Where 2016 Has Brought Us
by Nelle HotchkissBy Nelle Hotchkiss
I enjoy this time of year in North Carolina. The holidays bring family together, the heat of the summer is well behind us, and the hard cold of winter has yet to really settle in. It’s also a nice time to look back and reflect on the past year. For North Carolina’s electric cooperatives, it’s been a busy 12 months.
For one, new technology continues to open up new opportunities for electric co-ops and our members. Technology is changing the way people think about energy. Appliances are getting more energy efficient. Thermostats are getting “smarter” and can be controlled through your “smart” phone. And renewable energy options and storage technology are becoming more attainable.
For most, it can be hard to separate the hype from what can actually save money in the long run. But electric co-ops navigate this changing landscape every day, and over the past year we’ve continued to find innovative options that provide our members the most “bang for their buck,” and put technology to use.
One example is community solar, where co-op members can buy a share of a solar project in exchange for a credit on their monthly bill. Electric co-ops currently have 18 of these projects either operational or underway across North Carolina. We’re also deploying microgrid and energy storage pilot projects in some parts of the state, testing their ability to improve reliability while controlling costs. (See “More Power to You” for an overview of co-op innovation and engagement.)
Putting the latest technology to work for you is important, but co-ops also have been focused on improving the communities where we live and work. During 2016, we continued to stand out as a national leader in our use of loans and grants provided through U.S. Department of Agriculture rural economic development programs. Through the programs, electric co-ops are assisting localities to fund projects that create and retain jobs in our communities. To this end, we’ve brought more than $8 million into the state this year in support of community service, education and industrial projects.
We were also proud to send 39 North Carolina high school students to Washington, D.C., this summer as part of the annual Youth Tour program.
These students are the future leaders of our communities, and the Youth Tour gives them the opportunity to meet their legislators and see our federal governments in action.
And of course, in 2016 we remained committed to keeping your lights on. Although Mother Nature didn’t always cooperate, we relied on our expertise and, when need be, on our fellow electric co-ops to recover from severe storms and widespread outages. The year brought ice and wind storms, a tropical storm and a hurricane, but our crews worked tirelessly around the clock until all power was restored.
These are just a few of our accomplishments from 2016. Although there were some challenging times, it was a great year for North Carolina’s electric cooperatives and our members, and I’m looking forward to what 2017 will bring.