About 1,100 registered members — nearly 2,300 total, counting families and guests — attended Lorain-Medina Rural Electric Cooperative’s annual Family Fun Day and business meeting at the Lorain County Fairgrounds.
Board president John Eaton thanked members for answering the board’s call over the past year to tell the Environmental Protection Agency that members cannot afford a $40 to $50 monthly increase on their electric bills. LMRE and electric co-ops across the country are calling for the EPA to withdraw its proposals for carbon dioxide regulations at power plants.
“We asked, and you responded in no uncertain terms,” Eaton said. “Ohio sent 120,000 messages,” he continued. “LMRE submitted about 4,250 messages. Of the 24 Ohio cooperatives, LMRE is the sixth-largest in terms of members. Only the largest cooperative in the state sent more messages to Washington than LMRE, and that cooperative has 116,000 members. We have 16,000.”
General manager Markus Bryant joined Eaton in thanking members for their support.
“Our ongoing challenge to keeping rates as affordable as possible is maintaining LMRE’s electric lines, especially with little or no growth in new members,” he said, noting that 60 percent of the major power lines have been replaced since 2000.
LMRE finished 2014 with just four additional meters, compared to an average of 300 a year before 2008. The cooperative has contained costs by refinancing loans and through its federation with North Central Electric Cooperative in Attica.
The cooperative was able to refund $1.28 million in patronage capital credits in 2014, and LMRE treasurer Keith Lowe said the board expects to approve $1 million in refunds in 2015, assuming the cooperative remains in a strong financial condition.
Cooperatives return excess revenue, called “margins,” back to members as finances allow. Since 1983, the cooperative has refunded $20.2 million in patronage capital credits.
Bryant told the business meeting audience that wind and solar projects have been designed to pay their fair share to the cooperative.
“We will work with our members to make sure the technology is properly installed and we’ll get them connected to the grid, but we do not subsidize these installations. Members will pay their fair share of our distribution service costs to interconnect to the grid. They will only receive the value of the wholesale power cost that their generation offsets our purchases from Buckeye Power,” Bryant said, referring to LMRE’s wholesale power supplier. “That’s not so at investor-owned utilities (IOUs).”
He explained that IOU customers subsidize the distribution service costs of customers with renewable energy connections because the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio requires they must receive the value of the distribution service and the wholesale portion of the IOUs electric rates.
In other cooperative business, incumbent trustees James McConnell of Pittsfield Township, Judy Pickworth of LaGrange Township, and Keith Lowe of Homer Township were returned to their seats on the LMRE board. All three ran unopposed for the three-year terms.