Slater

Austin J. “Joe” Slater Jr., SMECO’s president and CEO, tells members at Thursday’s annual meeting the utility is reducing its reliance on coal to produce electricity.

Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative held its 81st annual meeting Aug. 29 at Middleton Hall in Waldorf. The board of directors election was conducted online and by mail prior to the meeting.

Re-elected to serve on SMECO’s board for three more years were W. Michael Phipps from Calvert County; Gilbert O. Bowling and Richard A. Winkler from Charles County; James A. Richards from Prince George’s County; and P. Scott White from St. Mary’s County. One bylaw amendment providing that a person’s capital credits can be used to offset arrearages was also included on this year’s ballot, and it passed overwhelmingly, with 4,989 votes for and 544 against.

This is the third year SMECO’s election was conducted by mail, and, for the first time, members could also vote electronically by casting their ballots online. Ballots were mailed to members July 22. The deadline for submitting ballots by mail or electronically was Aug. 22. Members who returned their ballots were eligible to win one of 30 electric bill credits of $50 each. More than 7,800 members voted: 6,560 voted by mail and 1,278 voted online. Election results were announced at the meeting.

White, chairman of the SMECO board of directors, welcomed members to the event and called the meeting to order. SMECO’s president and CEO, Austin J. “Joe” Slater Jr., then introduced the video version of the cooperative’s 2018 annual report. The video highlighted the strides SMECO has made since installing smart meters throughout the service area. Energy use data, monthly billing information and tips on how to save energy and money are available to co-op members online through SMECO’s Account Manager system.

Slater said that SMECO’s margins for 2018 totaled more than $27 million, and all of those funds were allocated to members’ capital credit accounts. He also said that SMECO will be refunding more than $5 million of the cooperative’s margins to members this year. “When SMECO issues capital credit refunds to members, we are making good on a basic co-op principle,” he said. “We pass on savings to members because they share the financial responsibility and the financial rewards of the co-op.”

Some SMECO members who attended the meeting expressed their concern about the health effects of using coal to generate electricity. Slater and White responded to members’ concerns and explained the current situation regarding SMECO’s adoption of renewable energy.

Slater said, “Ten years ago, 40 percent of SMECO’s power purchases relied on coal. Now, just 15 percent of our power portfolio comes from coal. We know our members are interested in electric vehicle charging, and we plan to install up to 60 charging stations at public sites throughout our service area. We are also working toward implementing time-of-use rates that will make it more affordable for members with electric vehicles to charge them at home.”

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