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It’s Getting Easier To Be Green

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Cobb EMC reaffirms clean energy goals

By Cory Sekine-Pettite

Ahead of Earth Day in April, Cobb EMC reaffirmed its commitment to its clean energy goals, and it reminded members that by 2030 the electric cooperative would reduce carbon emissions by 75 percent and double up on its renewable energy portfolio with a 200-percent increase. “With Earth Day approaching, it is the perfect time to express to our members and community that we are passionate about a greener future while keeping our electric rates low and reliability high,” said Interim President and CEO of Cobb EMC, Kevan Espy, in a released statement. “Furthermore, we are confident that we can achieve our renewable energy goals without passing any additional costs on to our valuable members.”

Intrigued to find out more, Cobb In Focus followed up with the member-owned utility to see how far along it is in achieving its goals, what the future looks like for clean energy in Georgia, and more.

So far, Cobb EMC is well on its way to producing cleaner energy, having already installed rooftop solar panels on campus, and completing a Solar Flower Garden and battery storage facility. Additionally, later this year its utility-scale solar project will be completed. Further, in 2022, Cobb EMC will be among the few cooperatives in the nation that will incorporate microgrid technology. The system will allow the co-op to operate autonomously if the need arises by furnishing a continuous supply of power to the cooperative during any extended outages, which strengthens power grid resilience for faster response and recovery. “The microgrid is an evolving technology that will complement our existing solar and battery system to help create this autonomy,” said Manish Murudkar, director of DER (distributed energy resource) Strategy. “Our goal is to build a model for future microgrid projects, and increase the quality and resiliency of our power system.”

“Our clean energy goals were based on Cobb EMC’s commitment to keep our rates low while providing a sustainable future,” adds Tim Jarrell, Cobb EMC VP, Power Supply & DER Strategy. “This required us to look closely at our long-term resource needs, existing lifecycle of the resources we are subscribed with our G&T [generation and transmission] along with our external power contracts. Our goals were developed to be realistic and not just hype. We were very diligent in modeling our long-term energy needs with the increase in renewable resources. Cobb EMC is already in a good position to meet any future state or federal mandates considering our current energy portfolio.”

According to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), the nation’s electric co-ops, which serve about 42 million people across the country, have nearly tripled their renewable energy capacity over the last 10 years. The group reports that co-ops have deployed enough wind and solar capacity to serve nearly 2.7 million homes, and that they will continue to rely on a diverse energy mix to ensure a reliable, affordable, and responsible electricity supply that meets the needs of their consumer-members.

The best way to a cleaner future is through multiple sources of energy production, Jarrell continued. He said that while solar has the greatest potential of meeting clean energy goals, wind power can’t be ignored “if taller turbines are considered, which provide more electricity output and better economies of scale. Also, other technologies shouldn’t be ruled out that have potential such as hydrogen renewable energy.”

The co-op’s members understand the need for cleaner energy production, and Jarrell reports they are on board for change. “Some of our members have expressed their desire for utilities to work toward a sustainable future and gratitude for what Cobb EMC has already done towards a clean energy future,” he said. “The majority of Cobb EMC members place low rates and reliability as their top priority from their cooperative. Cobb EMC can be a leader in all three of these areas.”

For example, in the co-op’s “Green Energy for a Penny” program, members can choose to help support a clean energy future for just a 1¢ per kWh charge. The program allows members to purchase renewable energy credits from Cobb EMC and support solar farms right here in Georgia. Currently, about 100 members have joined the program. Learn more at cobbemc.com/green.

The organization also has become a local leader when it comes to planning for electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure. Cobb EMC is active in supporting EV adoption. The cooperative provides an EV loaner program for members, it offers EV charging rebates for residential and commercial members, it hosts EV seminars that bring together members and industry experts, and it works with Green Power EMC (a renewable energy program consisting of 38 co-ops throughout Georgia) on larger initiatives while working with other organizations such as the EV Club of the South.

“Cobb EMC is staying abreast of state, regional, and national initiatives and funding that may be available to expand EV charging networks,” Jarrell said. “We have worked with other organizations to provide additional chargers in the Cobb EMC service territory and discussion with other cooperatives about a larger network. Most of Cobb EMC’s members charge at their residence, so [our] goals are to support both residential charging, EV adoption, and an expanding EV charging network.”