Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 20

GEORGIA'S Energy Outlook

By Dennis Chastain

Co-ops and the local
communities they serve

W

e like the word "local." We like it because it's where
we meet friends for coffee. It's the shop where they
look us in the eye and smile. It's a word of warmth
that makes us feel known.
Local also means your electric co-op. It's as local as you
and your neighbors because you own it. It's grown and changed
with you, possibly starting before you were even born. And it
changes to help out with what's going on in your community,
whether that means bringing electricity to farmsteads 80 years
ago or helping to navigate COVID-19 social distancing today.
October is National Co-op Month, and this year, it makes
sense to use this time to recognize and celebrate the variety that
is the essence of being local.
That local heritage for electric co-ops started in the 1930s
with neighborly visits, often on horseback from one farm to the
next, talking about the lights that rural residents could see in the
city but didn't have themselves. They weren't likely to get those
modern conveniences because no company saw a profit in
stringing wires to power a few lightbulbs in a remote farmhouse.
So the local farmers took matters into their own hands.
They pooled $5 startup fees; organized member-owned, not-forprofit electric cooperatives; and convinced local politicians to
create a federal loan program to help with the rest of the cost.
They created what others didn't see: one of the most efficient
agricultural economies in the world and communities based
around a variety of businesses and industry, from manufacturing to tourism.
Today, 900 electric co-ops provide electricity to more than

20

Georgia Magazine

October 2020

20 million businesses, homes, schools and farms. They cover
more than half the land in the United States. They employ more
then 68,000 people and invest $12 billion a year in local
economies, contributing $88.4 billion to the nation's gross
domestic product.
While those numbers reflect the variety and uniqueness of
who co-ops serve, what they do also matters.

Less pollution, more renewable energy
As co-op members became more aware of environmental
concerns, co-ops focused on reducing power plant emissions.
From 2009 to 2016, co-ops reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 8 percent, nitrogen oxide emissions by 24 percent and
sulphur dioxide emissions by 66 percent. Co-ops also launched
energy efficiency programs, many of which offered homes and
businesses "energy checkups" to make sure members got the
best value for their energy dollars.
Electric co-ops are helping power the growth in renewable
energy. They pioneered the development of community solar,
which allows co-op members to participate in renewable energy
without the expense and effort of installing solar panels on their
own property. Co-op solar capacity has more than quadrupled
in the past five years. Seventeen percent of co-op electricity now
comes from hydroelectric power, solar, wind and other renewable sources.
And now that we're all faced with the fallout from the effects of COVID-19, electric co-ops are again on the job as the
virus changes everything from the national economy to how we
say hello to our neighbors.
Electric co-ops are developing payment plans
for people out of work. They're socially distancing
line crews. They're setting up drive-in or virtual
membership meetings and offering virtual energy
audits.
The world keeps changing, and electric
co-ops will continue to adapt. Co-ops' approaches
may differ, but they'll do whatever it takes to adapt
in ways that make the most sense for the people
in their communities. That's what it means to be a
local electric co-op.
Dennis Chastain is president/CEO of Tuckerbased Georgia Electric Membership Corp., the
statewide trade association representing the state's
41 electric cooperatives, Oglethorpe Power Corp.,
Georgia Transmission Corp. and Georgia System
Operations Corp.



Georgia Magazine - October 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Magazine - October 2020

Contents
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - Intro
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - Cover1
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - Cover2
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - Contents
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 4
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 5
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 6
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 7
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 8
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 9
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 10
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 11
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 12
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 13
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 14
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 15
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 16
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 17
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 18
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 19
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 20
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 21
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 22
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 23
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 24
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 25
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 26
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 27
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 28
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 29
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 30
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 31
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 32
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 33
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 34
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 35
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 36
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 37
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - 38
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - Cover3
Georgia Magazine - October 2020 - Cover4
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