Annual Meeting: Reports Presented, Director Election Results Announced

Last Updated on June 27, 2024 5:44 pm

Lenoir, North Carolina (June 27, 2024) In addition to business reports, director election results were announced at the Annual Meeting of Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation held Thursday, June 27.

The meeting was available for members to participate in by attending in person at the corporate office or by telephone using instructions provided in the director election kit and Carolina Country magazine sent to all members. Members could also watch by live stream on Blue Ridge Energy’s You Tube channel. Recordings of reports will be online soon at

Over 6,100 cooperative members voted in this year’s director elections by mail and online. Director election kits including candidate biographies mailed to members in May and included a proxy, postage return envelope and instructions for members to vote by mail, online or during the annual business meeting. Members who opted to receive the electronic director election kit received it by email.

Elected to three-year terms on the Board of Directors were Kelly Melton, Caldwell district; Angie Miller, Watauga district; Cindy Price, Ashe district; and Mitch Franklin, Alleghany district.

The business meeting included a report from Secretary-Treasurer Kelly Melton, who stated that despite significant cost challenges over the past few years, the cooperative is in strong financial condition to serve its member-owners. “We were pleased to return $6 million in capital credits to members in May,” she said, adding that for the past several years the cooperative has returned over $5 million to members each year.

“Also noteworthy is the impact of our Blue Ridge Energy Members Foundation,” Melton said. “Thanks to the generosity of members contributing to Operation Round Up and contributions from the profits of our two subsidiaries, our Foundation provided over $150,000 in crisis heating assistance to more than 1,200 households in 2023.  Another $180,000 was awarded to other not-for-profit community entities that help our members in many other valuable ways to improve local quality of life,” she said.

Chief Financial Officer Katie Woodle affirmed the cooperative’s sound financial condition, and that of the cooperative’s two subsidiary companies. “We continue working to make life better for you, the member-owners,” Woodle said, adding a focus on strategically balancing reliability, affordability and sustainability. 

“Recent years have been more challenging with rising costs not only in wholesale power but also in most every supply we purchase to maintain the electric system,” she said. Woodle explained that the cooperative is currently conducting a cost-of-service study to calculate the impact from these rising costs, with expectations of a rate change this October. She said the work includes keeping the change as low as possible.

Part of this strategy to keep any rate change as low as possible for members involves the cooperative’s Propane and Fuels subsidiary providing $2 million later this year of excess cash to the electric parent, in addition to the $2 million provided in 2023 to keep member impact as low as possible for the wholesale power cost adjustment resulting from rising power cost.

Total benefit from the two subsidiaries, Propane and Fuels and RidgeLink, totaled $5.7 million in 2023. The financial benefit from the subsidiaries help hold down cost impact to members.

Details on financial results for 2023 can be found in the annual report published in the June issue of Carolina Country magazine and at

Board President Jeff Joines recognized the many members serving on committees to ensure Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation is a member-led cooperative: the Nominating Committee, Credentials and Election Committee, Member Advisory Committees and Community Leaders Council.

 Joines noted the Board and cooperative employees are all working toward a common goal: making life better for members. Joines reiterated the effect of rising costs on the cooperative. “The impact has required extensive planning and creativity from your cooperative to minimize impacts,” he said, including the important role Propane and Fuels played in lessening the impact on members.

Joines focused on the significant achievements by the cooperative in 2023. In addition to $6 million returned in capital credits and Members Foundation assistance to over 1,200 households and grants to local not-for-profit organizations that also help members, Joines also noted the important work being done by the cooperative’s RidgeLink subsidiary to help bring broadband to local communities still lacking this critical service.

“Currently, RidgeLink is constructing the backbone of the infrastructure needed for broadband in parts of Caldwell and Watauga counties,” Joines explained. “We’re pleased to be partnering with sister cooperative SkyLine/SkyBest, who will be the internet service provider for homes and businesses in unserved areas of Watauga County thanks to grant funding provided by the Watauga County Board of Commissioners.”

“Your cooperative is also supporting stronger communities through our role as liaison with the USDA’s Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program,” he said, with over $1 million in zero-interest loan funding for Laurel Springs and Little River Volunteer Fire Departments and Caldwell Memorial Hospital Foundation.

Joines also recognized the cooperative’s support of local education by providing over $25,000 in Bright Ideas classroom grants for teachers and $36,000 awarded for scholarships to students pursuing higher degrees.

In his State of the Cooperative address, Chief Executive Officer Doug Johnson first gave credit to employees who worked diligently to meet the challenges of 2023 to achieve excellent results in key performance areas of the cooperative and its two subsidiaries to benefit members.

Johnson said results include: the cooperative ranking in the top five electric utilities in the country for customer satisfaction, top national performance of electric reliability, excellent safety culture, $6 million in capital credits returned to members, top satisfaction rating for Propane and Fuels and the two subsidiaries combined producing over $5 million in after-tax net benefit to the cooperative, which helps keep member rates low.

Johnson talked about the vision and strategy for the cooperative’s Brighter Future Vision: making life better for members; achieving a 50 percent reduction in the cooperative’s carbon footprint over 2005 levels by 2030 and net zero carbon emissions by 2050; and using innovative energy solutions to make the electric grid more flexible, efficient and resilient.

He cautioned that affordability, reliability and sustainability must be balanced.

“We continue to deal with significant material supply disruptions and cost increases, but our most challenging problem is the ever-increasing cost for our wholesale power purchases,” he said, to provide members with electricity.

“We have entered into a time of transition to lower carbon electric generation fuels in order to achieve state and federal energy policy requirements. This has often meant the closing of coal-fired generation facilities, and when this is teamed with rapidly increasing electric demand caused by growth in data centers, artificial intelligence requirements, and electric vehicles you have too much demand pursuing too few resources,” he explained.

“The North Carolina Energy Solutions Act (HB951) mandates Duke Energy to achieve a 70 percent carbon reduction by 2032,” Johnson said. “We are currently reviewing the plans that Duke Energy is establishing to meet this new law, and it makes us very concerned about future reliability and affordability for our members. We have continued to share with our elected officials that the energy transition policies are going too far, too fast with the transition to renewable resources and the elimination of coal generation,” he said.

“The increases in wholesale power resulted in the need for us to include a $9 per 1,000 kilowatt charge on members bills beginning in February 2023,” Johnson said. “We are currently working on a cost-of-service rate study to share recommendations to the Board of Directors next month. My insights at this time are that we will see this charge remain and will need an additional rate increase to deal with the rising cost of wholesale power and other electric distribution system cost increases,” Johnson shared.

In addition to rising wholesale power cost, the increase will cover a $46 million investment for reliability and resiliency, new transmission substation that came online in late 2023, member/new service growth of 1.3 percent, labor costs for contractors including right-of-way workers, and talent and technology to address exponential changes and advances in operational technology.

Johnson concluded by saying: “I want to personally express my appreciation to all our Blue Ridge Energy employees who continue to deliver incredible results to our member-owners and customers. Our culture is based on strong values, hard work and a deep belief that providing excellent service to our members and customers is our highest priority!” 

“I also want to say as we continue into this energy transition, Blue Ridge Energy will place the highest priority on reliability and affordability, Johnson said. “We will ask elected officials and policy makers to utilize more common sense to recognize you can’t fully replace coal generation with solar and wind. We need to embrace more nuclear, especially small modular reactors, natural gas, including policies to support additional pipeline capacity, hydrogen and other advanced technologies.”

Find annual meeting videos and information at

Under the market name of Blue Ridge Energy, Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation serves over 78,000 electric cooperative members in northwest North Carolina. Blue Ridge Energy’s Propane and Fuels subsidiary provides residential and commercial propane, fuels and related hearth and outdoor living products in each local district office showroom as well as Morganton, North Carolina. RidgeLink is a business-to-business dark fiber telecommunications subsidiary. More information about Blue Ridge Energy can be found at

l to r: Melton, Miller, Price and Franklin were elected by members to serve on the Board of Directors of Blue Ridge Energy.

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