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Vermont Electric Cooperative

On the day David Hallquist became CEO of the Vermont Electric Cooperative in 2005, Northern Vermont was getting socked with a nasty winter storm. Thousands of people lost power, and the co-op’s aging electric system made it hard to pinpoint exactly where the problems were located. Eventually, 110 complaints were filed with the Public Service Board over VEC’s outage response.

In the wake of that storm, Hallquist pushed the cooperative to build a state-of-the-art “smart grid” system. The system allows for two-way communication with customers, who can monitor their power usage and costs.

“Installing smart grid has dramatically reduced the length of power outages and made it much easier to manage overall power supply,” Hallquist says. “It has also increased customer satisfaction among our members.”

Michael Bursell, the cooperative’s chief financial officer, says VEC needed a strong financial partner for this project – and found one in CoBank and Farm Credit Leasing. “Not only do we get good service, but we also get really good rates,” Bursell says. “And CoBank Farm Credit Leasing came through with a creative, non-traditional lease financing tool that really helped enable the project.”

More recently, when another winter storm blew through northern Vermont doing $1.8 million in damages, VEC was able to more quickly pinpoint outages and dispatch crews to the right spots along the lines. Rather than receiving complaints, VEC’s response eventually earned more than 150 thank-you notes from customers. In 2011, VEC was the winner of Power magazine’s first-ever Smart Grid Award.

“We’re pleased CoBank could be a partner in VEC’s success. When our customer-owners are successful, we’re successful,” said Candace Roper, senior vice president of CoBank’s Electric Distribution Banking Division.

 

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