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JULY 2018

matters MEMBERSHIP

A MONTHLY NEWSLETTER FROM BLUE RIDGE ENERGY

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Largest reliability project in Blue Ridge history To ensure adequate, reliable power for its members, Blue Ridge Energy has begun the largest system improvement project in the cooperative’s history. The cooperative currently operates over 26 miles of 230 kV transmission lines from Ashe County to Wilkes County, where we receive transmission grid service from Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC. The 17 miles of transmission lines that bring power from Ashe County to Watauga

within existing rights-of-ways, will upgrade the singlecircuit transmission line to a higher voltage double circuit transmission line to provide capacity to meet electricity demand now and for the next 50 years. To safely carry the higher voltage transmission power lines, existing wooden poles will be replaced with larger steel poles.

Cooperative officials have contacted all members with property along the project’s first phase, which begins in Ashe County at Hwy. 163 near the Obids Cooperative system upgrades are monitored closely as community along Idlewild Road to Hwy. 221. an ongoing process to balance cost and construction The cooperative will meet later this year timing to ensure the most reliable power for members. with members who have property along the second phase of the project, which stretches County are over 50 years old and need to be upgraded for from Hwy. 221 to Hwy. 421 near the Rutherwood comboth reliability and future load growth in Watauga Counmunity in Watauga County. Depending on weather, first ty, which is the cooperative’s largest member district. phase completion should be late 2019. The second phase is targeted to begin in early 2020 and conclude by the end Cooperative system upgrades are monitored closely as of that year. an ongoing process over the years to balance cost and construction timing with ensuring the most reliable “Planning for electric system infrastructure is a complex power for members. This project will be conducted in process with a clear goal of ensuring the most reliable, two phases as part of this process. adequate supply of electricity to meet the needs of our members while keeping costs as low as possible,” said The project, which is being conducted predominately John Coffey, chief operating officer of Blue Ridge Energy.

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From Blue Ridge CEO Doug Johnson

No rate increase in 2018 I’m very pleased to announce there will be no rate increase in 2018! While this continues a trend of no rate increases since 2013, rising cost pressures are challenging the energy industry. Blue Ridge Energy has a multi-pronged strategy in place to help keep member bills as low as possible, but earier in 2018, the largest factor in avoiding a rate increase was the federal tax reform Congress passed. This savings was able to offset the increase in wholesale power costs recently caused by coal ash regulations. Without this, Blue Ridge Energy likely would have needed a rate increase this fall. Instead, the cooperative was able to pass along these savings to members by keeping rates level this year. Savings by your cooperative are always passed along to those who use our service: you, the members of Blue Ridge Energy. Cost challenges we’re continuing to manage include maintaining energy delivery systems to reliably and efficiently serve current and future generations. Much of our nation’s electric grid is reaching its usable lifespan and must be replaced. In fact, Blue Ridge Energy is beginning its largest and most critical system improvement project in its history: replacement of a 50-yearold transmission system responsible for delivering power to our mountain counties. Total project cost is $40 million, which reflects $25 million for the transmission line and $15 million for a new substation. While it’s unusual for a distribution utility to build or maintain a transmission line, Blue Ridge Energy serves an area that makes this necessary because there is no large power generation utility with a transmission

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system reaching into our mountain service area. Your cooperative has several strategies working to mitigate rising power costs and keep member bills as low as possible. In addition to managing wholesale power cost, the most important way we keep costs low is from the benefit produced by your cooperative’s two subsidiary companies. The profits and financial benefit provided by your propane and fuels subsidiary and business-to-business telecommunications subsidiary are used to help hold down rates. Part of the profits are also donated to the Members Foundation to help improve quality of life in local communities.

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Another effective strategy is reduction of operational costs from WorkSmart, an employee-led effort. Over a period of several years, WorkSmart has produced a benefit of over $5 million in sustained expense reductions and productivity savings that has helped keep rates lower than otherwise would have been possible. We’re also introducing new programs such as “Beat The Peak” for members to partner with us to keep rates low. I encourage you to join this voluntary program and take simple Beat The Peak actions during a few critical hours that can make a big difference when we all join together! I hope you share the good news that rates will remain stable in 2018! Keeping member’s bills as low as possible and providing reliable, excellent service is our commitment to you from Blue Ridge Energy. We will always put members first in our mission and passion to make life better for those we serve!

MEMBERSHIP matters

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Think safety: Call 811 before digging Homeowners can make risky assumptions about whether or not they should get their utility lines marked, but every digging job requires a call — even small projects like planting trees and shrubs. The depth of utility lines varies and there may be multiple utility lines in a common area. Digging without calling to mark all underground facilities can disrupt service to an entire neighborhood, cause harm to you and others, and potentially result in fines and repair costs. For your convenience and safety, please call “811” at least two business days before any digging project. In fact, it’s required by law to notify local utilities

CALL BEFORE YOU

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regarding digging projects. This one call will get all participating utility underground lines marked for free and help prevent problems or injuries. Simply call 811 and answer a few questions about your location and the type of work to be done. The work from each utility will be completed in a timely manner. Then you’ll be ready to safely begin your project! Be sure to keep the ticket number 811 gives you in case it’s needed for future references. You can also use it to track your request online at: www.ncocc.org. Remember, safe digging is no accident. Know what’s below before you dig − always call 811!

One free, easy call gets your utility lines marked AND helps protect you from injury and expense. Know what’s below. Always call 811 before you dig. Visit call811.com for more information.

Capital Credits: Allocations vs. Refunds

During the month of July, each member will receive notice of their 2017 capital credits allocation. This notice can be found on the back of your July electric bill. This is NOT a refund. Capital credits refunds were distributed to members during the month of May. This allocation notice serves as your insight into the first step of annual capital credits processing. INSERT CALL CENTER LOGO HERE

Your annual capital credits allocation listed on your July bill is NOT a refund, but rather one of the first steps in the annual process. Capital credits refunds were issued in May.

In order to get a better understanding of capital credits, we’ll break down the difference between allocation and retirement: •

Capital credits allocations are based on the amount of electricity you purchased during the previous fiscal year. This allocation amount is added to your overall membership capital credits balance, which is made up of all years in which you had electric service with Blue Ridge Energy.

• Capital credits refunds occur when your Board of Directors approve a capital credits retirement. Capital credits retirement involves refunding a portion of your overall membership capital credits balance. The rotation of these funds over time allows the cooperative to build and maintain power lines, substations, right of ways, and other areas to ensure safe and reliable electric service. The capital credits rotation helps reduce the need for loans, therefore keeping costs down for members while still allowing for refunds returned to you, our member-owners! Capital credits are a benefit of belonging to a cooperative. This not-for-profit business model is used by thousands of cooperatives to balance debt and equity in order to help keep member rates low and provide high quality, reliable service.

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BEAT THE

Consider... Grilling outdoors instead of using the oven or stove during peak hours!

PEAK

Time IS money when it comes to when you use electricity. Join Blue Ridge Energy’s FREE program to help members “Beat The Peak.” When members sign up and participate, it keeps electric costs lower for all members.

Most helpful are:

Peaks occur typically on the hottest summer afternoons, from 2–6 p.m., when people are arriving home and using more air conditioning and large appliances for cooking, washing clothes and dishes. What can you do to help? Sign up to receive Beat The Peak alerts on our website or by email. When you receive an alert, take steps to reduce your electricity usage during specified peak times.

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER Doug Johnson

EDITOR

Renée R. Whitener

PRODUCTION SUPERVISOR Susan Simmons

DISTRICT OFFICES Caldwell Watauga Ashe Alleghany Wilkes PowerLine® ®

(828) 754-9071 (828) 264-8894 (336) 846-7138 (336) 372-4646 (800) 451-5474 (800) 448-2383

(PowerLine is an automated account information and outage reporting system.)

Toll Free

(800) 451-5474

(for members outside of 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 Kiosk available 24/7 + Night deposit Visit us on the web: BlueRidgeEnergy.com +

Raise your thermostat as high as comfortable in summer.

Shift the time you wash and dry clothes.

Wait to run the dishwasher.

Turn off all unnecessary lights.

Use the microwave or grill outdoors instead of using the oven or stove.

Postpone hot water use until after the peak.

Every action helps! Keep electricity costs low by signing up today at BlueRidgeEnergy.com/BTP, text “btp” to 70216, or email us at BeatThePeak@ myBlueRidgeEnergy.com.

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Loans for energy efficiency improvements available

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Blue Ridge Energy wants to help make energy efficiency improvements more affordable for our members.

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We have partnered with Electel Cooperative Federal Credit Union to offer our members financing for a wide variety of home energy projects from HVAC systems, improved insulation to even solar panels and battery storage. Qualified members can now borrow up to $35,000 ($5,000 for mobile homes) for up to 10 years at competitive interest rates. Blue Ridge Energy is also working with community action organizations to help lower income qualified members make weatherization and heating improvements to their homes at no cost. Under the loan program, cooperative specialists work with the member and local energy efficiency auditors and contractors to identify upgrades that will provide maximum energy savings and home comfort. Interested members are encouraged to take a brief survey and find more information about the loan program at BlueRidgeEnergy.com/Solutions.

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Th This institution is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

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MEMBERSHIP matters

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