Power Lines

Jody Williams, a key accounts representative at Lancaster-based South Central Power Company, performs job functions such as member service, business development, and event planning — even employee relations at times.

The jobs most people likely think of when they consider working at the local electric cooperative either require advanced electrical engineering degrees or involve climbing poles and working in potentially hazardous conditions — which might make working for the co-op seem e

Along with the aforementioned lineworkers and engineers, most co-ops employ:

Development such as the Intel manufacturing facility in Licking County is driving increasing demand for electricity, adding renewed importance to reliable coal-fired generation such as that provided by the Cardinal Plant in Brilliant.

Electric cooperatives have a long history of standing up for themselves when the needs of their members are not being met. 

Hosting elected officials at the co-ops’ Central Ohio Lineworker Training Facility in Mount Gilead or the Mone power plant in Convoy gives co-ops a chance to highlight the cooperative difference — to show firsthand how locally owned, not-for-profit co-ops do more with less every day to serve their members. 

Co-op managers and trustees also meet those leaders on their own turf, traveling to the Ohio Statehouse or to Washington, D.C., to share a united constituent voice. 

Olivia Velasquez says her experience on Youth Tour helped set her apart as she applied to college.

Every June, electric cooperatives from around Ohio and across the nation sponsor high school sophomores and juniors on a trip to Washington, D.C., where the students learn about the cooperative business model, visit Capitol Hill to meet with legislative leaders, and explore the rich history of th


The Youth Tour was a pivotal experience during my transition from high school to college. Growing up in a tiny Ohio village, attending even tinier Pandora-Gilboa High School, I attended Youth Tour in 2013. After high school, I pursued my education at Harvard University, and I am currently studying at the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine.

Man with baby in backpack and woman stand on bridge in front of a waterfall.

In the middle of one night this past July, Pioneer Electric Cooperative experienced an outage affecting 1,041 members.

Leading the way

Electric cooperatives are not strangers to overcoming challenges. Co-ops were born because bringing power to rural America was (and remains) a difficult task that for-profit utilities wanted no part of.

That explains why, from their beginnings, electric cooperatives have been at the forefront of developing, adopting, and using cutting-edge technology — not because it’s fun and fancy, but because it’s a necessity.

In March, more than 30 high school students from Adams County participated in a co-op career fair at Ohio State’s Center for Cooperatives in Piketon with representatives from area co-ops, including Adams Rural Electric Cooperative and South Central Power Company, who shared many of the ways students can launch careers in a cooperative business.

When you think about cooperative businesses, what comes to mind? For most reading this, it’s probably the local electric cooperative.

The Center for Cooperatives opened in 2017 at OSU’s South Centers in Piketon. Faculty and staff work with businesses throughout the state with a focus on cooperative education, applied research, and support. 

Program director Hannah Scott grew up in an agricultural community and says she appreciates the unique approach of how co-ops conduct business: The members own it, benefit from it, and make decisions about it.

A small crowd gathers next to the Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives Education Building during the Farm Science Review to watch South Central Power Company’s live line safety demonstration.

It’s not unusual for the crew of lineworkers from Lancaster-based South Central Power Company to hang around and make small talk with attendees after they’ve finished their hourly live-wire safety demonstrations at the annual

“Our guys are really good about making sure they answer everyone’s questions, and they’ll stick around as long as they need to,” says Candi Fisher, member engagement coordinator at South Central Power, who coordinates the mobile safety demonstrations for the co-op. “They could tell this older gentleman wanted to talk to them and so they went over to say hello.”

“You saved my life,” the man said. 

“That’s not something you hear every day,” Fisher says. “But he was very insistent. He made a special trip there that day to thank the guys who had saved his life.”

Bethany Schunn at Cardinal Power Plant

Electric power is a service that is simultaneously deeply appreciated and yet taken for granted.

Powering Ohio’s co-ops

“We all take electricity for granted, until you’re at your own house and you lose it, and then you say, ‘Where’s the power company?’” laughs Schunn, plant manager for the Cardinal Power Plant in Brilliant, a small town on the Ohio River in eastern Ohio. Cardinal’s three coal-burning units produce up to 1,800 megawatts of power at a given moment. It’s the main baseload generating plant for Buckeye Power.

In June of 2022, after fierce storms ripped through the region, areas in and around Columbus were hit with power outages. Residents flocked to cooling centers as temperatures soared into the 90s.

That emergency balancing act is known by many names, including “intermittent outage” or “forced outage,” but is most commonly called a “rolling blackout.” It can happen when a peak in electricity use — usually during extremely hot or extremely cold weather — coincides with significant gaps in the generation or transmission of electricity, says Ben Wilson, director of power delivery engineering for Buckeye Power, which supplies electricity to Ohio’s electric cooperatives. 

Matthew and Emily Bania, with their children, Kora, 5, and Lane, 2, live between Pleasant City and Sarahsville in rural Noble County. Their home is served by Washington Electric Cooperative.

Emily Bania has been a member of an electric cooperative for as long as she can remember. Growing up around Belle Valley, she and her family were members of Marietta-based Washington Electric Cooperative.

Emily’s story is typical for co-op members. They get their electricity from, and pay their bills to, one of Ohio’s 25 electric distribution cooperatives; usually vote in the election for the co-op’s board of directors; and maybe attend the annual meeting of members. They might even get capital credits in the form of a check or a bill credit at the end of the year when the not-for-profit co-op’s revenues outpace its expenses.

A map of the system of transmission lines in the U.S. resembles a roadmap, because, in a way, that’s exactly what it is.

Again in late March and early April, a series of powerful storms swept through Ohio — this time bringing gale-force winds that brought down trees, snapped utility poles, and pulled wide stretches of power line to the ground, causing electricity to stop flowing to homes and

For the vast majority of time, no one really thinks about electricity or where it comes from, or how it gets to that lightbulb. It’s only during that fraction of a percent of the hours in a year when power is not available that the grid comes to public attention.

But what is ‘the grid’?

In the United States, the electricity industry has a generating capacity of 1.1 million megawatts, serving up electricity to nearly every home and business — including over a million Ohioans and 42 million people across the country who are served by electric cooperatives.