An array of services
When we talk about service here at Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative, that conversation can cover a broad range of subjects. For instance, emergency generators have become a truly sizable component of our service menu. As of the end of July, we counted 579 of these standby units that we’ve installed at member premises. In 2020 alone, 124 generators were added to the cooperative’s system. We’re on track to install a similar number in this current year. The fact that we sell, install, and service these member-owned units has established Blue Ridge as a go-to dealer for generators. Their placement can help to ensure that members are able to enjoy uninterrupted electric service.
Another ongoing service is the cooperative’s electric water-heater rebate program. Members contemplating the installation or replacement of a water heater can, upon request, expect some financial support from Blue Ridge for that project. Since its inception in 2013, more than 3,300 of our members have taken advantage of these rebates.
Blue Ridge is also experiencing growing interest in our geothermal heat-pump initiative. In our view, a geothermal installation is absolutely the most environmentally friendly action a member could take. These ground-source units operate with maximum efficiency. What’s more, a geothermal heat pump doesn’t require supplementary resistance heaters to keep a house warm in the wintertime. That on-purpose omission represents a major reduction in a member’s electric bill. It also helps the cooperative hold down the price it pays when purchasing wholesale power. That’s a good thing for all our members.
It’s true that going geothermal would entail a somewhat sizable investment for a member. However, there are attractive government tax incentives, cooperative rebates, and a generous Blue Ridge loan program that bring the bottom-line cost down dramatically. We now have 44 members who’ve installed geothermal units, and I can tell you emphatically that they’re delighted with the results.
I’ve merely scratched the surface in describing the services your cooperative is glad to make available to its membership. I could elaborate on Surge Guard, smart thermostats, EV charging stations, and a host of other items.
A brisk pace
However, I’m going to devote this last portion of my report to the cooperative’s entry into the broadband service business. Earlier this year, Blue Ridge and our partner, West Carolina Telephone Cooperative, launched our subsidiary, Upcountry Fiber. In the months since, we’ve moved forward at a rather brisk pace to take high-speed internet to unserved and underserved portions of the cooperative’s territory. By the end of 2021, we expect to be providing fiber directly to the home for several thousand cooperative members.
At that point, we’ll have hardly just begun. Ultimately, we plan to extend broadband into every corner of the cooperative’s sprawling territory. Furthermore, we intend to do so with a favorable pricing structure. Under our Upcountry Fiber banner, we’re going to proceed just as fast as we can to meet member needs for quality internet service. That’s a promise we’re striving to fulfill. Meanwhile, if you should have an interest in any of our services, please contact us.