United Power hosted its second consecutive virtual Annual Meeting on April 14 as lingering pandemic concerns prevented the cooperative from safely gathering with its members. Members who were interested in attending the meeting could either listen via phone, an alternative option introduced a year ago, or watch the livestream online.
Record participation at the 2021 Annual Meeting demonstrated how effective the virtual format could be in allowing the cooperative to share and celebrate United Power’s accomplishments over the past year with its members. More than 560 member attended the meeting via phone or livestream. The meeting included a recap of the cooperative’s 2020 accomplishments, a financial report and the certification of the Director Election.
Voting in this year’s Director Election was conducted via mail-in ballot only and 5,787 total ballots were cast by members. United Power’s Election and Credentials Committee Chair, Dale McCall reported the certified results of the 2021 Director Election. After all votes were tabulated, the cooperative has new board representatives in the South and Mountain Districts, while incumbents Tim Erickson and Brian McCormick retained their seats. Brad Case received 2,996 votes to claim the seat in the South District, while Ken Kreutzer received 2,600 votes. Stephen Whiteside, who ran unopposed, received 5,139 votes to win the seat in the Mountain District. Erickson, East District, received 3,148 votes to retain his seat on the board, while Steve Douglas received 2,484 votes. In the West District, McCormick retained his seat after receiving 3,059 votes. Vicki Hutchinson received 2,487 votes.
Ursula J. Morgan and Bryant Robbins presented the cooperative’s Chairman and CEO Report and summarized the accomplishments and challenges that 2020 presented to United Power.
Between prioritizing the health and safety of both members and employees, a historic wildfire season and ongoing conversations about competitive rates, last year was one of the most challenging, and most successful, years in United Power’s 82-year history.
In a proactive response to the pandemic, cooperative leadership temporarily suspended disconnects and established a financial assistance fund for members affected by COVID-19. The Co-op Cares Fund, created by allocating $300,000 in unclaimed capital credits, helped more than 1,700 members struggling to pay their electric bills. While the cooperative quickly shifted its focus to providing relief for members during the difficult period, internal departments were also adapting to the changing circumstances to provide the same level of service.
“What didn’t change was our commitment to providing the best possible service,” said Bryant Robbins, United Power’s acting chief executive officer throughout the pandemic. “We were still able to answer the phones, set up new service, help members with questions about their accounts and process payments. We safely restored power during outages, we kept building new lines and substations, and continued planned maintenance on the electric system.”
As though navigating the pandemic was not already challenging enough, this past summer also saw the worst wildfire season in Colorado history. While fires burned parts of rural electric systems north and west of United Power’s service territory, the cooperative was fortunate it was not affected. The co-op monitored the situation closely and was already in the midst of implementing a multiyear comprehensive wildfire mitigation plan.
“One thing that 2020 brought to light was the real threat of wildfires,” Robbins said. “United Power has had a fire mitigation plan in place for several years, and in 2020 we continued to look for ways to strengthen that plan.”
United Power had to adapt and respond quickly to new and evolving circumstances throughout the past year and did so by prioritizing its members. It rose to meet expectations and did so while also making meaningful headway in its long battle with Tri-State to provide more competitive rates.
“Your board believes the members of United Power deserve cleaner, more affordable power,” said Morgan, chairman of the cooperative’s Board of Directors. “We are already a leader in innovative renewable energy projects. Each of those projects were driven by what is financially and environmentally best for our members. Being able to consider other sources of power is just another step to build on our commitment to you, our members.”
United Power’s treasurer, Keith Alquist II from the South District, presented the cooperative’s financials and reported that despite the challenges in 2020, the cooperative continues to be in good financial condition. The auditors specifically complimented the United Power financial services team for their professionalism, completeness and accuracy in preparing the financial statements on a monthly basis.
Before adjourning for the evening, Morgan introduced United Power’s new president and chief executive officer, Mark Gabriel, who officially assumed his role on March 15, 2021.
“We are entering one of the most exciting times in the electric utility industry with a rare alignment of technological, societal and political momentum,” Gabriel said. “The electrification of everything will be the norm for the next decade and I believe the cooperative business model is the best suited to support the needs of members in our communities.”
Retiring board members, Susan Petrocco and Rick Newman, were also honored during the meeting for their many years of service to United Power members.
United Power board and staff concluded the meeting with a member forum offering members an opportunity to ask questions live over the phone or submit questions and comments online. The cooperative plans to follow up personally to any members who submitted questions that were not addressed during the time allowed. The videos and information presented at the 2021 Annual Meeting, including the cooperative’s 2020 Annual Report, are available at www.unitedpower.com.
United Power a member-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperative, delivering electricity to more than 97,000 meters at homes, farms and businesses throughout Colorado’s northern front range. The 900 square mile service territory extends from the mountains of Coal Creek and Golden Gate Canyon, along the I-25 corridor and Carbon Valley region, to the farmlands of Brighton, Hudson and Keenesburg. At the end of 2020, the cooperative reached more than 97,000 meters representing more than 300,000 members. For more information about the cooperative, visit www.unitedpower.com or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.