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Annual Meeting Recap

Posted: May 1, 2022
Mark Hayden, GM

MEC’s 86th Annual Meeting was held on Saturday, March 19 at the University of Montana. After two years of event cancellations and postponements, it was a pleasure to look into the crowd and see the faces of nearly 300 attendees. I’m grateful to have this yearly opportunity to connect with our members and hear your feedback firsthand.

There was much to cover at this year’s meeting, including a new rate design, which is scheduled to launch later in the year. I encourage you to review your copy of Rural Montana Magazine, which goes into greater detail about the new rate structure. But first, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read my speech recap from the 2022 Annual Meeting.

The Co-op’s recent cost-of-service study (COS) demonstrated that MEC is adequately covering costs based on our current rates. What does this mean for our members? It means that there will be no rate increase this year, marking six years without one. The COS study did, however, reveal that opportunities exist for the Co-op to ensure members are being charged equitably, today and in the future.

Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is the Cooperative’s wholesale power provider. BPA currently bills the Co-op a premium for power used during peak times of day, which typically occur between 7 and 10 a.m. and 6 and 9 p.m. To give members more control of their electric bills, MEC will soon implement a new revenue-neutral rate design that reduces the per kWh energy charge but establishes a new peak charge, similar to BPA’s structure.

Peak charge represents the maximum energy used during a one-hour period each month. With the new rate design, members can shift household chores, like running a washer and dryer, to off-peak times, to reduce their electric bills. This new rate structure is broken down into easy-to-digest information and graphs on the following pages.

Another important announcement is the first public electric vehicle (EV) charging station the Co-op plans to install in Seeley Lake, with a partnership from the Seeley Lake Community Foundation (SLCF). This will not only be the first public rapid EV charger in Seeley Lake but also in our service territory. The charging station will feature a direct-current, fast charger, and a single-head level-two charger. The fast charger will provide 200 miles of range, per hour spent charging, while the level two charger, will provide 25 miles of range.

The installation will expand accessibility to a new category of travelers making Seeley Lake a possibility when EV travelers are planning a road trip. MEC’s target date for installation is early spring, allowing travelers to take full advantage of the station during the 2022 tourist season. The Cooperative was awarded a grant by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ’s), “Fast Charge Your Ride” program, which offset a significant portion of the installation costs. The remaining amount, which is roughly 20% of the project cost, will be provided by the Co-op.

On a similar note, knowing that most EV charging will take place in our members’ garages, MEC plans to launch a residential charging pilot this summer. Initially limited to 100 participants, the pilot will utilize level 2 smart chargers to allow homeowners to charge during off-peak hours at a reduced energy cost. For the Cooperative, the program will help shift these charging loads off the system’s peak, thus mitigating a rise in our wholesale demand charges. Pilot participants will benefit from faster charging, at a lower per kilowatt-hour cost, when compared to their standard residential energy rate.

Also covered in my speech was the tremendous growth that our service area has seen in recent years. In 2021, the Co-op experienced a 300 percent increase in new construction requests for homes, businesses and subdivisions. Another notable item was an 80 percent reduction in recordable incidents and zero lost-time accidents. A significant nod to our team’s dedication to safety!

The Annual Meeting concluded with the Board of Trustee election results. This year, we had three districts on the election ballot – Districts two, four and six. Tom Alsaker, of District 2, and Roy Handley, of District 4, both ran unopposed and were reappointed to another three-year term. Dena Hooker and Tressa Graveley ran a tight race for District 6, however, incumbent Dena Hooker was re-elected to serve the district for another three-year term. It was also the first Annual Meeting for our newest board member, Candace Jerke, who was recently selected to fill a vacancy in District 3.