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This thanksgiving, as I reflect on the many reasons for gratitude in my life, I want to share why I am thankful for electric cooperatives.
First, I am thankful for South Plains Electric Cooperative because it provides safe, reliable and affordable electricity to our communities. I’m grateful to be part of an organization that endeavors to make a difference in people’s lives, because it is the right thing to do.
I’m proud that South Plains Electric, as a not-for-profit organization, makes it routine to return capital credits to our members. Capital credits are any margins returned to you, the member-consumers, after all operating expenses are paid, investments are made and the board votes to issue retirements.
We returned $5 million to our members who used our service in 2019, 2005, 2003, 1989, 1988, 1987, 1983 and 1982. If your share was less than $10, you received it as a bill credit in October or November. If your share was more than $10, you already received, and hopefully, cashed your check. Including this year’s retirement, South Plains Electric has returned over $50 million in cash to its members.
I’m glad that South Plains Electric is part of a network of electric cooperatives across the United States that supports hundreds of thousands of jobs. Here at home, our employees are members of the local communities. The Cooperative provides them careers with good wages and purpose.
I’m grateful for a job where I have co-workers who are focused on providing excellent service to members. That service includes providing energy conservation tips so your electricity stays affordable and safety tips so you and your family can stay safe around electricity. Our locally-elected board of directors is plugged into the communities, know the member needs locally, and serve on the behalf of all members. After all, we are all serving our friends and neighbors.
I’m pleased, too, that we support the local communities in other economic and charitable ways. Our payment of state and local taxes benefits all local residents, as tax money goes toward shared services. Additionally, we support those in need through programs such as Operation Round Up, funded through rounding up the bills of participating Co-op members. A volunteer board of Co-op members oversees the distribution of funds for scholarships, teacher mini-grants and house fires and partners with Neighborhood House to help qualified members pay their electric bills.
Operation Round Up offered its first-ever round of Community Grants in late September. We received 28 applications, and the Operation Round Up Board will make final selections at their October 26 meeting. Watch our social media sites—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram—and next month’s magazine for the list of recipients. You might be surprised at the variety of great, charitable projects happening in our communities!
The Cooperative also makes donations to various charities and school activities and gives small sponsorships to a variety of community events.
It gives me a sense of purpose to know that electric cooperatives are broadening their use of renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind and hydropower, and that we are contributing to cleaner air. Collectively across the U.S., co-ops have reduced carbon dioxide emissions by more than 18%.
South Plains Electric is putting the finishing touches on two community solar projects, one in Lubbock and one in Childress. Earlier this year, we purchased two electric vehicles and installed three public charging stations. We believe the best way to know and understand these technologies is to actually use them. We’ll be sharing more information with you in the coming months.
I’m grateful we are not alone in this business. Across the nation, electric cooperatives power 56% of the landmass and own 42%—or 2.6 million miles—of electrical distribution lines. Together we serve more than 20 million businesses, homes, schools and farms in 48 states. We join forces through the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and Texas Electric Cooperatives for political strength, buying power, mutual aid and other shared resources.
Most of all, I’m thankful for you. Serving our members is the sole reason we exist, but we proudly contribute to the well-being of the local communities we serve. I wish you and yours a happy Thanksgiving.