NHEC Board Moves to Create New Broadband Entity

PLYMOUTH, NH (June 25, 2020) – Yesterday New Hampshire Electric Cooperative’s (NHEC) Board of Directors voted unanimously to take the necessary steps to create a new separate entity to pursue funding opportunities and further the goal of providing high speed internet access to its members.

Creating this new entity is the next step in NHEC’s efforts to expand high speed internet access, and will allow for greater focus and speed on developing broadband opportunities. The entity will be charged with pursuing federal, state and local funding opportunities, and developing strategic partnerships with the singular goal of bringing high speed internet access to NHEC’s members.

Last week NHEC concluded its annual director election. This year NHEC members petitioned to add a ballot question adding “facilitating access to broadband internet for members” as one of the purposes for which the Co-op was formed. While the ballot question fell just short of achieving the two-thirds necessary for adoption, the strong support it received demonstrated member desire for NHEC to more aggressively pursue broadband.

The Board also agreed to fund the new entity with up to $1 million in initial capital to support the initiative, and appointed Jeff Morrill, Vice Chair of NHEC’s Board of Directors to spearhead the effort. In addition to his service with NHEC, Morrill leads business development and strategy for C Space, a Customer Agency. In this role, he helps companies find new ways to grow by collaborating with their customers. Morrill is an experienced manager with a track record of driving innovation and profitable growth at fortune 100 companies and new ventures.

“The Board heard our members clearly: they want their electric cooperative to do more to bring them broadband,” said Tom Mongeon, Chair of NHEC’s Board of Directors. “This important vote is the next step in moving forward to bring high speed internet to the communities NHEC serves. Jeff’s diverse and entrepreneurial skill set uniquely qualifies him to move this exciting initiative forward.”

Steve Camerino, president and CEO of NHEC said that “meeting our members’ needs is NHEC’s only focus, and the ability to access fast, reliable internet service is a critical need, now more than ever. In pursuing this initiative, we remain mindful that we must balance that need with our members’ reliance on NHEC as their electric service provider.”

“We have started on a journey and it will take several years to achieve our goal, but this is an important step,” said Jeff Morrill, Vice Chair of the Board of Directors and leader of the effort to create the new entity. “There is a lot of work to be done in a short amount of time, deadlines for the Connecting New Hampshire Emergency Broadband Expansion Program and the Rural Digital Opportunity Funds are quickly approaching and NHEC wants to make sure our members are well positioned to access any funding opportunities.”

“We thank the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative board for responding so quickly to the crying need of its members who lack fast, reliable internet service,” said Richard Knox, spokesman for a group of NHEC members who petitioned the utility to add broadband to its stated purposes. “To have the board unanimously decide to form a broadband subsidiary – only days after the initiative garnered nearly two-thirds support in the Co-op’s annual election – speaks volumes about the viability of the cooperative model. And it couldn’t come at a more crucial time.”

About New Hampshire Electric Cooperative

NHEC is a member-owned electric distribution cooperative serving 84,000 homes and businesses in 115 New Hampshire communities. Headquartered in Plymouth, NH, our business is to keep, maintain and service our 5,500 miles of energized line in order to provide our members with the best possible service.

Three Members Elected to NHEC Board; Ballot Question Fails to Pass

PLYMOUTH, NH – Members of New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) have elected three members to the company’s Board of Directors and did not adopt a ballot question that would have changed NHEC’s founding documents to include “facilitating access to broadband internet for members” as one of the purposes for which the Co-op was formed.

Voters elected three members to the 11-member Board of Directors. A total of five members were running for election. The three candidates elected by NHEC’s members were Madeline McElaney of Plymouth, William Darcy of Benton, and Leo Dwyer of Sandwich.

Below are the full results of the 2020 Director election.

Madeline McElaney    5,137

William Darcy             4,445

Leo Dwyer                   4,393

Harry Viens                 3,663

Mark Portu                  3,485

By a vote of 4,599 (YES) to 2,539 (NO), the ballot question to change NHEC’s Certificate of Organization did not achieve the required two-thirds approval of members voting in the 2020 election.

Notice of Meeting of NHEC Election Tellers

Meeting of NHEC Election Tellers

DATE: June 17, 2020

TIME: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. (EDT)

REGISTER HERE TO VIEW MEETING

NHEC members are invited to observe the meeting of NHEC Election Tellers to consider the disposition of any ballots received in the NHEC 2020 Election for which the intent of the voter is not clear. During the meeting, the NHEC Ballot Clerk will review all questionable ballots and determine, if possible, the intent of the voter and how the votes should be apportioned.

This meeting will be broadcast live via Zoom Webinar. NHEC members will be able to view and hear the meeting, but will not be able to interact with Election Tellers. To view the meeting, please register here. Once your registration is submitted, you will receive a link via email to the Zoom Webinar.

NHEC Board of Directors Oppose Changing Co-op’s Purpose, Continue to Support Broadband

PLYMOUTH, NH (May 28, 2020) – On May 21, New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) members began receiving their ballots for the 2020 Board of Directors election. This year, in addition to selecting three directors to join the Co-op’s 11 member board, members are also being asked to decide if the purpose for which NHEC exists should be changed.

A question has been placed on the ballot through member petition to change NHEC’s founding documents to include “facilitating access to broadband internet for members” as one of the reasons the Co-op was formed. NHEC is a democratically-controlled electric cooperative, and the participation of its members in its governance is vital. That participation includes the ability to propose changes in how NHEC is governed or conducts business.

NHEC’s Board of Directors is charged with considering member proposals and recommending to the full membership whether to support or oppose the proposed changes.  In this case, after full consideration of the proposal, the Board of Directors voted 7-3, with one abstention, to recommend that the proposed change not be approved by NHEC’s members.

NHEC, and its Board of Directors, fully support the expansion of broadband service throughout the Co-op’s service territory, and have directed NHEC’s management to facilitate and support broadband expansion. However, the Board did not support adding a new purpose to NHEC’s Certificate of Organization because of a number of concerns, including the potential to divert resources from the Co-op’s existing core focus on delivering safe, reliable, affordable electric service to its members.

NHEC has taken many steps to support the expansion of broadband over the last several years. In 2018, NHEC commissioned an analysis and business model proposal on the development of a broadband system. This proposal was judged to be too costly and would have put NHEC’s finances and electric system at risk. While the Board elected not to build a broadband network, NHEC has pursued other ways to support broadband expansion, including engaging in extensive discussions with consultants, broadband providers, municipal groups, the NH Broadband Investment Initiative, the University System of New Hampshire, and others active in the industry. The primary purpose of these efforts has been to make it as widely known as possible that NHEC supports the expansion of broadband service to all its members, and that it stands ready to facilitate, support and participate in creative efforts to make that happen.

More recently, in response to the interest expressed by members who support the ballot question, the Board of Directors created an ad hoc committee to explore if there are additional ways NHEC can further facilitate development of a broadband network by a third party in its service territory, without putting the Co-op’s finances and electric system at risk.

During the public discussion regarding the ballot petition, there has been confusion surrounding who may attach to NHEC’s utility poles, and how they do so. NHEC already allows any company, municipality, or other party to attach to its poles, including the broadband companies who are providing services to NHEC members today. This open access is required of all utility pole owners by New Hampshire law.

While the Board of Directors voted to recommend against creating a new purpose for the organization, NHEC has worked, and will continue to work, to support the expansion of broadband in the communities we serve.

NHEC Annual Meeting Is June 22, 2020

The 81st Annual Meeting of Members will be held on Monday, June 22 at 10 a.m.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and Governor Sununu’s Executive Order 2020-04 and Emergency Order 12 (Temporary modification of public access to meetings under RSA 91-A), NHEC’s 2020 Annual Meeting will be conducted electronically, without a physical location.

The 2020 Annual Meeting will be broadcast as a live Zoom Webinar. To register for the meeting, please visit: https://www.nhec.com/2020-annual-meeting/.

When your registration has been confirmed, you will receive an email link to the Annual Meeting URL, which you can bookmark and add to your calendar. Just click the meeting link a little before 10 a.m. on June 22 to listen in and/or ask questions. Attendees will have the opportunity to interact with NHEC staff and Board.