Delaware Electric Cooperative meeting has unique country feel

HARRINGTON — For those of you who are not members of the Delaware Electric Cooperative, you may not readily understand the unique traditions of the not-for-profit utility’s annual dinner and meeting.

There is fried chicken for dinner, country music for entertainment, and lots of serious discussion about energy rates and conservation. And, yes, for a politician, it’s the August place to be in lower Delaware.

Members get to ask questions or make suggestions to Delaware Electric Cooperative CEO Bill Andrew during the annual meeting.

A Bridgeville gentleman added a touch of humor from the audience.

“I think it’s pretty safe to say that pretty much everybody in this room is country,” he said. “They’re not city folk. And I would make the suggestion to the board and chairman, instead of being all spiffed up with their suits — on a night that’s hot outside, even though it’s cool in here — that you call this a casual night for your board meeting.”

A Sussex County woman followed up.

“In conjunction with that, I have a suggestion,” she said. “We could have helped ‘Beat the Peak’ by turning the temperature up several degrees. It’s cold in here.”

She got a round of applause.

“You’re absolutely right,” said Mr. Andrew.

Beat the Peak is one of the cooperative’s best-known initiatives. On days when demand is highest for electricity, members are asked to adjust temperatures in their homes by a few degrees and limit use of appliances.

“Anytime you go into a Beat the Peak, ladies, you shouldn’t be cooking and your husbands should be taking you out to dinner,” he said.

Earlier in the evening, Mr. Andrew was boasting the 10th anniversary of the Beat the Peak program, something that started in Delaware and has made its way across the country. He said the conservative estimate of savings has been $27 million.

Mr. Andrew’s well-known line about the program is, “When everybody saves a little, we all save a lot.”

More than 6,000 guests came for the fried chicken dinner in the ice arena-turned-fellowship hall on the fairgrounds.

After the dinner, a few hundred moved over to the fair’s Dover Building where the Jones Boys were playing bluegrass and country music. The band closed its pre-meeting set with the “Orange Blossom Special.”

The meeting agenda included chairman, CEO and treasurer reports, and election of board members. Also on the ballot was a bylaw amendment that addresses potential conflicts of board members. More than 1,200 account holders voted.

The amendment, which passed nearly 4 to 1, does not allow a new director, for a period of 10 years prior, to have been employed by the cooperative, worked as a contractor for it, or performed services for an employee of a labor union that represents a cooperative employee.

While awaiting the return of the election results, Board Chairman William Wells welcomed the Jones Boys back to the stage.

The Jones Boys broke into Darius Rucker’s “Wagon Wheel,” then played Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and Glenn Miller’s classic “In the Mood.”

Mr. Andrew said the cooperative just “hooked up it 98,000th meter” on Monday. It is the 35th largest not-for-profit utility in the nation.

Among the updates Mr. Andrew provided was news that the Wildcat Point plant in Rising Sun, Maryland, was up and running. The natural gas-driven plant can produce 1,000 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 390,000 homes, he said.

The plant is owned by Old Dominion Electric Cooperative, of which the Delaware cooperative is a member.

Mr. Andrew’s talk also touched on the potential for rate increases next year due to the costs of transmitting and generating power.

Among the audience’s interesting questions was one about future broadband service.

The Delaware Electric Cooperative contracted with Lighttower Fiber Networks to install about 250 miles of cable in Kent and Sussex counties. The project was completed last year. Delaware Gov. John Carney recently outlined a proposal to extend the reach to customers in unserved rural areas.

“The cooperative stepped up and invested in the middle miles,” said Mr. Andrew. “Now what we have to do is wait for the final provider to provide internet to you the customer. It could be individual lines that come to you, it could be a radio frequency, or various other technology.”

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This editor will have the opportunity to meet readers at the Comic Con at the Dover Library on Saturday, and the Delaware State News’ Senior Spree Friday, Aug. 24, at Noble’s Pond.

Information on both events can be found in advertisements in the Delaware State News or online at delawarestatenews.net.

I’m looking forward to connecting with readers and getting some feedback. Be sure to stop and say hello at these and other events.

Also, this editor will be making the rounds to Rotary and other civic group meetings to talk about the Delaware State News, its history, unique mission and place in the community. The opportunities and challenges in our industry are certainly hot topics.

Feel free to contact me at awest@newszap.com or call me at (302) 741-8204 to possibly arrange a meeting with your group.

Reach editor Andrew West at awest@newszap.com

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