Local and statewide stakeholders of Carroll EMC had keen ears at the annual Power Breakfast held Tuesday, Dec. 12, to hear of the co-op’s current state of affairs and endeavors that will impact them and their constituents going into the new year.
Carroll EMC’s President and CEO, Tim Martin, touched on industry insights like grid reliability, clean energy and infrastructure security as well as more localized efforts relating to work order automation and broadband. But before diving into the big topics, Martin wanted to remind the room of the cooperative’s purpose in formation and purpose in continuation.
“I don’t do this often, and I don’t think it’s shared enough,” said Martin. “And that would be our mission statement. Our vision is to enhance the quality of life in the communities we serve. In 1936, that was bringing electricity to rural West Georgia. Now, we’re doing this with broadband.
“We don’t want to be just an electric utility,” he added. “We want to really provide innovative solutions for our members that are safe, reliable and affordable.”
Shifting the focus to reliability, Martin highlighted the cooperative’s individual efforts to keep constant power flowing to members. Since implementing distribution automation in 2015, which in short allows system operators to isolate outages and refeed power from a different direction while repairs are being made, the average outage time has been reduced by 77 minutes per meter. Employees have also worked to streamline and digitize the work order process to better organize data and keep members updated on their projects.
“That’s something to really be proud of,” Martin said. “It’s taken us years to get here, but it benefits the members more than they know.”
Not all aspects of reliability are in the cooperative’s direct control, though. A year ago, the electric grid faced record-high demand when temperatures dropped below freezing for a consecutive number of days. This resulted in load shed across the south, but fortunately, EMCs in Georgia were unaffected. However, concerns for grid capacity remain as the resource mix shifts to natural gas and renewables and questions arise if those resources can meet the increased energy demand.
“The electric grid is changing,” said Martin. “Generation is changing from fossil fuel to renewable generation, which is great, but as we do that, it has to be done in a thoughtful manner and can’t be done too fast. We have to make sure we have the capacity to meet all the needs for our members.
“Exciting news is nuclear,” he continued. “Vogtle three is now online, and Vogtle four will be online the end of first quarter 2024. This will increase the amount of carbon-free energy we’re able to purchase and serves as a more sustainable source than some renewables.”
In closing, Martin highlighted the cooperative’s solar and electric vehicle advancements, including the installation of a solar flower at the Carrollton office and a public-facing charging station at the Chick-fil-A in Bremen. He ended on a high note by outlining the major milestones for fiber buildout. Crossbeam, the residential broadband company for SyncGlobal Telecom and the cooperative’s partner in building the fiber network, connected its 1,500th customer in November.
“It’s lifechanging,” said Martin. “If you talk to the members who now have access to broadband speed internet, they didn’t realize life could be so good. It allows them to do things from home that they weren’t able to do before, and that’s why we’re doing this. It’s all for our members.”