Supporting Cooperative Members in Times of Need

Situated in a state prone to hurricanes and tropical storms, leaders of North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation (NCEMC) and its member cooperatives know all too well the importance of crisis planning.

“Given our location, keeping a thorough crisis plan close at hand is an important practice for us,” said Lark James, CFO for NCEMC, one of America’s largest generation and transmission co-ops. “COVID-19 brought some unknowns, especially in the beginning,” James said. “But the fact we had thoroughly planned for all kinds of crises, storm-related and otherwise, definitely helped us pivot and concentrate right away on supporting our 25 cooperative members in their time of need.”

Collectively, North Carolina’s electric cooperatives serve 2.5 million people, mainly in rural communities. Recognizing the potential financial impact the pandemic posed to rural North Carolina’s people and communities, NCEMC and its member cooperatives worked quickly to develop solutions that support the needs of the members, as well as the financial health of the cooperatives and their G&T.

Throughout 2020, North Carolina’s electric cooperatives supported members by suspending residential disconnections, (with many doing so in advance of state orders), customizing payment plans and donating to community organizations. By year’s end, NCEMC reported that business had largely rebounded to pre-pandemic levels.

We are fortunate as cooperatives to have a clear purpose that... keeps us rooted and keeps us strong.

– Lark James, CFO, NC Electric Membership Corporation

“CoBank—a longtime business partner—came through for NCEMC at several points this past year,” James said, ensuring it was in a good liquidity position early on during the pandemic and again later as NCEMC had better assessed its financial needs. NCEMC also teamed with CoBank through its Sharing Success program to provide $20,000 to the North Carolina Community Foundation to support COVID-19 response in the state’s rural counties.

NCEMC’s “Brighter Future” vision continues to drive the organization for the next decade as it provides energy innovation, sustainability and continued community support to improve quality of life for co-op members in 93 of North Carolina’s 100 counties. James expects CoBank to play a key role in that journey.

“We stay in close contact with CoBank all year, both in good times and especially in challenging ones,” James said. “We’ve been impressed with the breadth of services CoBank offers and which fit our expanding needs.”