 1936, trustees held the first board meeting of what would become the South Central Power Company. Elected by nine members of the cooperative who contributed $5 each, the group quickly organized and were able to erect the cooperative’s first power pole on Coonpath Road in Lancaster in September of 1937. From those humble beginnings, today your cooperative is among the largest in the nation and serves more than 122,000 meters in parts of 24 counties.
We are excited that as we enter our 85th year, we have two new facilities to help us better serve our members. This month, we are opening a new facility in Hillsboro to serve members in the southwestern portion of our service territory. This building replaces a facility built in the 1950s for what was then Inter County Electric Cooperative and that lacked the space we needed to adequately store equipment and supplies. Similarly, our longtime facility on Coonpath Road will also be replaced with a new one in Lancaster’s Rock Mill Industrial Park. This new facility will not only give us more space, it will allow us to consolidate all our central Ohio operations under one roof, meaning we will no longer need to operate separate facilities in Canal Winchester and Circleville. We are excited about this transition in 2021 and look forward to continuing to do our best for members as we begin a new era of service.
President & CEO
From the May 2021 issue of Ohio Cooperative Living.