Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative receives safety awards, general manager delivers updates

Published 10:32 am Thursday, June 1, 2023

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Members of Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative filled the Cape Hatteras Secondary School’s cafeteria for dinner and the cooperative’s annual meeting.

At the meeting, the cooperative’s staff received two prestigious safety and health awards, presented scholarships and heard a very upbeat report from general manager Susan Flythe.

North Carolina Secretary of Labor Josh Dobson delivered a Safety and Health Achievement and Recognition Program Award, the highest state award for workplace safety and health.

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“You have to earn it,” said Dodson.

The cooperative workers also received the Rural Electric Safety Award from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. This national award was presented by Farris Leonard, director of job training and safety field services with the North Carolina Association of Electric Cooperatives. Accepting the award for the cooperative were Jonathan Vernesoni, operations and safety supervisor, and Earl Fountain, manager of operations.

Susan Flythe, general manager and executive vice president, reiterated in her remarks, “the cornerstone of our business, as stated in our mission statement, is safety.”

The recertification by the two programs highlights the lost time record by Cape Hatteras Electric. It has been five years of working and over 262,000 hours with no lost time accidents.

Flythe reported that 2022 operating margins “continue to be healthy and meet all the requirements of our loan covenants and lenders.” Last year, the cooperative returned capital credits totaling $1.7 million to current and former members.

The cooperative took advantage of a free rate study offered by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Finance Corporation.

Reported Flythe, “the study revealed that we will not implement a rate increase in 2023, which also marks five years since our last rate increase in 2018.”

After more than 20 years, Cape Hatteras Electric and 18 other cooperatives were able to sell investment in Diversified Energy, a propane company operating in North Carolina and New York. The company’s management managed turned Diversified around and it was sold to Sharp Energies. Last year, the cooperative received $550,000 in returned equity capital. The cooperative anticipates receiving another $550,000 this year.

The cooperative continues to invest in infrastructure.

In 2022, the major project was installing conduit, hangers and 115kV transmission cable on the new Rodanthe bridge. The cable was energized in December 2022.

A project to replace the Hatteras substation transformer was started in 2022 and was energized earlier this year. The contractor refurbishes the old transformer and stores it for the cooperative. That substation transformer serves as backup. Having the backup avoids long supply chain issues and provides quick access if sabotage to the substation occurs here.

The Christmas winter storm, dubbed Elliott, was a “truly perfect storm,” said Flythe. Some generation assets did not perform and some cooperatives were requested to shed load, something not required in at least 30 years. Cape Hatteras was not asked to shed load.

The generation plants of North Carolina’s cooperatives, including the Buxton diesel plant, performed and exceeded the requirements of the contract.

The cooperative started working with the North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation on a long-term plan to address the need for reliable communication services. The cooperative will invest in running dedicated fiber optic cable underground from Nags Head to Buxton for the cooperative and the diesel plant. The investment was approved by the corporation’s Board of Directors. Construction will start when all permits are approved.

Flythe announced that at the annual meetings of the statewide organizations in early April, Richie Midget, Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative Board president, was elected president of the North Carolina Association of Electric Cooperatives, which is the trade organization owned by all 26 of North Carolina’s local electric cooperatives.

At the same time, Flythe was elected president of the North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation, one of the largest generation and transmission cooperatives in the nation.

“So while CHEC may be the smallest electric cooperative in North Carolina, please be assured that we have a significant voice in Raleigh, and we are working for a brighter future for Hatteras Island,” said Flythe.

At the cooperative’s annual meeting, scholarships were awarded to three Cape Hatteras Secondary students. The scholarships are for $1,000 per semester for eight semesters. Receiving the scholarships are Lucas Blankenship, Casia Ensenat and Alexis Zavala-Roldan.