About 24,000 customers of Canadian Valley Electric Cooperative, based in Seminole, have been notified that CVEC is looking at a one-year study to consider consolidation or joint operations with a similar-sized cooperative to reduce the impact of future electricity increases on members.
The CVEC Board of Trustees has begun discussions with Central Rural Electric Cooperative, a 22,000 member co-op based in Stillwater, about solutions to offer rate stability for members through cost sharing of their cooperative and utility services.
“There’s a wide gamut of possibilities there,” said George Hand, general manager of CVEC, adding any decision would require a vote of the membership in both cooperatives.
“In the long run, it will be the members’ decision,” he said.
Hand said the financial outlook for future energy looks tremendous for customers, so both cooperatives are looking at the study and how joint operations could “reduce the impact of future increases.”
During CVEC’s annual meeting scheduled Sept. 14, the collaboration of “Build our Energy Future Together” will be discussed, but the study process itself is expected to take as long as a year, Hand said.
The letter received by customers notes that CVEC and CREC have not made any decision “other than to explore the potential opportunities for CVEC and CREC that working together could create.”
Hand, who said both co-ops are very similar in size and have close rates, said any such consolidation would have to “be a benefit to customers or it won’t happen.”
Benefits of working together also would provide more combined resources when electric service is disrupted from weather-related events, Hand said, from ice storms to severe weather.
“Today we are both financially strong — good electric systems with good customer base,” he said.
If boards of both co-ops decide to pursue the idea, any consolidation would require approval by members from both coops as stated by law. A 5 percent total of the member base would be needed to constitute a quorum for such a meeting, Hand said, and a two-thirds majority of yes votes would be needed to proceed.
The letter sent to customers about the study invites all members to share in the journey and stay updated on the progress.
A website, although in the beginning stages, has been set up at www.buildingourenergyfuturetogether.com.