Since their inception, electric cooperatives have operated on seven core cooperative principles. The sixth of these principles is “cooperation among cooperatives”. Cooperatives were built to serve their members in the most effective manner possible, therefore cooperatives from across the nation often work together in a variety of capacities. Cooperative storm restoration is one of the notable efforts that cooperatives take, where they join together to quickly and safely restore power when one cooperative experiences a mass outage. Similarly, cooperatives have been known to join forces in the joint use of employees, where one employee takes on duties from two cooperatives, creating a number of benefits for both organizations.
At the board meetings of Macon Electric Cooperative on Monday, April 30 and Lewis County REC on Tuesday, May 1, both cooperatives voted to approve a “cooperative” arrangement where the duties of Macon Electric’s General Manager, Todd Schroeder, would be shared between the two organizations. It was agreed that Schroeder would begin serving in this capacity in May of 2018.
Todd Schroeder has been serving as the General Manager of Macon Electric Cooperative since August of 2016. Prior to this position, he served in Engineering and as a District Manager for First Electric Cooperative in Arkansas for 18 years.
Both cooperatives are excited about the benefits that this will bring to the table. Having this connection can lead to increased collaboration amongst the employees in the cooperative. For example, joint efforts in safety will be an insurmountable bonus that each cooperative will receive. By collaborating on safety education, training, and outreach, the cooperatives can jointly expand their knowledge of safety practices, as well as improve their safety procedures. Knowledge-sharing is becoming more and more prevalent in today’s society, therefore both cooperatives felt that this link between them would open up a solid stream of knowledge that would prove beneficial for both organizations. In the past, the two cooperatives have collaborated with finance support, as well as safety management. Both of these ventures proved to be substantially beneficial for each organization.
One of the primary goals of any cooperative is rate stabilization. Cooperatives care about keeping costs as low as possible for their membership, and one of the ways to do so is through working diligently to keep operating expenses low. This venture will have a positive impact on operating expenses, as the cooperatives will likely see financial savings when working towards agreements with joint contractors in avenues such as right of way maintenance and pole inspections.
There are also technological improvements and advancements that will stem from this opportunity. Both cooperatives will be able to work together to take advantage of the technologies that are available to them, thus creating a stronger push towards using these systems to their full potential. It is no secret that a meeting of the minds can lead to growth in any capacity. If both operations and engineering departments work together, pulling from a variety of experience and knowledge levels, there is no limit to the potential for technological advancement and opportunity. In addition, the networks of each cooperative could potentially be interconnected through fiber at the substations. This could lead to a joint dispatching effort that would be much more efficient, as well as seamless for the membership.
In addition to operational technology, information technology can be improved upon as well. As of late, many cooperatives across the nation have been working jointly to host their information technology systems, with backups at each location. This can be of great benefit to information retention, as well as cyber security. Members can rest assured that information is being protected in the most efficient manner possible.
“This decision was not arrived at lightly by either board,” stated Schroeder. “Due to the knowledgeable and experienced employees at both cooperatives, the boards felt that each cooperative system would be well prepared to take on this collaborative effort.”
“Through this process, two forward-thinking cooperative boards have joined together to take a positive step into the future,” stated Larry Clark, director of Lewis County REC. “The Lewis County board is looking forward to this venture and would like to thank the MEC board of directors for allowing this arrangement to take place.”