President Obama hosts meeting with electrical co-op leaders

President Obama recently hosted a meeting of electrical co-op leaders in Washington DC to discuss disaster management strategies.

President Obama recently hosted a meeting with electrical co-op leaders in Washington DC to discuss disaster management strategies.

Thirty-six executives from across the utility industry joined the US President in a session that took place at the Department of Energy headquarters last month. The aim of the meeting was to further co-operation among the electrical utilities in order to be better prepared to respond to disasters, such as last year's Hurricane Sandy.

Sandy caused power outages that affected more 10 million people after it struck the East Coast in late October, with around 67,000 lineworkers and support personnel spending more than two weeks repairing the infrastructure.

Following the session on 8 May, Jo Ann Emerson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) said the electric co-op service territory had not been as hard-hit during Sandy as that of investor-owned and municipal utilities.

“Our peak outages were estimated at about 150,000. Our long-standing mutual assistance programme (co-operatives helping co-operatives) meant we were able to get our folks back on and then offer assistance to the hardest hit areas of the country."

Ms Emerson also said that President Obama was very engaged in the discussion: “It was great to see during the meeting that President Obama understands the unique role electric co-operatives play in the electric power sector. His vision seems to be that all stripes of electric utilities will work together, before, during and after significant disasters.”

According to Ms Emerson, one of the positive aspects of the industry’s performance during Sandy was the fact that both the government and the industry coordinated their efforts and worked closely across a number of channels throughout the critical recovery period. However, the CEO of NRECA said in the future some responding crews ought to be deployed more effectively.

Ms Emerson added that the Administration was working closely with electric co-operatives as part of the National Infrastructure Advisory Council, an ongoing dialogue between the electric power sector and the Energy and Homeland Security departments.

“This is covering not only storms, but also cybersecurity events. We have seen high-level officials make and keep commitments to contribute knowledge, people and time to this process,” she said.

NRECA is also working with other co-operatives from various sectors, both in the US and around the world to help its members to provide safe reliable, affordable, electric power. “We are firmly committed to the sixth co-operative principle – co-operation among co-operatives – and will be sharing what we learn as this initiative moves forward,” concluded Ms Emerson.

NRECA is a US organisation representing 900 not-for-profit electric co-operatives and public power districts. These provide electric service to more than 42 million consumers in 47 states across the US. Their sales account for 12 per cent of total electricity sales in the US.

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