Some good things are happening at Rappahannock Electric Cooperative. We launched the Repower REC campaign three years ago to bring greater transparency, better energy options, and fair democratic governance to the electric utility that we all own. We’re happy to say the co-op has listened to us and made some significant improvements in the area of financial transparency. REC’s financial statements and tax returns are now posted on the REC website. If you examine the tax returns you can see how much the co-op’s nine board members are paid. What’s more, the co-op has begun posting minutes of board meetings, which allows member-owners to get a general idea of topics discussed by the board. That’s not full transparency, but it’s a start.
There’s good news on the clean-energy/cost-of-energy front too. In 2019 we urged REC to follow other electric co-ops’ lead and implement an efficiency program called Pay As You Save (PAYS) that can reduce all member-owners’ bills. With PAYS, your electric co-op does a free energy audit of your home and identifies efficiency upgrades that can pay for themselves through reductions on your electric bill. The co-op then pays up front for the recommended work and guarantees that your monthly bill will be reduced, even after some of the savings are used to pay off the cost of the improvements. The program not only reduces energy costs for those who participate; it can reduce all co-op members’ bills, by avoiding costly new power plants and transmission infrastructure. See Repower REC’s video presentation for more details on how PAYS-type programs work.
REC now plans to implement a PAYS type program, and has started listening sessions to hear from stakeholders about how to design the program. The next two sessions, conducted by Zoom, will be on June 20 and August 16, from 10:00 am to noon. You can email REC’s Joyce Bodoh at firstname.lastname@example.org for details and to register to observe and participate. REC has done little to encourage member-owner participation in the stakeholder process. That’s odd, since co-op member owners are the true stakeholders in a PAYS-type program. So it’s important to have member owners use the stakeholder sessions to urge our co-op to deploy its PAYS-type program ambitiously, including to help pay for residential solar. We hope you’ll participate if you can. While PAYS has been around for more than two decades, REC will be the first Virginia electric co-op to implement such a program.
The news on the democratic-governance/fair-board-election front is unfortunately not so good. REC’s board continues to resist our efforts to have the co-op conduct fair board elections where member-owners, not incumbent board members, control election outcomes. And despite some improvements on transparency, REC’s board continues to refuse to open board meetings to allow member-owners to observe the board in action.
Ironically, the National Electric Cooperative Association’s own governance task force report recommends that incumbent boards not control board election outcomes and that co-op board meetings be open for member-owners to observe. And it’s doubly ironic that REC president and CEO John Hewa served on that NRECA task force. We need to keep the pressure on our well-paid board members to live up to the key cooperative principle of democratic control and governance.
We’d love to hear your concerns, thoughts, and suggestions. Please send them to us at info@RepowerREC.com.