Availability takes center stage

Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative pulls out all the stops to ensure service reliability. Among other things, the steps that we take to facilitate the dependable delivery of power include the following:

  • An aggressive, regular cycle of power-line right-of-way clearing.

  • A systematic program that results in thousands of pat-their-time prime wood poles being retired and replaced every 12 months.

  • Ongoing engineering studies that trigger system improvements - from the upgrading of the wire size on an individual power line to the erection of a $4-million electrical substation.

These and other work actions are essential to the delivery of reliable service, which, in a nutshell, is our primary responsibility at Blue Ridge. The other factor in this equation would encompass both power-generating stations and miles of high-voltage transmission lines. Our wholesale provider, Central Electric Power Cooperative, is accomplished through contracts with generation utilities located in South Carolina and beyond.

As critical as reliability is to our efforts to supply quality service, another factor is presently assuming center stage in this industry drama: Availability. The concern that's confronting those of us in this business is do we have adequate generation resources to meet the combined and growing demand for electricity. 

The Christmas Eve 2022 Arctic blast brought that concern into sharp focus. Up until then, rolling blackouts had been a phenomenon we associated with far-away California. On that date, however, two area industry giants, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and Duke Energy both, for the first time in their histories, implemented rolling blackouts in order to stabilize their respective power grids.

In the 17 months since that deep-freeze experience, South Carolina has seen a continuation of its explosive growth. In other words, the demand for electricity keeps expanding.

My good friend Paul Dasha, CEO at York Electric Cooperative, recently offered in an editorial the obvious answer to this challenge: "We must upgrade our power grid by building new power plants, pipelines, and transmission lines."

Here at Blue Ridge, we embrace all forms of electricity generation. At the same time, we recognize that baseload fuels such as nuclear and natural gas are essential to an uninterrupted flow of power. On that frosty Christmas Eve morning, solar generation did not begin contributing to the need for power until several hours after the peak-demand period had come and gone. That's just the nature of things - winter peaks are always going to occur well before the sun comes up.

Moreover, the current push to decommission baseload power plants without providing adequate replacement generation will only exacerbate the availability problem. I'm sincerely hoping that sanity will prevail.

Jim Lovinggood

President and CEO