Rural Missouri Magazine

Meeting your power needs

by Barry Hart

by Barry Hart

The few remaining pioneers of the rural electric program remember the days when Missouri’s electric cooperatives had to rely on other utilities for their power supply. In those early days electric cooperatives usually tapped into nearby municipal power plants that had extra capacity.

That alliance worked well for the first few years. But following World War II, electric co-ops began to add members in waves. As appliances appeared on the market the demand for electricity quickly outpaced the cities’ ability to provide it.

Since city residents came first, co-op consumers often found themselves in the dark when demand for power surpassed supply. Left with no choice, city power plant managers had to provide for their consumers first and simply pulled the plug on the connection serving the cooperative.

In those early days members didn’t mind being without power for a few hours. They still weren’t used to the luxury of having electricity on the farm. It wasn’t unusual for members to notify the co-op of an outage via post card.

Wisely, those electric co-op leaders in the 1950s and ’60s laid the groundwork for a network of power plants that would let electric cooperatives control their own destiny and ensure they always had reliable power sources.

Just as members grouped together to form electric cooperatives, the cooperatives themselves formed cooperatives to generate electricity. These generation and transmission cooperatives, or G&Ts, would build their own power plants. The power supply situation seemed set.

As time went by however electric cooperative members continued to demand more and more electricity. Electric heat, new appliances and continued growth outpaced the output of these early plants.

No one wanted to go back to the uncertainty of the early days when electric co-ops were dependant on others for their power supply needs. So the G&Ts took power supply to a new level by forming Associated Electric Cooperative, Inc. (AECI) in 1961. This third tier to the cooperative family in Missouri created a “super G&T” to generate electricity. The other G&Ts became Ts, dedicated to moving the high-voltage power from the power plants to the local co-op.

The three-tier system has served Missouri well. Today many other states wish they had the same three-tier system. AECI today is one of the strongest generation utilities in the nation. Through AECI, Missouri electric cooperative members enjoy some of the lowest, most stable rates in the nation.

Those who remember those “dark days” before AECI and our six G&Ts are looking at the future and now see the need for a new power plant. That situation was most telling this summer when demand for electricity increased, despite cooler-than-normal summer weather.

Over the past few years electric cooperative directors and managers have been involved in an in-depth analysis of how to best meet your power needs. Soon we expect AECI to make an announcement concerning the location of a new coal-fired, base- load power plant that will meet the needs of a growing membership well into the future and make sure the existing cooperative membership has a reliable supply.

Since electricity cannot be stored, we must continue to keep pace with the demand for more electricity brought on by a growing membership and a desire for more electric devices.

Rest assured your electric cooperative will meet your needs for affordable and reliable electricity well into the future so that we won’t suffer from the shortages experienced by California, the Northeast and other regions of the country.

Hart is executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.

E-mail Barry Hart


Rural Missouri | June 2020 Issue

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Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives

Rural Missouri
2722 E. McCarty Street
P.O. Box 1645 • Jefferson City, Mo. 65102

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