Ohio’s 24 electric cooperatives have been through a lot together over the past 80 years. Each has had periods of celebration and success and times of trial and challenge. Each has experienced both growth and loss, and, like everyone, adapted to changes in technology, work practices, attitudes, and expectations. Through the last 80 years, Ohio’s electric cooperatives have remained united in their support for and participation in their statewide association. Since the 1960s, they have all been joined together through the formation and operation of Buckeye Power to produce electricity from power plants that none could have developed or operated alone. Cooperation among cooperatives has provided benefits to each and every electric cooperative throughout its history.
That cooperation proved its value again last month when winter storm Landon dropped snow and ice over a huge swath of the nation. It hit southeast Ohio especially hard, as ice-crusted trees brought down electric lines and utility poles in some of the state’s most difficult-to-reach terrain — a lot of that in areas served by electric cooperatives. More than 60 cooperative lineworkers from around the state rallied to assist those co-ops in getting the lights back on for their members. Despite challenging weather conditions and nearly impassable roadways, they worked together to reduce outage times for thousands of cooperative members. It was a team effort, conducted safely and efficiently due to preparation and cooperation. The joint effort to create the Central Ohio Lineworker Training program, which develops and trains new lineworkers with consistent practices across the state; our participation in a statewide emergency response radio system to allow for communication between crews from 20 different cooperatives; and a coordinated emergency work plan all helped to get power back on more quickly and without injury.
Each cooperative remains independent and locally controlled. Each is as different as the communities that they serve. Yet all are stronger because of their commitment to working together in a unified manner to solve their common problems. Bad weather, economies of scale, new technologies, changing work force, government intervention — those are all challenges we can expect. Working together, cooperatively, we’ve been able to lower costs, provide a reliable electricity supply, better prepare our workforce, and implement new and improved technology. That is the power of cooperation.