Power Lines

Jeff McCallister and an electric vehicle

EV road trip

In 2010, the first year that plug-in electric vehicles were commercially available, 300 were sold. The following year, that number climbed to almost 18,000, and by 2019, plug-in EV sales totaled 327,000 — about 2% of light-duty automobile sales that year.

Electric cooperatives across the nation are preparing for the increased EV market share — especially as automakers begin rolling out electric pickup trucks and medium SUV models that are more popular with rural drivers.

Several Ohio co-ops have installed chargers at their offices, some offer rebates on home charging equipment, and all include calculators on their websites that help their members determine the potential savings if they switch to EVs from their current combustion model. 

Government relations

80 years serving our members

Shortly after the first electric cooperatives formed in the 1930s, their leadership began to see some of the same challenges that small businesses everywhere face — chief among them being a lack of the buying power that larger companies enjoy.

The leaders of the co-ops started talking among themselves to find ways to negotiate better contracts to buy electricity, and they saw immediate benefits. It didn’t take long before they began to see real value in working together in other aspects of their business, as well. So, in 1941 — a little more than five years after Piqua-based Pioneer Electric Cooperative set the first co-op pole in the nation, and 80 years ago this summer — co-ops officially formed a statewide trade association: Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives. 

Steve Nelson

Milestones come and go

Steve Nelson didn’t necessarily plan to stay long in the job his peers elected him to back in 1996. 

Even early on, Nelson made a strong impression on the state’s other co-op managers, and he was elected as chairman of the board at a time when Buckeye Power was navigating some tricky issues, such as electricity deregulation and ever-more-stringent environmental regulation.

“I never planned to be chairman more than a little while,” says Nelson, now 65, who’s celebrating 25 years as Buckeye’s chairman this year. “I don’t know how much longer I’ll stay at it, but for now, it seems like they still want me, so I’ll keep doing what I can.”

Fullenkamp family

In the blink of a fly

It was a sunny, clear-blue-sky day on June 16, 2018. It also was a day that would forever change the lives of Leah Fullenkamp and her family. 

While he was driving his tractor on the roadway, a distracted driver — shopping on her phone and, based on crash reconstruction analysis, distracted for a full 16 seconds — plowed into the tractor and took John’s life. 

From that moment, everything changed. John’s death left Leah to raise their children, ranging in age from 8 months old to 9 years, by herself. “I lost my husband, my partner, and the father of my children,” Leah says. “Life got hard — really hard — and it happened instantly.”

Car crash

Costly diversions

More and more people get behind the wheels of cars these days with a phone or a sandwich in hand — or in any number of other attention-hogging situations — and give less and less of their concentration to driving safely.

From mere property damage to ruining — or ending — lives, some of those costs are easier to figure out than others. According to a survey of electric cooperatives in Ohio, for example, it costs $2,576, on average, to replace a pole that has been damaged in a car crash. Generally, that’s paid by the driver’s insurance, but not always. There are other costs, too. 

Roadside crew with danger sign

Danger zones

The constant presence of road crews, traffic cones, and orange barrels on Ohio highways, byways, and township roads is a way of life for Ohio drivers.

In the wee morning hours of Aug. 28, 2019, a line crew from Lancaster-based South Central Power Company was called to address a power hazard along State Route 73 near Hillsboro. An Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper guarded the zone while the crew established a new traffic path for drivers, setting cones and putting caution lights in place. As the linemen were about to begin work, the trooper confirmed that the work site met construction zone safety standards and headed out.

Firelands ACRE meeting with Bob Gibbs

Collective voice

Allen Heindel of Celina says he’s not particularly active politically, beyond voting for issues and candidates that represent his views. 

“I feel that Midwest does a nice job keeping us informed about what’s happening legislatively and how those things might affect the cost of electricity,” says Heindel, an engineer with Crown Equipment Corporation in New Bremen. “It just makes sense for electric cooperative members to have a voice in the legislative arena, because these are things that affect us every day.”

Valerie Williams reads to her children

A book for every child

Valerie Williams knew she wanted in from the moment she heard that the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library/Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library program was coming to Highland County.

When Ohio first lady Fran DeWine announced the program’s expansion into Highland County last March, Williams was not only one of those instrumental in promoting the program in the county, she was among the first to sign up.

Her sons, 4-year-old Porter and 1-year-old Moxley, now each get an age-appropriate book in the mail every month at no cost to the family.

Anthony Smith

The right way

Every now and then, Anthony Smith, president and CEO of Union Rural Electric Cooperative in Marysville, finds he’s dashed out of the house in the morning without eating breakfast, so he ends up in the drive-thru lane at the fast-food place next to his office to grab a bite

Every now and then, Anthony Smith, president and CEO of Union Rural Electric Cooperative in Marysville, finds he’s dashed out of the house in the morning without eating breakfast, so he ends up in the drive-thru lane at the fast-food place next to his office to grab a bite on his way to work. 

Co-op annual meeting

In the know

For customers of an investor-owned utility like AEP or Dayton Power and Light, communication with their electric company probably extends no further than paying their bill or finding out how long an outage might last.

“Members who are engaged are the ones who will attend the annual meeting — for more than just the chance of getting a bill credit,” says Michael Wilson, director of communications at Logan County Electric Cooperative, based in Bellefontaine. “Without engaged and educated members, the cooperative business model could not exist.”