US electric co-ops work to bring power to Guatemalan village

'Access to electricity will bring economic empowerment, better access to health care and enhanced safety for these villagers'

12 linemen from Oklahoma’s electric co-ops have been selected to serve on an electrification project that will bring power to the remote village of La Montanita de la Virgen in Guatemala this August.

The volunteers, selected by the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives (OAEC) will join four more lineworkers from Colorado’s electric co-ops to build powerlines, install transformers and conduct internal wiring. The work, when completed, will bring power to 76 homes, a school, a health centre and a church.

The work will bring power to 76 homes, a school, a health centre and a church
2022 Energy Trails Guatemala Volunteers

The Energy Trails project is coordinated by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA) philanthropic arm, NRECA International, and overseen by OAEC’s International Committee.

International Committee chair, Jimmy Taylor, said: “We are grateful for the positive response of Oklahoma co-op linemen who are willing to leave their homes and families for an extended period of time to empower far-away communities.

“Access to electricity will bring economic empowerment, better access to health care and enhanced safety for these villagers. It’s a life-changing gift.”

The Energy Trails volunteers will work for three weeks on a seven-mile stretch of mountainous terrain, to wire 43 poles and install six transformers, enabling 76 homes in the village to receive electricity for the first time.

This project is the fifth electrification project Oklahoma’s electric co-operatives have sponsored in Central and South America. In 2019 the Oklahoma and Colorado’s electric co-ops joined forces to bring first-time electricity to the remote village of Sillab in Guatemala. 

Dale Kishbaugh from Colorado Rural Electric Association took part in the mission to Sillab. He said that working on the project “really makes all the linemen have to think outside the box,” adding: “It really does take guys back to the basics of line work. They get to see what it was like for the first linemen that went out and built line and didn’t have all the special tools that we have at home right now.”

OAEC general manager Chris Meyers said: “Bringing electricity to remote areas in developing countries takes electric cooperatives back to their roots. It is an honour to pay it forward. This mission reinforces our commitment to empower generations by improving the quality of life for local communities at home and abroad.”

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