This is the third of a series of articles discussing our vegetation management program.
Vegetation practices balance reliability with scenic beauty
Keeping the path of power lines free of large trees and brush helps our members enjoy reliable electricity for their homes and businesses. It also provides a safe working environment for our line technicians, whether they’re doing routine work on the system or trying to get power quickly restored when an outage occurs. Vegetation must be continually managed in rights-of-way in order to meet reliability and safety goals. That’s why our comprehensive, innovative right-of-way program includes selective herbicide. As you know, your cooperative utilizes a combination approach to right-of-way maintenance. In the first part of the process, trees and large growth that threaten reliability are either cut with mechanical trimmers or trimmed by hand. The following summer, crews using a backpack applicator apply an environmentally safe herbicide treatment targeted to vegetation that could grow into power lines. This herbicide allows low-growing vegetation to thrive. This low-volume, manual method of vegetation management also helps ensure the beauty and natural habitat of the many plants and animals in our area is enhanced. These practices are endorsed by several important animal and plant organizations such as the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources, The National Wild Turkey Federation, Quail Unlimited, Buckmasters and the National Butterfly Association. Finally, we have a certified arborist on staff who manages our vegetation management program to ensure we’re carefully balancing care for the environment and reliability with member satisfaction. You can be assured that member satisfaction with our right-of-way program is a priority for us. Because we respect your property, member notification is part of our plan. Planned maintenance that requires us to be on a member’s property is preceded by an automated phone call so that our members are notified well in advance of any work. If we cannot reach a member by phone after several attempts, a post card will be mailed. This process ensures members have the opportunity to learn more about the maintenance required and the need to be on their property. Carolina Country March 2013 21
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We’re serious about keeping costs low, and everyone at Blue Ridge Electric is involved in the effort. Our largest effort is in containing wholesale power costs. Through the agreement we’ve negotiated with Duke Energy Carolinas, our wholesale power supplier, we’ve been able to secure the most favorable costs in the marketplace for our wholesale power. This has resulted in keeping your rates lower than they would otherwise be with any other wholesale power provider. However, rising wholesale power costs are predicted to increase due to pressures coming from state and federal government environmental regulations. Rising costs are coming primarily from the closing of older coal plants that produce very cheap electricity but can’t achieve new, stricter regulations limiting the amount of carbon and other pollutants the plants can emit. Regulations aren’t the only energy cost pressures. Modernizing our nation’s grid to meet our growing technology, security, and electricity consumption needs is very expensive. Prices for materials and equipment needed to build facilities are also continuing to rise. Containing costs during times like these is difficult, but we’re committed to looking out for our members. For example, even though our costs for wholesale power rose by 8 percent this year, we were able to contain last fall’s rate adjustment to 2.5 percent. We achieved that through our employees working to
All electric utilities are faced with rising cost pressures these days, including your cooperative. One advantage of being served by a cooperative, however, is that we exist to benefit our members by keeping your bills as low as possible in addition to giving you the best in reliable electricity and member service.
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Working to keep your bills low in a time of rising costs
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n fficer control internal Doug Johnso operating expenses and from benefits produced by our subsidiary companies. Through our WorkSmart employee program, ideas have been implemented worth an annual $3 million in costs we avoided spending — costs members did not have to pay. Finally, our subsidiary companies are key to helping offset rising costs for our members. The financial benefit provided from Blue Ridge Energies, a heating fuels and propane provider to homes and businesses, and RidgeLink, a business-to-business provider of our excess fiber capacity, goes directly to help hold down rate increases. In 2012, they provided 10 percent of our margins — which simply means the $1.2 million produced by our subsidiaries is helping offset rising costs that members would have to otherwise pay if we did not have the subsidiaries. While we project the need for annual rate increases the next few years due to increases in wholesale power cost, our commitment is to keep them below what other utilities are implementing. Our goal is to spread the increases out over time so that annual rate adjustments are 3 percent or less. We’re working hard to follow the cooperative principle of keeping your bill as low as possible while providing the best in reliability and member service.
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More News Director Proxy Committee to be appointed As part of the director election governance process giving members an option to vote for the directors of their cooperative by mail or Internet, a Director Proxy Committee will be appointed by the board of directors at their regular March board meeting. This committee will be made up of three directors and one alternate director whose terms are not expiring and who are not running for re-election this year to the board of directors. The Proxy Committee serves multiple roles for the membership. First, the committee will cast votes for all members designating their preferences selected on the paper or electronic proxy forms. Secondly, the committee will serve as a proxy for any member wishing to assign his vote for director elections to the committee. Lastly, the committee will cast votes for members who do not make a choice on any of the voting options. Director election kits will be mailed, or sent by email to members who have elected to receive this information electronically, to all members May 15, 2013. The notice of annual meeting along with information about this year’s board candidates will be part of the election kit. As a reminder, members are no longer required to attend the annual meeting in order to vote for directors as they now have additional options of voting by mail or Internet. Additionally, members who have not voted or who voted by mail or Internet but wish to change their vote may attend the annual meeting in order to do so. The names of the Director Proxy Committee will appear on the proxy forms contained in the director election and annual meeting notice kits sent to members and on our website at www.BlueRidgeEMC.com.
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Protecting your identity Legislation known as the “Red Flags Rule” is requiring companies to take extra steps to detect, prevent and minimize personal identity theft — a problem which affects millions of Americans annually. Members may notice extra measures the cooperative is taking to ensure the security and privacy of your information, including: Blue Ridge Electric cannot share any account information with anyone other than the member whose name is on the account. However, members may contact us to add a spouse, child, or others they wish to authorize to have access to their account information.
Additionally, in order for Blue Ridge staff to discuss account information or make adjustments such as payment arrangements, the member or authorized individual must verify their identity as the account holder (member) or authorized user, which can be accomplished using various methods such as providing requested information or showing photo identification. While we regret any inconvenience, these steps are required and necessary to protect your information and help fight identity theft.
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Members Only NEWS
~For Members of Blue Ridge Electric
BlueRidgeEMC.com gets a facelift! CORPORATE OFFICE PO Box 112 • Lenoir, NC 28645
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER Doug Johnson EDITOR Renée R. Whitener PRODUCTION SUPERVISOR Susan Simmons DISTRICT OFFICES Caldwell (828) 754-9071 Watauga (828) 264-8894 Ashe (336) 846-7138 Alleghany (336) 372-4646 Wilkes (800) 451-5474 (800) 448-2383 PowerLine® (PowerLine® is an automated account information and outage reporting system.)
After more than a year of review and planning, Blue Ridge Electric’s new website has launched with a fresh design that provides easy-to-use navigaton for first-time or veteran users of the site. “Keeping it simple was a primary goal,” said Susan Simmons, Blue Ridge Electric communications manager. “For example, if a visitor is looking for available services relating to residential consumers, they simply click on the ‘Residential’ tab. The same is true for our commercial consumers. Members can review all aspects of their Blue Ridge account by clicking on the ‘My Account’ tab or stay informed during severe weather by clicking on the ‘Outage Map’ tab.” “Visitors can also see and join live Facebook® and Twitter® feeds plus view numerous informational and how-to videos. This website was designed with our members in mind, and we look forward to their comments in the months ahead,” Simmons concluded. Take a few minutes and check out www.BlueRidgeEMC.com, designed with you in mind, with more easy-to-use services, video options and helpful features than ever before.
Toll Free 1 (800) 451-5474 (for members outside the service area) To report an outage at any time, call one of the numbers listed above. OFFICE HOURS 8:30 am - 5:00 pm, Monday - Friday Night deposit available. Visit us on the Web: www.BlueRidgeEMC.com
Energy tips Appliances account for about 13 percent of your home’s energy use. If they have energy-saving settings, use them! If they’re nearing voting age, consider replacing them with a new, energy-efficient model. And remember to try smart power strips for smaller appliances and electronics that continue to draw power even when turned off. For more tips, visit www.EnergySavers.gov. Source: U.S. Department of Energy
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