NOVEC is Among the Nation’s Largest Electric Cooperatives
Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative, one of the largest electric cooperatives of its kind in the United States, is a customer-owned and locally based distribution system that provides electricity to more than 173,000 residents and businesses throughout Northern Virginia. NOVEC’s service territory encompasses 651 square miles with more than 7,200 miles of electric lines in portions of Clarke, Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudoun, Prince William, and Stafford counties, the City of Manassas Park, and the Town of Clifton. Headquartered in Manassas, NOVEC maintains additional offices in Gainesville, Leesburg, Woodbridge, and Stafford.
NOVEC Differs from Investor- and Municipal-Owned Utilities
As a cooperative, NOVEC is unlike investor-owned and municipal-owned utility companies. That’s because its members, who are customers, have an ownership interest, and therefore share in any profits generated by the company. These profits are allocated annually in the form of patronage capital, which is returned to current and former customer-owners as CashBack.
NOVEC is Committed to Achieving Excellence
Working around electricity is a dangerous job, even for well-trained and experienced professionals. NOVEC employees attend regularly scheduled safety meetings and training sessions throughout the year to reinforce safety practices. Equipment and work processes are frequently reviewed to ensure that safety is always the top priority.
NOVEC also takes its responsibility to inform customers about electrical safety very seriously. The Co-op’s website and publications stress the importance of safety around electricity. Whether in the home or outside, at work or at play, electrical safety awareness prevents accidents and saves lives.
Providing excellent customer service is another high priority for NOVEC and a major component of its business strategy. Customer service is measured through surveys conducted by J.D. Power and Associates and TSE Services. Customer-owners have consistently ranked NOVEC’s performance among the best in the nation in both surveys — a reflection of an ongoing commitment to customer service excellence by the Cooperative’s employees.
NOVEC’s website, www.novec.com, provides customers with useful information to assist them with managing their electricity use. The HomeEnergySuite feature allows customers to analyze their energy consumption and receive a list of customized energy improvements and estimated savings. The website also features a state-of-the-art outage map, which is a valuable information resource for customers, employees, and the news media. Key information and functionality is available on NOVEC’s mobile site for customer convenience. The deployment of proven technology improves employee efficiency and productivity. Customers are able to transact normal business securely and report outages faster than ever before thanks to modern technology.
NOVEC uses wireless internet technology with mobile laptops to give field workers immediate access to Miss Utility underground-line-location requests, meter connect and disconnect orders, automated meter readings, and other electric meter service requirements. The system improves productivity, reduces data errors, and has virtually eliminated lost paperwork.
Fiber-optic telecommunications technology assists system operators in finding electrical system problems quickly. Often, adjustments or repairs can be made before a sustained outage occurs. The technology also helps pinpoint the precise location when on-site repairs are required. The majority of NOVEC’s substations are connected via fiber-optic cable. Through this network, equipment installed in substations transmits data through infrared laser light along the more than 260 miles of fiber cable, which also connects NOVEC’s offices. Expansion of the fiber optics system continues and will eventually include all substations.
NOVEC has installed substation automation devices that use a utility standard communications protocol at a number of its substations and more installations are planned in the coming years. Substation automation improves system reliability and reduces expenses — particularly by providing enhanced remote control and monitoring capability, and by reducing the number of vehicle trips to NOVEC sites.
More than half of NOVEC’s customers now use electronic billing services. These services provide added options and convenience for customers, and they also allow NOVEC to lower costs and improve efficiency.
NOVEC seized an opportunity to partner with Milestone Communications to market the property surrounding our substations and poles to companies that need cell towers. The companies co-locate cell antennas on existing structures wherever possible. With the demand for cellular service continuing to grow, NOVEC’s customer-owners will continue to benefit from the revenue stream received from cellular companies that lease space from NOVEC.
A sound financial strategy provides the framework for NOVEC’s success. The company currently is in the strongest financial position in its history, with over $1 billion in assets and $570 million in operating revenue. NOVEC will continue to invest wisely in electric plants, office facilities, computer and communication networks, and all other business operations to preserve the Cooperative’s outstanding financial position.
Being environmentally “green” is not new and trendy for NOVEC, nor a bandwagon jumped on in light of current climate change concerns. For most of its history, NOVEC’s recycling programs have generated cost-savings that have been passed along to customers, and reduced natural materials consumption to help preserve the environment. NOVEC recycles large quantities of wooden reels, metal wire and cable, used transformer oil, and obsolete transformers themselves. Chipped holiday greens and right-of-way trimmings were recycled into mulch and given to customers free of charge.
In 1979, NOVEC was one of the first electric utilities in the United States to embrace an energy and money-saving load management program, which reduces peak electrical consumption. Today, almost one-third of Co-op members participate in the program. By doing so, they allow NOVEC to remotely turn off their water heaters and/or air conditioners when electricity demand is at its highest. The shut-off cycles are so short that participants hardly notice a difference. Over the last decade the program has saved customers more than $25 million in total wholesale power costs.
Despite a slowed economy in recent years, residential and commercial growth continues within NOVEC’s service area, presenting challenges to the distribution system.
Strategic short and long-term planning is critical to successfully manage growth while maintaining reliability. NOVEC utilizes innovation, modern technology and efficient resource management to meet growing needs. Collaboration with county officials and economic development professionals ensures that NOVEC is prepared to be an active partner in attracting a blend of businesses that bring jobs and added value to the region.
NOVEC has two affiliates that offer additional services that, by law, NOVEC is not allowed to offer as a regulated electric utility. NOVEC Energy Solutions provides competitively priced natural gas and satellite internet service. NOVEC Solutions provides telecommunication services along with energy-efficient water heaters, standby generators, home warranty programs, solar, and other energy-related offerings.
Community Involvement and Investment
As NOVEC continues to grow, the company remains firm in its commitment to supporting the communities it serves. NOVEC contributes annually to more than 100 local organizations and local chapters of national organizations. It supports a wide variety of educational programs, civic groups, health causes, the performing arts, youth sports, and charitable organizations across the region. As part of its community commitment, NOVEC also sponsors a cause-based marketing campaign that adds value and enriches the lives of children and others in our community by raising the profiles of various service and non-profit agencies.
NOVEC employees have also played a major role in demonstrating the meaning of commitment — both on the job and through their many volunteer activities. Giving back to the community took a giant step forward in 2008 when NOVEC established NOVEC HELPS — Hands Engaged in Local Public Service. HELPS is a certified 501(c)(3) organization and provides a conduit for employees to volunteer their time, money and skills in ways that add lasting value to communities throughout the NOVEC service area.
The company’s community service assistance program, Operation Round Up®, allows customers to provide heating assistance funds to qualified low-income applicants. Since ORU’s inception in 1997, NOVEC’s customers have donated nearly $800,000 to assist the less fortunate. All ORU funds are distributed by independent community service agencies.