Assistant Member Services Manager, Empire Electric
Occasionally, when life gives you a stockpile of lemons, you can make lemonade. All it takes is timing, someone to sweeten the pot and a bunch of produce.
Empire Electric’s special recipe included a timely email, offering an overseas community access to reliable and safe electricity, and four thousand residential meters from an upgrade project.
When Scott Ehmke, operations manager, received an email from the NRECA International Foundation Program, all he could think about was the thousands of retired meters in the storage bay.
He responded to the email and requested information about how to donate the meters to a developing country. “We could either turn them in for pennies or ship them overseas,” Ehmke said. “It makes more sense to help out a community in need.”
Helping electrify a rural village in Guatemala with retired meters was not planned, but it was a perfect fit. The NRECA International Foundation Program provided an easy way to give a boost to economic growth and prosperity with Empire’s stockpiled meters.
The program has been in existence since 1962 when President John F. Kennedy signed the first contract between NRECA and the government.
Since then, the foundation has relied heavily on volunteers to go overseas and provide training, technical assistance, and teach new skills that will enable a better economic future, using the power of electricity. Another way rural electric co-ops help is to contribute funds or donate equipment, which is how EEA fit into the mix.
In an ongoing effort to upgrade Empire’s power system, the residential meters in the City of Cortez were exchanged for more advanced Cannon electronic meters.
Because of the length of duty in service, these older residential meters met the criteria for being retired and were destined for the dumpster. “Normally, we would have disposed of them because they do not meet suitable AMI (Automated Metering Infrastructure) standards.” reported Steve Gritz, meter foreman, “The good news is, they are still usable.”
Gritz asked NRECA program coordinator, Katalina Mayorga, for help with the shipping and customs requirements. Then, he organized the container preparation. EEA employees assisted Gritz with detailing the height, length, width, size and number of the pallets and labeling the containers with the type and model of the enclosed meters.
Several pallets of packages were transported to Guatemala the last week in September. Four volunteers were helping to electrify two rural villages that had no prior electricity. Now these communities will have access to reliable and safe electricity so that they can progress as a community.