NC’s electric co-ops join leading industry innovators at State Energy Conference

North Carolina’s electric cooperatives were well represented at the 2024 State Energy Conference, an event attracting industry leaders and innovators from across North Carolina. The two-day conference centered around several topics related to grid resiliency and reliability, electric vehicles, beneficial electrification and more.

For the cooperatives, it was an opportunity to showcase how they are building a brighter future for rural communities through technology and innovative energy solutions.

“I want people to understand what the cooperatives are and what our brighter future vision is,” said Erik Hall, director of energy services and technology at North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives. “Beyond that, I want people to understand what the cooperatives are doing for their members and how they are serving them with these innovative technologies to build that brighter future.”

Hall was one of the speakers at the State Energy Conference, taking part in panel discussions on the expansion and benefits of microgrids, as well as solar plus battery storage and how these resources can help positively impact the resiliency of often underserved rural communities.

While this was an opportunity to share what the cooperatives are doing on a statewide level, Hall said another added benefit of participating in events like this is the ability to collaborate and share ideas with industry peers.

“I attend a lot of conferences nationally and internationally, and those are great because you learn a lot about things happening globally,” said Hall. “But the thing about a conference like the State Energy Conference is these are North Carolinians. These are our members and neighbors, and they’re doing things here in the state that are benefitting the lives of millions of people, and that’s exciting to be a part of.”

Kara Gravinese, an innovation and business development analyst at North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives, took part in a panel discussing the pilot projects that are supporting the cooperatives’ efforts to meet their brighter future goals by investigating, testing and deploying innovative technologies and business solutions.

She said the conference is an exciting place to exchange ideas with people who have reliability and sustainability at the top of mind.

“Innovation often moves forward incrementally,” said Gravinese. “We find inspiration in the successes of others and have met potential project partners for future endeavors that support our members and our mission.”

At the conclusion of the event, cooperative attendees exchanged notes and lessons on how they can apply what they learned in their communities at a statewide level.

“These conferences open the aperture and allow us to hear what others are doing,” said Hall. “It makes our jobs exciting as we are always looking for the best solutions to serve our members, and I’m going to take many of the things I’ve seen and heard here back to the drawing board.”