Jeff McCallister

Matt Berry was one of the first Ohio co-op employees to go through the Leadership Edge program in 2017.  He has since been promoted to CEO at Midwest Electric in St. Marys (photo courtesy of Midwest Electric).

Getting an edge

Electric cooperatives often are destination workplaces within the communities they serve. Co-ops offer competitive pay, strong benefits packages, and a commitment to work-life balance.

Rise to the top

Matt Berry and Tim Street served similar roles at two Ohio distribution cooperatives in 2017 — Street was director of communications and member services at Mid-Ohio Energy Cooperative in Kenton, while Berry was manager of community and customer relations at St. Marys-based Midwest Electric — when the statewide cooperative association initiated a leadership-training program called Leadership Edge for co-op employees around Ohio. 

Logan County Electric Cooperative members who round up their electric bills help ensure programs like RTC Industries in Bellefontaine have the money they need to do critical work in their community. RTC, for example, used its grant from LCEC’s Operation Round Up to fund a service for young adults with developmental disabilities.

Neighbor helping neighbor

Jennifer Thornburgh, a member of Bellefontaine-based Logan County Electric Cooperative, hadn’t really thought much about the few pennies she added each month to her electric bill. 

As it turns out, Thornburgh’s donation — an average of $6 per year, a few nickels and dimes at a time — helped LCEC boost a program that helped her own family. One of LCEC’s Operation Round Up grants helped RTC Industries in Bellefontaine to provide a transition program for young adults with developmental disabilities.

Attendees of the Ohio Farm Bureau's  ExploreAg event get an up-close look at the profession at the Central Ohio Lineworker Training Facility in Mount Gilead.

Intro to line work

Mike Taylor was a few days away from a scheduled pre-hire lineworker assessment at Paulding Putnam Electric Cooperative when his little brother, Tim, attended an Ohio Farm Bureau ExploreAg one-day program at the

ExploreAg is Ohio Farm Bureau’s signature agricultural literacy and workforce development program. The majority of its offerings, which are free, are week- and weekend-long immersion camps for high school students. Teens get a broad-spectrum look at agriculture and related STEM fields, develop their leadership and collaboration skills, and prepare for college and/or a career.

Downed trees and power lines

Helping Hands

As Father’s Day approached this past June, so did a weather pattern that brought with it a series of storms across Ohio. The storms appeared initially to be strong, to be sure, but not out of line with the usual tempests that sweep through the Midwest every summer.

As the co-ops organized resources to restore the systems to turn power back on to their members, the next several days brought alternating extreme heat and additional powerful storm systems that made the work of restoring service both more dangerous and more plentiful. Problems on AEP’s high-voltage transmission network resulted in more than 100,000 central Ohio homes and businesses having their power intentionally shut off for long stretches of time.

Beat the peak

Sometime soon — perhaps sometime this month, but certainly in July and August — you’re likely to see a “peak alert” notice from your electric cooperative. 

What’s the peak?

It’s important that consumer-members are aware of those peaks because electric rates for the entire year are based on the highest points of usage during the year, referred to as “peak demand.” 

Judy and Larry Mercer with granddaughter, Lily.

Key to reliability

Judy Mercer was just sitting down with her family — all 16 of them — for Thanksgiving dinner in 2014 when the lights in their house near Wingett Run suddenly went dark.

“I’ve lived in the country my whole life, so honestly, I’m used to it,” Judy says. “We were actually thankful because we knew that there were linemen already out working on the problem even by the time we called it in, but that was when we got our generator.”

Harnessing the sun

Buckeye Power, the generation and transmission cooperative that provides electricity to Ohio’s 24 electric cooperatives, produces safe, affordable, and reliable power using an all-of-the-above generation strategy. 

Each potential generating resource — coal plants, solar panels, hydropower facilities, etc. — produces power at a different level of reliability, environmental impact, and cost, so the trick is to balance each factor in the generation mix to produce electricity in the safest, cleanest, most economical, and most reliable way possible. 

That’s already a complicated task, because some of those factors tend to be at odds with one another. In recent times, another factor has added another twist to those generation decisions: consumer attitudes. 

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. 

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.