During Clay Electric Co-operative’s 71st annual meeting, members re-elected three area men to the board of directors. Shown with Executive Vice President/General Manager Edward VanHooose are (l-r) Frank Czyzewski of Louisville, Greg Smith of Xenia, Bob Pierson of Flora and VanHoose.

During their 71st Annual Meeting of Members, Clay Electric Co-operative, Inc. members re-elected three area men to the board of directors and learned about the organization’s plans to return capital credits to members, a new discount card for members called the Co-op Connections Card and how new EPA regulations could impact the cost of electricity.

The meeting was held August 27 at the Oil Belt Christian Service Camp in Charley Brown Park in Flora and the cooperative received positive comments about the change in venue.

During the meeting, three area men were re-elected to the co-op’s board. The re-elected directors are Frank Czyzewski of Louisville, Greg Smith of Xenia and Bob Pierson of Flora. Also, Secretary-Treasurer Greg Smith reported that the cooperatives assets, and members’ equity in the system both increased during the previous year, and revenue from the sale of electricity increased by over $440,000.

Executive Vice President and General Manager Edward VanHoose said that the board of directors has been working diligently on the process of returning capital credits to Clay Electric members. He said the capital credits will be returned within the next year.

In addition to returning capital credits VanHoose announced the cooperative is providing a new discount card to the members called the Co-op Connections Card. He said, “The Co-op Connections card is a popular benefit for the many Touchstone Energy cooperatives around the country, such as Clay Electric. The cards provide co-op members with product and service discounts at cooperating local and national businesses. Many members of other co-ops across the country have received discounts from national businesses such as Wal-Mart, Best Buy, CVS and Target. These discounts can help members save on many products and services such as automotive, clothing, dining, energy efficiency and hotel chains. There are even prescription drug discounts at national and local pharmacies. The prescription discounts alone have saved Touchstone Energy members $25 million.”

VanHoose encouraged members to ask local businesses to join the program. “It’s a great opportunity for local businesses to get some free advertising and some loyal customers.”

The local cooperative is also making improvements including a major line rebuild and the addition of new technology that will also help improve reliability. VanHoose said, “In addition to the linemen who have been very busy rebuilding line and making other upgrades, the inside staff employees have been hard at work as well. We are in the process of upgrading our system to the new Futura geographic information system, GIS for short. The GIS system is a way of keeping track of the entire system in a digital map, and the new electronic staking add-on will allow us to more accurately and efficiently complete line builds. Once we complete the GIS implementation, we hope to continue to upgrade our system with the eventual goal of being able to know you are out of power before you even have a chance to report it.”

New technology and businesses processes require high speed broadband and for that Clay Electric received help from a sister cooperative Wabash Independent Networks (WIN). VanHoose thanked the communications cooperative for providing a new fiber connection. He said, “Wabash is a sister cooperative and embodies the principle of cooperation among cooperatives. WIN employees have gone above and beyond to help our cooperative modernize our communications infrastructure. Communications is critical to our future as we continue to lower costs, offer new services, and improve efficiency and reliability.”

The electric industry is under new cost pressures and concern for power supply reliability are growing because of new U.S. EPA regulation that mainly target coal fired-power plants. VanHoose explained Clay Electric’s power comes from Southern Illinois Power Cooperative and Prairie State Generating Plants, which both burn Illinois coal. He said many coal-fired plants have already been shut down in Illinois and across the country and this could lead to a tighter power supply and higher rates.

“EPA regulations could double rates for co-op members, and we’d like to see an all-of-the-above energy strategy, one that includes coal, natural gas, and nuclear generation along with renewable energy such as solar, wind, hydro and methane gas.

In his report, Board President Frank Czyzewski addressed the history of the co-op and its unity of purpose. He said, “We remember our forefathers and how they banded together to build this cooperative by door to door and asking for $5 from each new co-op member. These pioneers worked together to build the infrastructure necessary to deliver electricity to the rural areas. Their sacrifices helped us to enjoy the benefits of electricity. Unity of purpose has provided electric cooperatives with a voice with our legislators, with manpower during outages, member programs such as discounts through Co-op Connections Card, energy conservation programs with and economic development community programs. Cooperatives working together improves the quality of life in rural Illinois.”

Clay Electric Cooperative is a member of Touchstone EnergyÒ — an alliance of more than 750 local, consumer-owned electric utilities around the country. Clay Electric Co-operative serves more than 3,227 meters over 936 miles of line in parts of Clay, Effingham, Fayette, Jasper, Marion, Richland and Wayne counties. For more information visit