Del. Electric Co-op dinner: Good food, good news and a ‘very good year’

Delaware State News/Marc Clery

HARRINGTON –– In an annual tradition more than 6,000 Delaware Electric Cooperative members dined on fried chicken, veggies and cake at the Delaware State Fairgrounds.

“We’re required to have an annual meeting, but instead of having just a boring meeting we make it a big celebration,” said Jeremy Tucker, manager of marketing and communications for the co-op.

Of all the members at the event, none have been there as many times as Robert Holloway of Kenton.

“It was Dec. 24, 1937, and I was seven years old,” he said. “That’s when the lights came on. And even though I was just a kid, I remember it.”

Mr. Holloway’s family was one of several rural families and farmers that pitched in to get southern Delaware wired for electricity after large for-profit companies determined the small population wasn’t worth the investment.

“My parents were some of the first members and I became a member in 1957. So I’ve basically been a co-op member my whole life,” Mr. Holloway said.

From its small start 80 years ago, Delaware Electric Cooperative has become one of the largest electric providers in the state, second only to Delmarva Power.

With the co-op’s continuing growth and increasing turnout for the annual dinner, it has become a prominent social gathering and networking event.

“We take a lot of calls and get a lot of feedback throughout the year and this is always a great opportunity for our staff to get to meet our members,” Mr. Tucker said. “And members have a chance to ask questions about things they might not call in and ask.”

To answer any kind of power-related question, co-op workers were outside the dinner giving presentations and safety demonstrations.

“We all take a lot of pride in our work and we work through just about anything to keep the power and it’s nice to see our members,” said Greg Williamson of Seaford.

The workers also raced to the tops of poles to show how fast they can move.

“The races are just for fun here, but there are times when we can’t get to the lines with the truck. So everyone here can get a better look at what we do in that kind of situation,” said Phillip Collison of Harrington.

During the demonstration, the unmistakable sound of bluegrass could be heard in the distance. The Dover building was playing host to live bands during dinner and before the meeting.

After the fun of dinner, dessert and live music, the time came to get down to business and members received nothing but good news.

“We’ve had a very good year,” said Delaware Electric Cooperative President and CEO Bill Andrew. “We are financially sound, have had a year of great reliability and also have another power plant on the way.”

The new power plant will be built in Rising Sun, Maryland, and shared with 10 other electric cooperatives in that state and Virginia.

“We’re always working to create the most reliable service without increasing costs, and this is just another step in that direction,” Mr. Andrew said.

The co-op has been able to keep rates consistent through a program called Beat the Peak.

Beat the Peak is a program that asks members to conserve energy by turning off lights, using fewer appliances and keeping air conditioning to a minimum during times when energy is particularly in demand, chiefly in the summer.

Since the program’s implementation in 2008, the cooperative has saved more than $22 million. More than 50,000 co-op members have devices in their homes signaling when to cut back on electricity. The co-op also sends out emails detailing peak hours.

For more information about Delaware Electric Cooperative, visit www.delaware.coop.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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