Cooperative pilot programs deliver innovative energy solutions to North Carolina

Part of North Carolina’s electric cooperatives’ mission to build a brighter future includes exploring new and innovative energy solutions that help power members’ lives.

One way cooperatives accomplish this is through beneficial electrification, which uses electricity to power equipment and processes for commercial and agricultural usescutting down on emissions and energy costs.

But before these solutions can be scaled across the network of 26 electric cooperatives, they must first undergo pilot testing to ensure they satisfy at least one of the four principles of beneficial electrification:

  • Saves consumers money over time
  • Benefits the environment by reducing emissions
  • Fosters a more robust and resilient electric grid
  • Improves product quality or consumer quality of life

One-year anniversary

A recent example of beneficial electrification in action is Surry-Yadkin EMC’s partnership with Hollar & Greene Produce on an emissions-reducing eTRU Project.

The eTRU project, which stands for “electric transport refrigeration unit,” uses electricity to power refrigeration units used for cold-storage shipping, instead of diesel.

The pilot program is approaching its one-year mark, and the results have been positive.

“Once that program really took off, it was exciting to watch,” said Jim Musilek, vice president of innovation and business development for North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives. “We learned a lot about the fuel savings that the trucking companies could benefit from, and how much energy the units consumed.”

Musilek also mentions that these refrigeration units help improve the efficiency of the grid with 89% of its load being met during off-peak times.

The eTRU project was honored with a Cleantech Innovation Award by the Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster for providing a more energy-efficient way to transport produce.

“Projects like this are critical to putting us on a path to achieving our Brighter Future goals,” said Joseph Gadient, innovation and business development analyst for North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives. “We already have a relatively low-emission generation mix in North Carolina that is getting cleaner by the day, so any opportunity to convert fossil fuel technology to electric will save emissions both now and in the future.”

Energy-efficient solutions

Over the last year, North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives has partnered with local co-ops to unveil projects such as an electric tractor at the North Carolina Zoo, the state’s first all-electric school bus to serve public schools and managed vehicle charging that are helping charge EV’s during off-peak hours.

“We want to put our co-ops in a position of success during this energy transition,” said Musilek. “It’s important for us to be aware of what’s going on in the industry and bringing solutions to the cooperatives that are reliable and improve their members’ day-to-day lives.”

As these pilot programs continue to offer insight into how they can positively impact members’ energy consumption, Musilek said the next phase is to take projects from a local scale to statewide.

“Scaling up these beneficial electrification technologies is going to provide tremendous economic and environmental benefits to the state of North Carolina,” said Musilek.

For more information on local partnerships and beneficial electrification projects happening across the state, visit