The first meeting of the board of directors of Holston Electric Cooperative (HEC) was held on July 11, 1940. Providing electric service to rural residents who had never had electricity available to them was the immediate mission. The response to the needs of the rural residents established a tradition of service that continues to the present.
HEC operates under bylaws that conform to Tennessee’s Cooperative Act. A cooperative is a unique non-profit business that is financed, owned and operated by the people who use its services. A seven-member board, elected by the cooperative members, establishes company policies while the general manager oversees daily operations. Customers receive cooperative news and information through The Tennessee Magazine each month and at the annual meeting on the second Tuesday of each October.
Holston Electric opened for business with eight employees, selling electricity at 2.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. More than seventy years later, just over 60 employees maintain and operate the 2,600 mile distribution system that covers a 525 square mile area. Electric power, generated by the Tennessee Valley Authority, is purchased by over 30,000 customers in Hawkins, Hamblen, and Greene Counties for an average price of 8 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Customer service demands have also changed through the years. HEC’s main offices have relocated to larger facilities twice since opening for business in 1940. The headquarters building is located in Rogersville, the geographic center of the service area. For the convenience of the customers, branch offices with service crew and cashiers were opened in Church Hill in 1965 and in Russellville in 1970.
As business and industries moved into the rural areas, the customer base changed from residential to a composite of industrial, commercial, residential, and agricultural customers. This broad base of customers helps HEC keep rates competitive with other utilities in the region, even though our member line density (14 per mile of line) is much smaller than the average line density of municipal systems (41 per mile) that border our service area. Providing power to industrial customers who operate precision equipment has led to increased power quality standards. “Keeping the lights on” is no longer a reasonable goal for HEC. Industrial timers, machinery and computers require a consistent power supply without fluctuations in voltage. Power quality is maintained through the upgrading of lines, voltage regulators, and line capacitors. With 7 power delivery points and 12 substations in operation, HEC strives to anticipate and meet our customers’ power quality demands.