Oklahoma’s Electric Cooperatives Electrify Remote Guatemalan Village
December 11, 2017
OKLAHOMA CITY – This Christmas, 65 families in a rural, isolated Guatemalan village will enjoy the gift of electricity for the first time. Thanks to Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives, the village of Chiis in the department (state) of Alta Verapaz, northwest Guatemala, is fully electrified.
In a cooperative effort to increase access to electricity in developing nations, the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives (OAEC) has partnered with NRECA International, the philanthropic arm for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), to electrify this poverty-stricken village in rural Guatemala. In October, a team of 13 co-op linemen, electricians and engineers spent three weeks building powerlines and wiring homes for first-time electricity.
“Bringing electricity to remote areas in developing countries takes electric cooperatives back to their roots,” says OAEC General Managers Chris Meyers. “It reinforces our commitment to improve the quality of life for local communities at home and abroad.”
The village of Chiis sits atop a mountain at 2,700 feet in altitude. The project consisted of wiring more than 50 poles in challenging terrain and wiring 65 homes in the span of approximately 2 miles of primary line and 1.2 miles of secondary line. The volunteers stayed at a training center near the village. The village of Chiis is isolated and economically vulnerable. Residents mainly produce beans, spices and corn for self-consumption. Most villagers speak a Mayan-based dialect, Kekchi. A local utility, ADECORK, generates power to the village of Chiis by way of a small hydroelectric plant. The utility will also maintain the powerlines built by Oklahoma co-op linemen.
The following volunteers served on this project: Jason Blalock (Cookson Hills Electric Cooperative, Stigler-Okla.), Jason Childress (East Central Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, Okmulgee-Okla.), Jake Collier (Northwestern Electric Cooperative, Woodward-Okla.), Daniel Franco (Canadian Valley Electric Cooperative, Seminole-Okla.), Darren Frazier (Choctaw Electric Cooperative, Hugo-Okla.), Heath Gossen (CKenergy Electric Cooperative, Binger-Okla.), Team Leader Damon Lester (Indian Electric Cooperative, Cleveland-Okla.), Tim Jenlink (Alfalfa Electric Cooperative, Cherokee-Okla.), Rodney Johnson (Cimarron Electric Cooperative, Kingfisher-Okla.), Clint Mobley (Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, Norman-Okla.), Andrew Pool (Central Electric Cooperative, Stillwater-Okla.), Matt Montgomery (Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative, Vinita-Okla.), and Jeremy Shaffer (Kiamichi Electric Cooperative, Wilburton-Okla.)
“We are grateful for the overwhelming response of Oklahoma co-op linemen who left their homes for an extended period of time to empower far-away communities,” says OAEC International Committee Chairman Jimmy Taylor. “Access to electricity will bring economic empowerment, better access to health care and enhanced safety for these villagers. It’s a life-changing gift.”
Electric cooperatives have a long-standing tradition of bringing lights where there are none. Co-ops were the driver for rural electrification in America’s countryside, including rural Oklahoma, in the 1930s and 1940s. Today, however, there are still 1.1 billion people – or 15 percent of the world population – who live without access to electricity, according to the Energy International Agency.
In 2016, Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives established a 501(c)3 not-for-profit, The Oklahoma Energy Trails Foundation, to support this cause. All contributions are tax-deductible. To learn more, visit: http://tinyurl.com/energytrails