North Carolina’s electric cooperatives want to build a brighter future for rural North Carolina through efforts to enrich communities, drive economic development and deliver reliable, affordable, sustainable electricity.
Courtesy of NREL
“Electric cooperatives are leading a wide range of economically sound, innovative energy solutions to provide our members with reliable, affordable electricity while also achieving responsible sustainability goals,” said Nelle Hotchkiss, COO and senior vice president of Association Services for N.C. Electric Cooperatives during a recent virtual event.
Hotchkiss announced that the network of 26 electric cooperatives is working together to pursue two voluntary sustainability goals: a 50% reduction in carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 2030 and net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Panelists at the event included cooperative CEOs Jeff Clark of Jacksonville-based Jones-Onslow EMC, Paul Spruill of Pantego-based Tideland EMC and Curtis Wynn of Aulander-based Roanoke Electric, who shared their local efforts for achieving these network-wide goals.
“Tideland EMC is developing a microgrid with our largest consumer-member to help them achieve their sustainability goals,” Spruill said. Located at Rose Acre Farms, the second largest egg producer in the nation, the microgrid coordinates interconnected local resources, including solar panels expected to offset a third of the farm’s total energy, as well as battery storage and control technologies.
“This partnership is the direct result of the fact we (Tideland EMC) are embedded within the local community and are keenly aware of needs and capabilities of our members,” Spruill said. “I am pleased we can work together to develop a mutually beneficial solution that positions our entire region for growth and success.”
Because North Carolina’s 26 electric cooperatives are local and not-for-profit, their vision of a brighter future extends beyond electricity to enriching communities through education initiatives, economic development and access to services that help bridge the state’s urban/rural divide.
For Wynn at Roanoke Electric that means launching an initiative called Roanoke Connect to expand high-speed internet access to unserved parts of the community. This initiative supports Roanoke Electric’s business needs, like engaging members with Wi-Fi enabled energy services, and it also “provides our members access to essential activities, like telemedicine, remote learning and even the ability to apply for jobs,” Wynn said.
Engaging with cooperative members through energy services will be a key part of the cooperatives’ brighter future efforts to make the electric grid more flexible, efficient and resilient, according to Jones-Onslow EMC’s Clark. “Member engagement has always been a priority, but for the first time, we are now engaging members through internet-connected thermostats and water heater controllers so we can carefully manage traffic on the grid when demand for it is highest,” he said.
North Carolina’s 26 electric cooperatives collectively power the lives of approximately 2.5 million people in 93 of the state’s 100 counties.
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