Co-op signs research pact with DOE

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) have signed an agreement that paves the way for more joint research efforts. NRECA’s Cooperative Research Network (CRN), the association’s research arm, will be principally responsible for managing research efforts with DOE.

An electric cooperative-directed research and development program, the CRN funds projects in the following areas: automation, telecommunications and informed technology, electricity distribution operations, marketing and energy services, and power supply.

The federal agency is a regular supporter of CRN-sponsored research, most notably in distributed generation. CRN and DOE and collaborated on a number of projects in recent years including an evaluation of microturbines, demonstration of a transportable fuel cell and tests of wind turbines. On the immediate horizon is a CRN-DOE contract to study the performance of residential fuel cells.

The agreement with CRN illustrates DOE’s growing commitment to research that will assist consumer-owned electric cooperatives, according to spokesmen for NRECA.

“This agreement ensures a high profile for electric co-op research at the Department of Energy,” said NRECA chief executive officer Glenn English.

“The electric co-op market is a natural testing ground, one that demands reliability under grueling conditions in some of the most remote regions of the country. The entire nation can benefit from what we learn together,” he added.

Steve Lindenberg, CRN executive director, praised the agreement’s emphasis on innovation and energy efficiency.

“We’re pleased that DOE has recognized our objective to help electric cooperatives and their consumers make better energy decisions, especially in this era of significant industry change,” he said.

The agreement lists areas of mutual interest including technologies for distributed generation, grid reliability and those enhancing environmental protection. It also spells out how the two parties will work together on projects. This element will streamline scores of administrative tasks now required to manage DOE-backed projects, according to the NRECA.

While funding for specific projects is not part of the document, the two organizations will develop what is known as a technology road map, a multi-year plan that will outline research priorities for electric co-ops.

The NRECA is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 electric cooperative utilities, which provide electric service to 34 million people in 46 states. You can find more information at NRECA’s Web site: www.NRECA.org.

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