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Smart Energy Source: A smarter way to do business Central Rural Electric Cooperative and other entities partner to better serve members, local community

By Jeff Joiner, CREC

he concept has been called unique, pio- neering and even historic. The business venture, born out of the need to find a smarter way to do business, began generating excitement this fall as organizers signed agree- ments and started to grasp how big the game- changing initiative could be.


Smart Energy Source LLC is an energy services partnership being formed by Central Rural Electric Cooperative (CREC), the City of Stillwater, Okla- homa State University and the Oklahoma City en- gineering fi rm C.H. Guernsey & Co. The joint ven- ture is paving the way to improved reliability and lower costs through greater operating effi ciencies for the utilities serving Stillwater residents, OSU students and CREC members. It will also harness the research power of OSU in the development of energy services and utility system enhancements for use of Smart Energy Source partners. “Smart Energy Source will reinvent how public utilities serve their consumers,” said David Swank, CEO of CREC, in Stillwater, after the cooperative’s board of trustees voted Sept. 1 to join the venture. “This approach is groundbreaking because it’s not being done by a single organization, but through a consortium of public, private and academic part- ners that will enable us to optimize our assets and leverage skills and resources.”

By sharing resources, eliminating duplicate ser- vices and jointly recruiting highly skilled employ- ees like engineers, the collaboration will create economies of scale, which mean lower costs that could be passed on to customers. By sharing in the investment necessary to modernize the electric grid, Smart Energy Source will also deliver system enhancements benefi cial to all power users. “The benefi t to consumers will be lowered energy costs and more transparency as to how their homes and businesses consume energy,” said Dr. Stephen McKeever, OSU vice president for research and technology transfer, and an advocate of the Smart Energy Source partnership.

Working together is a principle of how electric cooperatives operate, and it’s an idea that’s taken root in the minds of Smart Energy Source partners.


“As a cooperative, we’re used to the concept that we can accomplish more together than we can individually,” said Gary McCune, chairman of the CREC Board of Trustees. “This has produced a dynamic that has energized all the institutions involved.”

The Smart Energy Source initiative is not unlike the rural electrifi cation movement of the 1930s when local leaders across the U.S. organized grass- roots efforts to provide electricity to sparsely popu- lated rural America.

“Smart Energy Source will reinvent how public utilities serve

their consumers. T is approach is groundbreaking because it’s not being done by a single organiza- tion, but through a consortium of public, private and academic part- ners that will enable us to optimize our assets and leverage skills and resources,

David Swank, CEO of Central Rural Electric ”

“This collaborative effort shows us that history has a way of repeating itself,” Swank said. “Smart Energy Source is rekindling the cooperative spirit by bringing together local leadership to provide modern energy solutions to improve the quality of life of their constituents.”

In writing the Smart Energy Source business plan, C.H. Guernsey & Co. relied on case studies and analysis of business opportunities to describe the potential value of the joint venture to the part- ners. The business plan, completed this summer, outlines opportunities to share engineering, dis- patching, outage management, customer service and materials warehousing, and proposes joint services, like an energy audit program for both residential and commercial consumers. C.H. Guernsey, a nationally recognized engineer-

ing fi rm, was hired in early 2011 to write the busi- ness plan. The company’s management was so im- pressed with the concept they asked to join Smart Energy Source as a partner.

“We are excited about the opportunities that partnership in Smart Energy Source provides,” said David Hedrick, C.H. Guernsey vice president and manager of analytical solutions. “The combi- nation of resources that each member brings to the organization creates a synergy that will allow for the provision of a level of service that goes well beyond what could be provided by each member individually.”

Another key strength of the partnership is the research muscle of OSU. Already a leader in re- search fi elds such as electricity distribution and grid networking, OSU’s Dr. McKeever, who is also Oklahoma’s secretary of science and technology, envisions the university having a far-reaching im- pact on Smart Energy Source innovations. “Our scientists need access to real-world experi- ence and data,” Dr. McKeever said. “Smart Energy Source will enable our researchers to build real- world solutions in areas such as smart grid tech- nology, sensors and software development.” For Dan Blankenship, director of Stillwater’s municipal electric and water utilities, known as the Stillwater Utilities Authority, Smart Energy Source offers quicker access to those real-world energy so- lutions.

“Our goal is high-quality, reliable power at the most reasonable cost possible,” said Blankenship. “To do that, we need the latest energy management and system automation technologies.

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