From the ABCs of EVs to real-life lessons about bringing broadband to consumers, NRECA's 2018 Regional Meetings will focus on some of today's biggest front-burner co-op topics.

The first of this year's five meetings begins Sept. 5 when Regions 1&4 gather in Columbus, Ohio.

"We look forward every year to the Regional Meetings. It's an opportunity for our membership to come together and discuss issues impacting our industry, our cooperatives and our communities," said Tracey Steiner, NRECA senior vice president, education and training. "We have a strong lineup of timely topics on our agenda."

The opening general session features remarks by NRECA CEO Jim Matheson, who plans to touch on several themes, including the evolution of member-consumer engagement and how technology and data on both sides of the meter are changing the relationship among co-ops and their members.

He will be followed by a session on "Electric Vehicles: Fact, Fiction, Future," looking at the myriad issues surrounding EV adoption, from preparing for additional load to educating members.

Two breakouts follow the opening session. "Broadband Due Diligence: Stories from the Field" will spotlight co-op leaders sharing their experiences in deciding whether to pursue broadband. "Just What Does Cheap Energy Actually Cost" is a follow-up to an Annual Meeting panel and will feature power supply experts taking a look at where the co-op energy resource mix is going.

Sheldon C. Petersen, CEO of the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC), will speak at lunch. The afternoon includes a general session update on current and proposed resolutions, followed by two breakout sessions. "Opportunities for Optimizing Distribution Operations" looks at ways to improve reliability and performance. A separate breakout will spotlight governance, with a focus on the changing skill set of directors required to navigate today's challenging times.

On the final day of each meeting, NRECA President Phil Carson will speak, there will be a look at the association's Lexicon Project—which helps co-ops discuss key issues with members—and a mock press conference meant to drive home the importance of both cybersecurity preparedness and communications preparedness. That's followed by the regional business meeting.

Prior to each regional there's a day of education for directors and a CEO workshop that will look at ways to mine the wealth of data co-ops collect.

There will also be a service project in each city, as Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives celebrates its 20th anniversary.

"We are leveraging the power of human connections in our partnerships with the host statewide organizations and their community partners to bring volunteers together for five unique projects that will leave a positive impact on the communities we are visiting," said Lynn Moore, Touchstone Energy's executive director.

At the Regions 2&3 meeting in Atlanta, the project will support Operation: Veteran Smiles, an organization founded by Amelia Day, a Flint Energies member who was on the 2016 Youth Tour. Volunteers will help prepare hygiene care packages for hospitalized veterans.

Here are full details on each regional meeting, including registration information:

Regional Meeting 1&4, Columbus, Ohio, Sept. 5-7
Regional Meeting 5&6, Minneapolis, Sept. 17-19
Regional Meeting 7&9, Anchorage, Alaska, Sept. 25-27
Regional Meeting 2&3, Atlanta, Oct. 10-12
Regional Meeting 8&10, Oklahoma City, Oct. 16-18

Michael W. Kahn is a staff writer at NRECA.