To Those Who Serve the ‘Country,’ We Salute You

alt   Editor in chief

Rural cooperatives’ positive impact on U.S. economic development and quality of life post-World War II cannot be ignored or overemphasized. Rural utilities have allowed the nation’s “country folk” to enjoy the same high quality of life that once was available only to city dwellers.

Although these customer-owned utilities serve less than 13 percent of all electricity consumers in the U.S., the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) reports that they own and maintain some 2.5 million miles of distribution lines, or about 43 percent of the country’s distribution system, covering 75 percent of its landmass.

In this issue, you’ll find several articles that highlight key technologies that help rural utilities be successful. In the article “Rural Utilities Look Toward Brighter Future With Smart Grid Technology” beginning on Page 16, Greg Myers of Sensus points out that because of their large territories, rural utilities’ customer-to-territory ratio is unbalanced when compared with investor-owned utilities (IOUs) and municipalities, therefore, rural co-ops must invest a lot more money to serve a lot fewer customers. Myers explains that smart grid applications that involve smart meters can be especially helpful to them. Smart meters not only eliminate the need for meter readers, they also can help utilities determine outage locations much quicker.

Fleet tracking and management are other important technologies for rural utilities with large, sparsely populated service territories. Beginning on Page 32, Ashley Jones of NexTraq writes about the importance of good communications technologies for GPS tracking solutions. In addition to locating vehicles and assets on maps, Jones writes, communications through GPS enables fleet managers to track their fleet vehicles, collect information about drivers’ activities, eliminate unnecessary cell phone usage behind the wheel and increase field-workers’ productivity. In his article “The Human Factor Decides if Improved Fleet Management Techniques Work,” contributing author Paul Hull points out that people make or break new technologies, including fleet management techniques. Paul is a regular contributor to Utility Products magazine, a sister publication to POWERGRID International. He has written for POWERGRID International only a few times, and I think you’ll enjoy his common sense approach to the topic.

Please don’t think this issue was written for only rural electric co-ops. The articles and topics I’ve mentioned, as well as others I haven’t mentioned, apply to all electricity utilities.

Having grown up in the country outside a small southern town, I understand the importance of rural electric co-ops and am happy to dedicate this issue to them.

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