A summer storm roars through a community, a member-owner’s lights go out and questions kick in: Does my utility know power is out? Is a crew on the way? Do I need to take my family out for dinner or to a hotel for the night, or will power come back on soon? What caused the outage, anyway?
Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC) knows that the more answers members have to those questions, the happier they are. That’s why REC allows members to sign up for Outage Text Alerts, which communicate the latest news on a power outage that is affecting their home or business.
Line crews in the field coordinate with REC’s Dispatch Center to get that critical information out to members’ cell phones as quickly and as often as possible. The SMS alerts are one of many tools that REC uses to improve the member experience and increase engagement even as demands and expectations continue to increase.
“While the goal is always to avoid a power outage, our research shows that a better-informed member is a more satisfied member,” said Casey Hollins, Managing Director – Communications and Public Relations.
“REC’s mobile app, MyREC SmartHub, also allows us to send SMS messages to members about critical topics such as our Board elections, peak-demand days and billing information. SmartHub also allows them to request services, ask questions or sign up for services such as our community solar program, Cooperative Sunshare.”
The My Usage tool in MyREC SmartHub also lets members monitor their energy use and identify trends that can help them save energy and money. More than 83,000 REC members are signed up for SmartHub.
On the back side, REC uses the smart meters that are on each member’s service to collect usage data, thereby preventing the need for meter readers in most cases.
Other recent or upcoming innovative projects and programs at REC:
- Earlier this year, REC launched the first grid-scale energy storage project by an electric cooperative in Virginia. The project has a peak capacity of 2 megawatts and a duration of 8 megawatt hours, or enough to power about 1,000 homes for 8 hours.
- This spring, REC became the first electric cooperative in Virginia to launch an energy-efficiency investment program for member-owners. The on-bill tariff program will make it more convenient and affordable for REC member-owners who want to make changes in their home to reduce energy consumption.
- This summer, REC is requesting the Virginia State Corporation Commission to approve a special electric vehicle charging rate. Through this program, REC will support member-owners who own electric vehicles by allowing them to charge at reduced rate during overnight and mid-afternoon hours.
“At REC, we recognize that the demands and expectations of our member-owners continue to increase,” Hollins said. “Our leadership team strives to lead the way, stay ahead of expectations and meet members exactly where they need us to be.”