In 2020, SECC will be recognizing a member each month, providing an organizational profile and highlighting the member's accomplishments and output in the smart energy space.
Driven by service and inspired by innovation, North Carolina’s electric cooperatives are building a brighter future for the 2.5 million North Carolinians they serve. Beyond providing electricity, each of the 26 not-for-profit, member-owned and locally based cooperatives is investing in its communities and delivering new energy solutions to improve quality of life in 93 of North Carolina’s 100 counties.
Recognizing and supporting the priorities of their members, the state’s electric cooperatives are embarking on new efforts to preserve the reliability and affordability of electricity while also achieving significant sustainability goals. By bringing existing and new resources together and encouraging the direct participation of their members, North Carolina’s electric cooperatives are creating a modern electric grid that is more flexible, resilient and capable of supporting the growing needs and vitality of local communities.
To achieve this low-cost, low-carbon future, the state’s electric cooperatives are targeting a 50-percent drop in carbon emissions from their 2005 levels by 2030 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. These goals will be achieved primarily through a continued reliance on emissions-free nuclear power, which is a safe, reliable and affordable energy source that the cooperative network has invested in for decades. The cooperatives are also incorporating more renewable energy, as well as new technologies like battery storage to make these renewable sources even more reliable and versatile.
The ongoing involvement of members will continue to be critical in these sustainability efforts, as the co-ops are increasingly utilizing devices located in the homes of members to manage traffic on the grid and reduce peak demand for power. North Carolina’s electric cooperatives are also partnering with their members to use electricity in new ways and electrify devices and processes previously powered by fossil fuels to achieve a wide range of far-reaching benefits, including improved environmental sustainability.
A radical transformation is occurring in the utility industry as new resources are added to the grid. Using a sophisticated energy management platform, North Carolina’s electric cooperatives are carefully coordinating and dispatching these interconnected resources to meet electricity demand, balance traffic on the grid and ensure that power is reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible. By coordinating these resources, the co-ops are creating a virtual power plant that can offset the need to build traditional power generation, resulting in significant cost savings for their members.
Many of these distributed energy resources stem directly from co-op members, including smart thermostats and water heater controls, residential solar and even electric vehicles, which act as a battery and store energy while they are charging. North Carolina’s electric cooperatives are also pursuing a range of innovative energy solutions – from microgrids to solar and storage – that further contribute to enhanced grid flexibility and efficiency.
The cooperatives are uniquely positioned among utilities to embrace this new energy landscape because their local structure makes them particularly nimble, flexible and aware of the individual needs and capabilities of the members and communities they serve.
Providing reliable, affordable and sustainable power is just part of the cooperative commitment to building a brighter future. Beyond electricity, North Carolina’s electric cooperatives are empowering their communities through efforts to expand economic development and broadband access, and through education and workforce development initiatives that make rural areas more competitive and attractive.
This concern for community is a hallmark of the cooperative difference. The cooperatives’ commitment to community support has been amplified by the unprecedented circumstances brought on by COVID-19 as they strive to reach out to those in need in additional ways, from establishing Wi-Fi hot spots that provide essential Internet access to providing funding to local organizations.
As North Carolina’s electric cooperatives look to the next decade and beyond, they will continue to seek out new and innovative ways to provide reliable electricity at the lowest possible cost while also advancing the pursuit of responsible sustainability goals. Their actions will continue to be guided by local needs because the brightest parts of the future are the people and communities they serve.
For more information about how North Carolina’s electric cooperatives are building a brighter future, visit ncelectriccooperatives.com/brighter.