The electric utility of the future - Carolina Country

The electric utility of the future

by R.G. “Randy” Brecheisen

By R.G. “Randy” Brecheisen

Brecheisen RandyThe electric power industry is often compared to the telecommunications industry, which faced huge challenges as political circumstances and new technologies, like the Internet and cellular devices, changed the landscape of its business. The telecom industry had to adapt to do the job that consumers expected. Electric utilities are doing the same thing. We are becoming the utility of the future.

Because technology improves and changes quickly, it can be hard to predict the exact operations of your cooperative 10 to 20 years down the road. But since their inception, electric utilities have by nature and by necessity made plans for working well into the future. We monitor developments in our industry, and we stay on top of trends that could become game-changers. As we did a generation ago, and in the generation before that, electric utilities continually adjust, adapt and plan to be the utility of the future.

Today we see a steady rise in the renewable energy sources that supply North Carolina’s electric cooperatives. Solar, wind and biomass are increasingly part of our diverse power portfolio, and we believe that we will see continuing growth in this sector. Solar power and energy storage by batteries are front-runners in member-generated energy. This type of “distributed” generation, located on the utility distribution system itself, is very different from historical electric utility models where electricity flows in one direction from one source.

Not only are we seeing change in how electricity is generated, we’re also seeing change in how electricity is distributed and used. A “grid” can now serve a specific geographic area or a campus of industrial and commercial facilities. Electric power can be made in the same place where it is used. Consumers are more aware of their own usage and how they can manage it.

As we all become more interconnected with smartphones and online applications, it is more important than ever for electric cooperatives to offer resources that allow members to invest in systems that control their energy consumption from a variety of devices. As the power grid becomes more interconnected, it is also very important to secure our network from hackers and others with malicious intent. We are not simply preparing to do these jobs in the future, we have already made them part of how we do business every day.

Americans will rely even more on electricity as time goes on. As we make greater use of information technology and as we see more electric vehicles on our roadways, a stable and reliable electric grid is more essential to our members than ever before.

Electric cooperatives always have been committed to growing and adapting. Because we are locally-owned by our members and have always cooperated with other cooperatives, we maintain a remarkable flexibility to adapt and change. Our principles of democratic control and commitment to our communities have guided us all these years to provide safe, reliable and affordable power, no matter what changes we have faced. Rest assured: cooperatives will remain your utility of the future.

About the Author

Randy Brecheisen is president and CEO of Piedmont Electric Membership Corporation, the Touchstone Energy cooperative serving more than 31,000 member accounts in Caswell, Orange, Person and parts of Alamance, Durham and Granville counties.

Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest.

Like this?

Share it with others