An estimated 200 plus co-op members, employees and associates of Jo-Carroll Energy (JCE) gathered to celebrate “The Power of Co-op Membership” during the cooperative’s annual meeting of members held June 2 at the Fulton High School in Fulton.
During the business session, three directors were re-elected to the Jo-Carroll Energy board by a vote of acclamation. Board directors Jerry Meyer, District 1; Joe Mattingley, District 2; and Dan Tindell, District 4; were all unopposed in their bids for reelection. All directors serve three-year terms.
Members also approved a bylaw amendment revising how directors may participate in monthly board meetings, providing the option to meet virtually or participate by telephone. It was noted that during the pandemic, technology was utilized to provide the board with more flexibility to continue essential cooperative business.
In keeping with the meeting theme, JCE president and CEO Mike Casper opened his remarks noting the purpose of rural electric cooperatives (formed after the enactment of the Rural Electrification Act in 1936) – to raise the standard of rural living.
“Eighty plus years later, Jo-Carroll Energy, along with more than 800 other electric cooperatives, continue as not-for-profit, trustworthy and community-focused energy and now high-speed internet service providers,” Casper said. “Electric co-ops are built by and belong to the communities they serve. We are focused on people instead of profits to make our communities stronger.”
Casper added that the co-op also provides value-added services that empower members, businesses and communities to be more successful. Providing an example, he noted how JCE, with the assistance of nearly $25 million in grant awards, is accelerating buildout of high-speed fiber internet in northwest Illinois.
Just like 80 years ago when electricity empowered rural America to raise the standard of living, JCE and its Sand Prairie broadband division are now empowering members to raise the standard of rural living with high-speed internet service, Casper noted.
“Our vision is to enhance your quality of life providing value-added services to the businesses, communities and member-consumers that we serve,” Casper said. “The power of co-op membership is your success.
“You depend on the services that Jo-Carroll Energy and Sand Prairie provide to be there when you need them,” he continued. “The dedication and commitment of our team is admirable. What drives that passion is our local presence. We are embedded in our communities and deeply care about each of you, our family, friends and neighbors.”
“While our primary purpose is keeping the lights on, the gas flowing and the internet connected, our passion is our community. Because we are local, we have an invested interest to help grow and improve our communities. We take pride in giving back to our communities, first responders and not-for-profits through unclaimed and donated capital credits, which return money back to our communities, helping make them more attractive places to live, work and play,” Casper concluded.
Board president David Senn also spoke about the importance of the co-op and touched on electric generating capacity and the need for additional base-load generation.
“When and when not to use energy will play an important role in helping to curb the need for adding new generation,” Senn said.
Noting that the cooperative does not produce but purchases electricity, he said the members of the generation and transmission cooperatives have tasked the G&Ts with providing long-term affordable, reliable and environmentally sustainable electricity. “Our providers are doing their best to move to cleaner generation while monitoring the reliability needs of the grid system,” he said.
Guest speaker Dave Schryver, president & CEO of the American Public Gas Association (APGA), discussed the natural gas price spikes in February of 2021 caused by extreme cold weather and major increases in demand that hit public gas systems particularly hard. He outlined responses to the high prices including outreach to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Department of Energy, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the President and Congress. He also noted safeguards are being identified and put in place to prevent such an event in the future.
Schryver said natural gas has a role in America’s clean energy future, citing it is reliable and abundant, a domestic source of energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.