Cherry delivers first annual meeting address

For the second year in a row, more than 200 member-owners participated in Roanoke Electric Cooperative’s 83rd annual meeting.  The virtual event was celebrated under this year’s theme of “A Legacy for the Future, Building a Better Tomorrow”.

In his debut President’s Report, Marshall Cherry underscored the co-op’s achievements that are set to transform into much greater value for member-owners.

Cherry’s overall message was that the organization has achieved a great deal during the past year that will transform into much greater value. The cooperative’s work has by and in large supported a clean energy transition that reduces carbon-intensive power generation. Working with cooperatives across the state, Roanoke is implementing innovation to evolve the grid and enhance service to member-owners, while also pursuing a sustainability goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.  

The cooperative's part in contributing to a cleaner energy transition that leads to reliable, affordable, and environmentally responsible electricity can be found in the work Roanoke has managed for the past eight years in a corporate strategy that we labeled “Responding to the Call to Serve.” This strategy reached its pinnacle in 2021 as we took on many initiatives to make life better in this region.  

During 2021, the co-op started setting the stage for what’s next. Roanoke had to answer the question, how do we package everything that we have learned over the years, and completely transform this community. For years, Roanoke has been a major staple in community and economic development, innovation, and service. Proudly, its efforts have birthed a new strategy that will guide us in the clean energy transition while providing world-class service to our member-owners. The co-op has started this new strategy that we call Vision 2025.   

Vision 2025 has set our focus on three main areas: 

  1. Reduce the wholesale cost we pay for electricity and embrace smaller energy generation and storage technologies 
  2. Improve the efficiency of our system in delivering electricity to you.
  3. Enhance the way we connect with you to build trust and satisfaction

Over the next few years, the co-op will be adding more solar and battery storage systems to its electrical grid, integrating with budding electric vehicle options to include home and public charging programs, and several other initiatives that will support our work to displace our needs for underutilized grid resources and reduce wholesale power costs. 

There are two things that will be paramount for Roanoke to be successful with Vision 2025. They are our ability to earn your trust that will lead to more engagement and the completion of our broadband project. 

Roanoke has committed that this is a project that will be completed, and it is our goal to pass every home in Roanoke Electric’s service territory by the end of 2025. There are a few overarching questions that our team has fielded over the years specifically given the urgency to deliver broadband in this region. 

Our broadband business, Roanoke Connect Holdings, is one that will stand on its own financially—separate from Roanoke Electric Cooperative; therefore, we need every dollar that supports this project to ensure we can financially pass every home.  

To successfully build out to everyone, Roanoke has been very intentional in going after grant dollars. The grants already received are in locations that have been prescribed to some areas in the electric cooperative’s service territory, and in some cases, the co-op has received grants outside of its territory. Roanoke recently submitted a grant application to the state of North Carolina requesting a significant amount of funding and hope to hear something soon.  

In 2021, the U.S. Congress passed a landmark piece of legislation, the Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act, that has earmarked a transformational amount of funding toward broadband projects like Roanoke Connect. The co-op will be pursuing these dollars when they are made available. Since your federal tax dollars have contributed to these funds, it behooves us to garner as much of this support as possible to reduce Roanoke's investment to build.  

Additionally, Roanoke is building out to areas that will yield the greatest number of homes passed during our early stages so as many subscribers can be added as possible early in this project. Some of this work has included serving some nearby towns because there are many homes within a mile of each other. 

Applying for grants and expanding to additional market opportunities will strengthen Roanoke's ability to meet the goal of serving all member-owners by the end of 2025. 

The future is bright, our vision is clear, and we will be connecting this area to a world-class fiber network.