We are blessed to live in Arkansas for many reasons, but one of those reasons is having an abundance of
domestic energy resources. The pioneers of the Arkansas electric cooperatives provided good stewardship to ensure that we developed our own electric generation plants that would provide reliable and affordable electricity, 24/7. To accomplish that goal, the leaders of the Arkansas electric cooperatives decided to establish a generation and transmission cooperative (G&T) so they would never be held hostage on the price of power by depending on someone else to supply their electricity.
The directors of the board of Arkansas’ G&T — named Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation, or AECC — made the decision in the early 1960s to begin building and owning their own power plants. The fi rst plant that was built was a dual fuel, natural gas/oil plant called Fitzhugh. Two more plants of the same fuel type were constructedthrough 1972. The first co-owned coal-based plant came online in 1978, which was a 50 percent investment with American Electric Power (AEP)-SWEPCO. Later, in the 1980s, AECC had the opportunity to acquire a 35 percent ownership interest in two other coal-based plants — White
Bluff and Independence — which were majority owned and operated by Entergy Arkansas.
Vision for future
From 1988 to 1999, the cooperatives invested in three run-of-the-river hydroelectric power plants, two of which were named after early cooperative leaders, Clyde T. Ellis and Carl Whillock. The third plant bears the name of the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, which includes the 17 electric distribution co-ops, the G&T and a statewide association, Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (AECI).
The next four plants that followed — constructed from 2001 to 2006 — were natural gas-based plants, while the last plant investment was a 71-megawatt interest in the latest, state-of-the-art coal plant constructed by
AEP-SWEPCO. All totaled, these plants provide Arkansas’ electric cooperative members with over 3,500 megawatts of reliable and affordable generation.
In addition to owning all or a portion of 14 different power plants, AECC has been steadily contracting foradditional hydropower, wind, solar and biomass energy. When low-cost wind energy became available from the plains of Oklahoma and Kansas, AECC purchased 374 megawatts from four different projects. A fi fth project, which will provide an additional 100 megawatts of wind, will be completed in 2020. And, in 2021, a large solar project in Crossett will add 100 megawatts of solar to AECC’s generation portfolio.
Altogether, this diverse energy portfolio, which includes seven different types of electricity production
spread across multiple states, provides you, our member, with a natural hedge against issues that may arise in the future. As we have all seen from stock market ups and downs, energy market prices can do the same thing. It’s always prudent to have diverse investments and avoid putting all of your eggs in one basket. AECC’s generation statistics for fiscal year 2018 prove that point.
Your electric cooperatives belong to two different regional energy markets — the Southwest Power Pool
(SPP) and the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO). Your Arkansas G&T participates in these markets. You receive the benefit of the least expensive power, whether it comes from AECC’s generation plants you own or others on the wholesale power market. Last year, AECC’s low-cost generation supplied 91.5 percent of cooperative member needs, while the energy markets supplied 8.5 percent. The cost of AECC’s power is among the lowest of any other G&T in the country, and this translates to lower-
cost electricity for you.
Energy availability is good, but reliable, low-cost energy is even better. And that’s what your cooperative workshard to deliver to your home, school or business. It’s the cooperative difference.
Sandra Byrd is vice president of public affairs and member services for Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC) and Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (AECI)