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Managing change on behalf of members

Chris Meyers

These changes come about as the greatest engineering achievement of the 20th century—the electric grid—undergoes ongoing transformation.

Think of the U.S. electric grid as the largest machine in the country. The grid is a complex system that includes power generation plants, high-voltage transmission lines, substations, transformers as well as local distribution lines. These components of the grid connect electricity producers and consumers 24/7, ensuring the delivery of reliable electric power, as it is expected by consumers across the nation. Just like other “machines” have advanced over the years—like an automobile, a refrigerator, or even a telephone (now smartphones)—the grid has evolved significantly since its beginnings in the early 1900s. What started out as isolated electric utilities operating independently from each other has become an interconnected web that forms larger networks for reliability and shared efficiencies.

The grid was built around large, central station power plants often located near the load they serve and primarily using fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. These power plants were long-term investments, which enabled utilities and consumers to benefit from economies of scale while ensuring demand for electricity was met no matter the time of the day.

Today, as power plants reach the end of their useful life, there are opportunities to upgrade our electric infrastructure by integrating renewable energy generation sources such as wind and solar, which are often located far from where electricity demand is concentrated and far from existing transmission. Electric cooperatives are leaders in adding renewable energy sources to the power grid, installing utility-scale wind and solar projects as well as community solar projects throughout the nation. Other energy sources that can be integrated into the grid are known as distributed energy resources or DER. DERs are small-scale power generation sources that provide electricity to a site closer to the load source than a central generation station. DERs can come in the form of wind turbines, solar panels, internal combustion generators, fuel cells and others.

Your electric co-op understands the industry is changing. Your co-op’s position is to be an active player in this transition by carefully and responsibly navigating through changes in a way that keeps your best interest at heart. As the grid evolves, electric cooperatives are committed to innovation, cooperation with the determination that any transition should be sustainable, affordable, fair, and reliable to you, our members.