Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc.

Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc. (AECI) serves a critical role of buil­ding and maintaining an electricity infrastructure serving approxim­ate­ly 490,000 people throughout its home state. The company, established in the 1940s, is own­ed by the state’s 17 electric distribution coop­er­atives that provide retail electricity to mem­bers.

Aside from changes in technology such as the increasing use of fiber-optic cables the basics of AECI’s operations have remained consistent throughout its history, Vice President Pat McClafferty says.

Future opportunities include installing transmission lines in a smart grid system incorporating digital technology and two-way communication, he adds.

Standing Out

A key part of AECI’s operation is its construction department, formed in 1966, McClafferty says. The department builds distribution and transmission lines and substations.

The construction department is also responsible for moving power lines and poles during road widening projects and assisting in cleanup efforts and repairs following storms and emergencies. “We restore the lines, put the poles back into place, and get electric service back to the people,” McClafferty adds.

The department mainly works for the 17 cooperatives that own it, with some municipal electric work on occasion. Even with the close connections to the cooperatives, the company faces competition. AECI’s experience helps it stand out of the pack.

“With our history and the service we provide, we’ve been able to work way through slow economic times,” McClafferty says.

Recent projects include a transmission line installation for First Electric Cooperative in Jacksonville, Ark. AECI is also working on building an electric substation in an unincorporated area near Avilla, Ark.

AECI’s staff is well-versed in technology and in-line construction and installation. “While pricing is important, the quality of our work, meeting our deadlines and working in a safe manner is also important to our customers,” McClafferty says.

The company maintains a culture of safety through a company safety director, a crew safety coordinator and daily safety meetings before work begins on a job site, he adds.

Other Departments

The construction department is just one portion of AECI. The company’s main revenue generator is its utility sales department, which maintains a $16.5 million inventory of electrical equipment including wood products, pole-line hardware, overhead and underground conductors, and transformers. Many of the transformers offered by AECI are manufactured by ERMCO Inc., a subsidiary based in Dyersburg, Tenn. 

In addition to offering products, AECI’s utility sales department is also committed to helping its customers preserve resources and manage costs.

“We promote energy-efficient products,” McClafferty says. “We’ve installed solar panels on our building here, and promote energy efficient water heaters and other products.”

The company also partners with energy efficiency expert Doug Rye to spread the word about efficiency and sustainability. Through the partnership, several of the 17 electric distribution cooperatives have built energy efficient model homes.

Other AECI departments include a high-voltage test laboratory, a right-of-way department, a transformer repair department and a governmental affairs department.

Collective Capabilities

In addition to AECI, Arkansas’ 17 electric cooperatives also own the Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. (AECC), a wholesale electricity supplier. The AECC, also based in Little Rock, owns and operates three natural gas and oil-fired plants, and leases three coal-fired plants.

The AECC also owns and operates three hydroelectric generating stations on the Arkansas River, and one natural gas-fired plant in southern Arkansas. The company has a collective generating capacity of about 2,977 megawatts, it says.

Collectively, the AECI, AECC and the 17 individual cooperatives are known as Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas.

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