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Looking Forward

Shaping our energy future through innovation

April 2024

by Anne Prince, Contributing Columnist

The energy industry is undergoing significant change driven by technology and the transition to more sustainable forms of energy. Innovation is essential in addressing these challenges and ensuring a continuous, reliable and affordable power supply.

Electric co-ops are no strangers to adapting to the needs of the local communities they serve. They have always leaned into change as they explore new ways to meet your energy needs.


By using advanced equipment like drones that inspect local grids, sensors that provide real-time data on the condition of power lines, and satellite imagery used to monitor vegetation growth, cooperatives can pinpoint potential problems before they even occur, and ultimately improve service for all.

Investing in smarter technologies also can enhance the monitoring and control of electricity flow so they can respond swiftly to changing needs.

Smart electric meters remotely collect data on how electricity is being used. This helps in promptly prioritizing and dispatching crews during an outage, reducing restoration time during weather-related disruptions.

Even before adverse weather appears, advanced analytics from these systems, combined with data on weather patterns and other information, allow cooperatives to be proactive in taking preventative measures to shore up their systems.


Today, we all depend on electricity more than ever before. From vehicles to farming equipment to home heating options, more products and appliances that we depend on run on electricity.

Interest in electric vehicles is growing and automakers are planning to transition many new vehicles to electric-only models within the next 10 years. Electric cooperatives, like all electric providers, must plan now to have the necessary infrastructure in place to meet future EV charging needs — without jeopardizing the ability to provide reliable power to their members.

Additionally, some cooperatives are exploring innovative technologies like large-scale batteries and new community solar projects to help address the increasing electricity demand.


Electric cooperatives are driven by a commitment to community and member satisfaction. As consumers become more proactive in managing their energy use, they are providing new ways to help their members lower their use and save money.


You may not realize it, but your electric cooperative is part of a large network of about 900 electric co-ops nationwide. While they are locally owned by you, the members of the co-op, they also have the advantage of working with co-ops across the country to share ideas and leverage any innovations that colleagues may have tried out first. As cooperatives, they are collaborators instead of competitors — it’s a unique aspect of the cooperative business model, and we’re all stronger because of it.

Our energy future will look different than it has in the past, but your local electric cooperative is prepared to adapt for the members they serve. Their mission and commitment to you remain steady — to provide reliable power at a cost local families and businesses can afford.

Anne Prince writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.