Leading the Future - Carolina Country

Leading the Future

Electric co-ops are on the cutting edge of an industry transformation

By Jim Matheson

Jim MathesonIn February, leaders from your electric cooperative joined others from across the country in Nashville, Tennessee, to discuss key topics and trends at the 2018 National Rural Electric Cooperative Association annual meeting.

Throughout the meeting — under the theme “Leading the Energy Future” — one fact was clear: Electric cooperatives are uniquely positioned to lead the energy future while ensuring their members benefit from cutting-edge technologies. That’s because we have a business model that can’t be beat. We are driven to exceed the needs and expectations of co-op members.

That goal has already taken us to great heights. But it has not changed our fundamental mission to provide reliable and affordable electricity. In fact, that mission is our springboard to the future.

The local control and unique community relationship empowers co-ops to be hubs of innovation where member demands and new technology can intersect — in many instances for the very first time.

The very nature of the electric industry is changing. And many cooperatives are on the cutting edge of this transformation, which gives consumers greater control over how they use electricity and access new energy options. 

That’s why electric co-ops were among the earliest adopters of new technology to automatically detect outages and improve system reliability while expediting power restorations.

Electric cooperatives across the nation are working to harness smart grid advances to provide consumers with new energy-saving opportunities. 

Here in North Carolina, co-ops are using solar panels and Tesla batteries to pioneer new microgrid technology (see The Agile, Fractal Grid). The effort is one of several co-op projects across the nation to create small community grids that can function independently and enhance reliability. 

And as they continue to lead the energy future, electric co-ops across the country are working to bring broadband internet to their communities, creating jobs and boosting rural economies. This connectivity serves two fundamental purposes: bridging the digital divide for co-op members and enhancing the co-op business operation network, improving their ability to offer new energy management options to members.

Electric co-ops are driven by close ties to their local communities. As part of this commitment, co-ops are taking meaningful steps to make the energy future a possibility for each of their members.

About the Author

Jim Matheson is CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives.

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