Members may have noticed a little more energy in the air at this year’s Annual Meeting and Director Election, and that’s not in reference to thunderstorms roaming throughout the area much of the day. When United Power members gathered on April 17th to hear about new and innovative ways the cooperative is providing safe and reliable power, they were also joining in celebrating being “Connected for 80 Years.” The special milestone capped off another strong year for the cooperative, which also topped 90,000 meters earlier this year.
Nearly 800 members were represented at the annual member event held at the Adams County Fairgrounds in Brighton, Colo. With seats up for election in three of United Power’s four districts, members were asked to cast ballots to decide who would represent them in those seats for the next three years. More than 5,000 votes were cast in the election, and results were announced during the course of the business meeting. South District incumbent Keith Alquist II retained his seat with 2,940 votes. Bradley J. Case received 2,745 votes in the South District election. Elizabeth Martin, East District, and Ursula J. Morgan, West District, also retained their seats for another term with 5,362 votes and 5,342 votes, respectively.
Balloting began shortly after member registration at 4:30 p.m. in the Exhibit Hall. Members were then able to enjoy a catered barbeque dinner from Three Tomatoes, visit informational exhibit booths and enjoy live entertainment. The business meeting began at approximately 6:30 p.m. in the Waymire Dome and was streamed to overflow seating in the Exhibit Hall.
The business meeting began with a short video segment detailing United Power’s battery storage system at its new facility, the Carbon Valley Service Center, located off Interstate 25 near Firestone, Frederick and Dacono. Energized in mid-December, the battery storage system is currently the largest such system in the state of Colorado and is expected to save the cooperative roughly $1 million in wholesale power costs each year.
“We are progressive when we look at renewables,” said New Business Director Jerry Marizza. “This is part of what I’ll call the ‘utility of the future,’ and a lot of this is driven by what we as a utility want to do but it’s partially because we listen to our members. That’s who we’re listening to to determine what to do next. It may be a small step today, but it’s the future step for bringing more renewables onto the grid.”
The Carbon Valley Service Center has already begun to prove its worth, as well. The new facility was partially manned in late 2018, and provides more convenient access to United Power’s franchise communities west of Brighton. The drive out west was once a 45 minute trip from headquarters, but it now only takes a few minutes for linemen to respond to communities nearby.
“The new facility gives us the ability to respond to outages in the western part of our service territory more quickly,” said John Parker, United Power Chief Executive Officer. “These projects are aimed at driving United Power toward the future and continuing to think of our members first.”
In honor of its 80th Annual Meeting, the cooperative highlighted its connection with the communities it serves with a special member video featuring long-term members throughout its service territory. Some members had lived here all or most of their lives or represented multiple generations of United Power members. Others recalled the significant role the co-op played in helping grow the local community.
“The people up here take [electricity] for granted,” said mountain member Mary Ramstetter. “They don’t think about it, just don’t think about it. So I think we aren’t focused on it, but I guess that’s United Power’s plan. Make life as easy as possible. They do very well.”
Over the past year, the cooperative experienced growth of more than 4,000 members (or roughly 5 percent) and reduced outage times by nearly 40 percent, thanks in part to a focus on rehabilitation of older parts of the system. In September, United Power was proud to send lineman Kelly Snow to participate in a joint operation with linemen from Oklahoma to bring power to two remote jungle villages in Guatemala, epitomizing the cooperative values of cooperation and community.
For all our hard work and dedication to provide members with safe and reliable power in the most sustainable and economical way possible, United Power has once again set the bar high for others to follow. The cooperative’s operating expenses in 2018 totaled $248 million, an increase of more than $22 million from 2017, nearly all due to higher purchased power costs, Board Treasurer Ursula Morgan reported. Purchased power represents more than 77 percent of operating costs.
Another year of strong financial standing allowed the cooperative to retire $5 million in capital credits this past year, comparable to the amount retired in 2017. In the past five years, United Power has retired nearly $25 million in capital credits back to members.
The evening also included a special video presentation to highlight the 2019 scholarship winners. United Power is proud to provide more than $19,000 in scholarships to deserving high school seniors within its service territory who are pursuing postsecondary education.
For members who were unable to attend but are still interested in learning how United Power continues to serve them, these videos and our Annual Report are available on the cooperative’s website, social media and YouTube channel.
Today, United Power serves all or part of nearly 20 different communities and two mountain canyons. These communities tell inspiring stories of Colorado’s early history in gold, coal and agriculture dating back nearly 200 years to the early settlers, trappers and entrepreneurs who helped establish them. Although much has changed since the co-op was formed in 1938, its goal remains the same – stay progressive, looking to the future, for the best ways to provide members safe, reliable and economical power.