The Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative (CHEC) shared recent accomplishments and upcoming projects at their 78th annual members meeting in Buxton on Monday, May 22.
Among the good news announced by Susan Flythe, CHEC Executive Vice President and General Manager, was the fact that, despite higher fuel prices, rates would not increase in 2023.
“According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, year-over-year electricity prices in the U.S. increased by 10.2% in the month of March,” said Flythe. “Because we know that there will continue to be upward pressure on wholesale power costs, CHEC took advantage of a free rate study service offered by one of our lenders, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Finance Corporation.”
“I am happy to report that 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. I am also happy to report that your cooperative was able to return capital credits to current and former members in 2022 totaling more than $1.7 million.”
The meeting also unveiled a new initiative that aims to strengthen the communications infrastructure on Hatteras Island. There have been several communications outages in the past year that have affected cell phone and internet service on Hatteras and Ocracoke Island, including a May 2022 outage that lasted more than 15 hours. These outages were due to fiber optic cable damage, with the most recent outage occurring in March 2023.
“Although CHEC does not own any of the communications infrastructure on Hatteras Island, reliable communications have become essential for the operation of your cooperative,” said Flythe. “CHEC has implemented backup measures to ensure that we are able to fulfill our most critical functions. However, we also began working with the North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation (NCEMC) on a long-term plan to extend the cooperative fiber network from Nags Head to Buxton, to provide dedicated fiber for NCEMC and CHEC operations.”
“So, I am happy to report that this investment in critical communications infrastructure was recently approved by the NCEMC board of directors and construction will commence once all the necessary permits are acquired.”
The meeting also served as an opportunity to outline the large projects that were completed in 2022, and most notably, the installation of a new conduit, hanger, and 115kV underground transmission cable on the new Rodanthe Bridge. “This multi-year project had many challenges along the way, but in every case, CHEC staff and contractors persevered, adjusted, and overcame,” said Flythe. “The project culminated with the energizing of the new transmission cables in December.”
Another important project that was started in 2022 was the replacement of the Hatteras substation transformer.
The transformer was just barely over 20 years old, but the harsh and salty environment had taken a toll, making replacement imperative. “One benefit that we have derived from the replacement of large substation transformers over the years is that we work with a contractor to refurbish and store the old transformers for us, in the event that we need a replacement,” said Flythe. “This has become especially important with supply chain issues resulting in long lead times for transformers and other electrical equipment, coupled with the recent spate of sabotage in electric substations across the country. The new Hatteras transformer was energized earlier this year.”
Finally, Flythe noted that at the recent statewide meeting, she was elected President of the NCEMC board of directors, and Richie Midgett, CHEC’s board president, was elected President of the NCAEC board of directors, giving Hatteras Island a bigger say in energy conversations on a statewide level.
“While CHEC may be the smallest electric cooperative in NC, please be assured that we have a significant voice in Raleigh, and we are working for a brighter future for Hatteras Island.”