You own an enterprise


 Have you ever heard the phrase “from soup to nuts?” Wikipedia defines it to mean “from beginning to end.” It is also described as a full-course dinner! Well, this concept of “having it all” is what you get as a member-owner of your local electric distribution cooperative. Your membership in your local cooperative means that you own a piece of almost everything that it takes to provide reliable, affordable electricity to your home or business.

You are a part of a large and diverse enterprise that includes everything from generation plants (coal, natural gas and hydropower) to wind farms and solar fields. It includes the transmission lines, substations and distribution lines that carry electricity to your home or business, as well as the services required to build and maintain those facilities. And, the company that you are part owner of also includes two manufacturing facilities that produce transformers and power electronics.

Here is a brief overview of the business that you own a piece of:

  • You are a member-owner of your electric distribution cooperative, which has a local office in your community.
  • There are 17 electric distribution co-ops in Arkansas, which serve portions of 74 of Arkansas’ 75 counties, as well as counties in Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas and Louisiana.
  • These 17 electric distribution cooperatives serve more than 500,000 homes, farms and businesses, equating to more than 1 million people.
  • The electric distribution cooperatives own Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC) and Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (AECI).
  • AECC provides generation and transmission service and owns all or a portion of 14 power plants, along with transmission lines and substations necessary to deliver power to its member-owners.
  • AECI provides material sales, protective equipment testing, and right-of-way and construction services. Anything a utility might need to build or maintain a system is provided by AECI. These essential services are offered and used by electric co-ops and other utilities in Arkansas and other states.

AECI’s right-of-way clearing and construction crews are the backbone of maintaining a reliable delivery system for the electricity that you count on. While right-of-way crews ensure that the transmission and distribution lines stay free from tree growth, construction crews focus on building new lines and facilities for extending services into new areas and updating and modernizing existing structures. These crews are also the storm warriors who remove fallen trees and debris after strong winds, tornadoes, ice storms or other acts of nature, and rebuild the circuits to restore power to you. One of our favorite phrases is “Thank a lineworker,” because it is these men and women who brave the elements to restore your power after a storm.

Two additional companies within Arkansas’ electric cooperative system are less known, but they make a significant contribution to the overall financial strength of the cooperatives and the related benefits to members such as yourself. One of these companies is called “ERMCO,” which stands for the Electric Research and Manufacturing Cooperative. ERMCO is one of the largest transformer manufacturers in the United States.

The other electric product company is GridBridge, an ERMCO subsidiary, which is a power electronics company. Their products include a grid energy router, which is used to manage energy and voltage in traditional types of utility service, as well as for integrating renewable generation and energy storage into the electric grid. ERMCO and GridBridge products are sold in the United States and beyond.

And, last but not least, you own this magazine. We certainly hope that you enjoy it and find it interesting, entertaining and informative. It is one of the many benefits and services that your local electric cooperative provides to you as one of their member-owners.

All in all, you have a very unique ownership interest in one of the most successful cooperative organizations in the country. Your cooperative provides reliable power, and your power cost ranks among the lowest of the more than 900 member-owned cooperatives operating in 47 states! Your local cooperative leaders have demonstrated wisdom and commitment to you — their member-owners — since the 1930s and 1940s. And that’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).