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Cooperative Hosts Legislative Breakfast

Tri-County EMC held its annual Eggs and Energy Issues legislative breakfast on Thursday, November 16 at the cooperative’s headquarters in Gray. Electric utility officials, U.S. house and senate staffers, and about forty city, county and state officials attended the event. Attendees heard presentations from Mike Smith, chief executive officer of Oglethorpe Power, Ray Grinberg, chief executive officer of Tri-County EMC, and Lee Marsh, vice president of engineering for Tri-County EMC.

In his opening comments, Ray Grinberg outlined Tri-County EMC’s basic promise of “financial stability, reliability and high quality member service.” He also spoke about the local impact of Tri-County EMC on the eight counties within the cooperative’s service area. He pointed out that Operation Roundup, the cooperative’s flagship philanthropic program, has raised and distributed $1.23 million for area needs since 2001. Bright Ideas, a classroom innovation program, has awarded $230,000 in grants to area teachers. And since 2008, Tri-County EMC has assisted local development authorities with $201,000 in grants. Most importantly, all of these funds came from member contributions and unclaimed capital credits — not member’s rates.

Smith presented an overview of power generation for Georgia’s EMCs and reported on the construction of units 3 and 4 at Plant Vogtle, the only nuclear energy generating units under construction in the United States. In March 2017, Westinghouse, the designer and original construction contractor of units 3 and 4, declared bankruptcy. Project owners, which include Oglethorpe Power on behalf of Georgia’s electric cooperatives, Georgia Power, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia and the City of Dalton, have recently reaffirmed their commitment to the project. 

“We are looking forward to the two new units coming online and in 2021 and 2022,” said Grinberg. “They will provide our members reliable carbon-free energy for the next 60-80 years.”

Marsh spoke about an initiative to install new automation on the cooperative’s power lines. “Our goal is to never have an outage, but we know that’s not possible. Our priority is to minimize outage time for as many members as possible and reduce the time our employees spend diagnosing and repairing outages.” Marsh gave a demonstration of how many members experiencing outages from a downed tree or car accident could have their power restored almost instantly thanks to automated switching schemes, which would work in conjunction with power lines tying substations together. 

An annual event, the breakfast is an opportunity for elected officials, economic development leaders, chamber of commerce officials and others to learn about and discuss issues important to electric cooperatives. “As a member owned utility, our issues are a little different and decisions that are made in Atlanta or Washington often directly influence our local members, financially or otherwise,” said Greg Mullis, vice president of corporate services for Tri-County EMC and the moderator for the event. “Getting these elected officials together is an opportunity to share our local concerns while facilitating some great discussion and furthering relationships in our region.”