The Year in Review: 2015
Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative observed its 75th anniversary in 2015, and also experienced a year that was crowned with success. All year long, your board of directors stayed informed about the cooperative's many projects and other work activities, and we can salute our employees for another 12 months of progress. What follows are some highlights of that performance.
Safety & training — one lost time accident (not the fault of the employee) was recorded, the first in more than four years. Only two such accidents have occurred since early 2009. An ongoing emphasis on good health practices contributed to both employee well-being and a positive group-insurance rating.
Financial — all goals for 2015 were met and were accomplished with no change in the cooperative's retail rates. The year-end financial outcome also produced another improvement in our equity position. Cost reductions and added efficiencies in 12 different areas of our work translated into estimated savings of $4,518,000 on an annual basis.
Construction & maintenance — construction on our Golden Corner substation (Oconee County) began and was completed in 2015, while work on the new Landrum station (Greenville and Spartanburg counties) started in the fall and is expected to conclude in April 2016. Coupled with seven major Engineering Work Plan line improvements, these projects all represent a commitment to quality service.
Service reliability — in addition to the ambitious construction and maintenance program, Blue Ridge began a five-year sectionalizing effort on our system designed to limit both the scope and frequency of any power outages that might occur. In the area of vegetation management, employment of mechanical trimmers to trim on both sides of power lines helped raise the footage cleared annually by more than 30 percent.
Economic development — the year saw beginnings of several large Blue Ridge-served industrial/commercial developments: two new industrial plants under construction in Anderson County; a planned new industry and a sizable commercial complex in Oconee County; the erection of a new Pickens County plant. Blue Ridge support is helping bring all these projects to fruition. Larger volumes of kwh sales to these C&I locations will help hold down the price of electricity for all co-op members. Also, both members and other area citizens will benefit from the added capital investments and increased job opportunities.
Member service — the co-op continued to operate four full-service offices in the respective counties of our assigned territory. A fully staffed member service center carried on during normal business hours, so that members could expect to call and talk directly to an attendant, rather than having to navigate an automated telephone menu. Members also had the option of using an expanding array of online services in order to transact business with the co-op. Dispatchers were on site around the clock, seven days a week to field emergency telephone calls and to monitor the system and then react immediately to any problems that might arise.
Capital credits — another refund of $1,000,000 was made to members in 2015. As part of our new Work Plan and Budget, the board approved an additional $1-million payment for April of this year. Checks will be mailed to those who were co-op members in 1987-88. In each of the last 34 years, Blue Ridge has made a general refund of patronage capital. Through the years, the co-op has returned more than $24,200,000 to members.
Community service — in 2015, Blue Ridge members realized in excess of $315,000 in savings on prescription drug purchases through use of the Co-op Connections Card. Accumulated pharmacy discounts since 2009 have now surpassed $3,259,000. Blue Ridge Fest, our annual charity fundraiser, set a new record of $185,000 in net proceeds last year. The event saw another milestone, with more than $2,000,000 raised for scores of local human-help agencies during its first 18 years of existence. Employee volunteers from both the co-op and Blue Ridge Security Solutions are key to the success of this endeavor.
In our view, Blue Ridge is a prime example of how the co-op business model is supposed to function. The fact that this is a member-owned utility motivates all of us, from top to bottom, to provide the very best in service. That's a mission both employees and directors embrace enthusiastically. We plan to maintain that perspective in 2016 and in all the years that follow.
2015 Annual financial statement