The principle and practice of ‘cooperation among cooperatives’ becomes highly visible during storm events, and while North Carolinians are familiar with images of a cavalry of trucks and crews ready to restore power, there is another shining example of this principle acting behind the scenes – the Tarheel Electric Membership Association (TEMA).
Since 1976, TEMA has played an essential role in supporting the reliability of the state’s electric grid by providing materials, equipment and supplies at competitive prices to North Carolina’s electric cooperatives and acting quickly during emergency situations, like severe weather events.
While TEMA works year-round to serve North Carolina’s electric cooperatives, hurricane season brings an additional set of requirements.
Preparation is Key
TEMA understands that the actions taken before the storm are just as critical as those that follow.
“When it comes to preparing for hurricanes or any severe weather, our team works year-round to stay ahead of the game,” said Jason Caudle, chief operating officer at TEMA. “We work closely with our member cooperatives across the state to ensure they can access the materials and equipment they need when they need them.”
For example, TEMA considers market forecasts and works closely with members to plan ahead and navigate ongoing supply chain issues. Additionally, TEMA has increased its inventory of some critical materials from 90-day to 120- and 180-days to offset longer lead times. These proactive measures ensure that poles, wires, transformers and other materials needed to keep the light on are stocked and ready to ship.
When severe weather is predicted in co-op communities, TEMA begins its near-term preparation by coordinating with North Carolina’s electric cooperatives at least seven to 10 days in advance to identify which supplies may be needed, depending on the severity of the storm and anticipated damage to equipment.
During a storm, communication is critical, according to Caudle. “Immediate communication is key to maintaining reliability and getting power restored quickly and safely for cooperative members when outages occur,” he said. “Having the materials and equipment ready to go prior to a weather event and communicating with impacted cooperatives reduces the amount of time it takes for resources to get into the hands of co-op line crews.”
Strength of the Cooperative Network
As a cooperative organization with 35 member cooperatives, including 26 in North Carolina and others in Virginia and Maryland, TEMA plays a fundamental role in coordinating the movement of restoration crews after a storm, highlighting the strength of the cooperative network.
The organization seeks available crews from unaffected or less-impacted areas, and when those crews are released from local responsibilities, TEMA identifies which co-ops in highly impacted areas need assistance and assigns crews accordingly. In addition to this crew movement in North Carolina, TEMA coordinates with 27 other states to provide and receive support through a mutual aid agreement employed during major storm events, like Hurricane Ian which devastated parts of Florida when it made landfall as a Category 4 storm last September.
TEMA’s work behind the scenes to support the work co-ops do to build and maintain a reliable electric system is important, and the organization’s actions to efficiently move equipment and crews around the state and nation during outages is critical. Formed by cooperatives that recognized the potential for these efficiencies and economies of scale, TEMA embodies the principle of ‘cooperation among cooperatives.’
To learn more about the family of organizations, which includes TEMA, supporting North Carolina’s 26 electric cooperatives, please visit: https://www.ncelectriccooperatives.com/who-we-are/