TOP 12 unsung heroes
Large electricity co-ops of the U.S. shine
Published In: Intelligent Utility March / April 2012
BEGINNING WITH THIS ISSUE, WE ARE TAKING A CLOSER look within our Top 12 for 2012 at the unsung heroes of electric utilities across the United States, from large co-ops to small, both large and small municipal utilities, and large and not-so large investor-owned utilities.
The first thing we realized is that every co-op works as an entity, and singling out one person from within that entity is difficult, if not impossible. So, as any of the folks highlighted below will tell you, they represent the entire co-op team, and my choices here both honor these people and the co-op teams with which they work.
The second realization was that there are far, far more unsung heroes within the large electric utility co-ops than we can possibly feature within this short article. We hope to be able to tell more of their stories, as well, in utility articles in coming months.
LESLIE BARRIOS of Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative would be one of the first to tell you she is but one small part of the Bluebonnet team. But as executive manager of IT, she's on the front lines at meetings, and in webcasts and roundtables, representing her utility. (See Knowledge2011 Roundtable on page 32.) She has been with Bluebonnet since 2003, and in her current position since 2009. Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative serves more than 81,000 meters and owns and maintains 11,000 miles of power lines, located across more than 3,800 square miles within 14 Central Texas counties.
As vice president and CFO, GARY CRIPPS provides direct leadership for Delaware Electric Cooperative's companywide technology strategy and investments, as well as oversight responsibility for human resources, finance and accounting. Gary is a frequent speaker and subject matter presenter with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, IBM, the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation and numerous statewide utility trade associations. DEC serves more than 75,000 members in Kent and Sussex Counties in Delaware.
DAVID KOOGLER, vice president of customer service for Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, is responsible for the leadership of all member support activities, including contact center, billing and collections, rates, conservation programs, government relations and communications. He has an extensive utility experience, working for more than 30 years for Dominion Virginia Power where he managed retail access, customer billing, rates and regulatory affairs and key accounts. Rappahannock Electric Cooperative provides electric service to more than 155,000 connections in parts of 22 Virginia counties.
ANITA MORENA, manager of member services for Flint Energies, is focused on member engagement, and it's working. Members understand that load management can prevent their utility from making expensive, spot purchases of electricity to handle peaks, thereby saving them money. This 74-year-old electric utility co-op covers 17 central Georgia counties. Flint began its installation of its two-way automated control system (TWACS) meters in 2004, and is now working on a smart grid demonstration program testing in-home devices and pricing options, along with load management for peak events.
BLAKE HOUSE, vice president of member services for Sawnee EMC, can also be found on community blogs upon occasion, answering questions and comments about Sawnee's service, explaining new products and more. He and the team at Sawnee are even making sure their members are EV plug-in ready, understanding how their new EVs are going to affect their electricity bill. Sawnee EMC serves electricity to more than 148,000 accounts in seven counties in greater North Georgia.
ROQUE MARINHO, director of enterprise business intelligence for Cobb EMC, is one of those affable people who is extremely passionate about his job, and shares that passion widely. Cobb is nearly finished upgrading all of its meters, and is also adding data management technologies. Managing and optimizing that new data is Marinho's focus. Cobb EMC, located in Georgia, serves 171,000 members and about 196,000 meters.
JERRY MARIZZA is new-energy program coordinator for United Power, a Brighton-based electric co-op in Colorado. Google him, and you'll find him passionately discussing solar power in general, and the state's first solar farm, developed by United, in particular. United Power is a cooperative serving Colorado's front range, with a membership of approximately 120,000.
KENNETH CAPPS is chief operating officer and senior vice president of engineering and operations at Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO). Operations folks usually end up in the background, but they are vital to the heartbeat of the utility, and Capps is no exception. Capps manages the engineering, operations, construction and maintenance of the transmission and distribution plant within SMECO's entire service territory. SMECO serves approximately 149,000 customers in a 1,150-square-mile area in southern Maryland.
DAVID SCHLEICHER may be new to EnergyUnited as its vice president of engineering and operations, but he's a veteran of 30 years in the industry, most recently serving as general manager at PPL Electric Utilities, and is a demonstrated leader. EnergyUnited is the largest electric co-op in North Carolina, serving more than 120,000 electricity customers in 19 counties. The co-op began its smart meter deployment in 2009.
KEITH THOMASON has served as vice president of operations for Middle Tennessee EMC for the past 17 years, and has overseen the installation of a new outage management system, merging it with SCADA and MTEMC's communication systems. Started by farmers and homeowners in 1936, MTEMC is now the state's largest electric cooperative and the sixth largest in the U.S. It supplies electricity to about 185,000 customers in four counties south of metropolitan Nashville.
JIM MOXLEY is senior vice president of the Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (NOVEC). As such, he is in charge of administration, substations and telecommunications. He and his team were responsible for preparing the co-op's winning DOE smart grid investment grant. NOVEC serves more than 145,000 customers in northern Virginia, and is using new technology to control the costs of operating its expanding system.
CATHY BITLER is vice president of administrative services at South Central Power in Ohio. She and her IT staff were able, through new technology, to increase scalability and performance while reducing data center space, power needs and costs, in fact beating the national average for power costs. South Central Power manages more than 11,000 miles of power lines, and serves more than 110,000 customers in 24 Ohio counties.