75 Years and Growing Stronger
On Mission: Providing 75 years of safe, reliable, affordable electricity
Today’s cooperative is far cry from the single bulb hanging from a wire in the middle of the family kitchen. We send power to more than 39,000 meters and maintain more than 2,400 miles of power lines.
For more than 75 years, CCEC has built, maintained and improved an infrastructure and organization that has brought a better way of life to its members. From poles set by hand and wires pulled by mules to the advances in technology and equipment we employ today, the core principles that were adopted when the cooperative was formed are still relevant. Highlights of the co-ops rich 75-year history are detailed below.
Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative's 75 Years of Dedicated Service
In 1940, if you lived in Broad Creek, Maysville, Havelock, Harlowe, Core Creek, South River, Merrimon or Salter Path, you might be able to stand outside at night and see electric lights come on in Morehead City, Beaufort, Newport or Atlantic Beach, but not at your house. It was lighted with kerosene lamps; you cooked on a kerosene stove and cooled food with blocks of ice.
This situation wasn’t unique to our area; it was the same story across all of rural America. But change began picking up steam in the late 1930s and early 1940s after President Franklin Roosevelt created the Rural Electric Administration, or REA, which provided loan funding to electrify the nation’s homes, farms and other rural enterprises.
Before the first cord was pulled on the first lightbulb in our more rural areas, Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative – known first as the REA – and its first board directors were busy getting easements for rights-of-ways to sink poles and string lines. Those same directors, their families and neighbors went door-to-door collecting $5 membership fees.
Listen to some of the cooperative’s early members describe what it was like “then the lights came on.”
The cooperative was incorporated on August 2, 1940, with 444 individuals and businesses signing up. But it wasn’t until a year later – August 1941 – that the first 144 electric services were energized and electricity began flowing to co-op members’ homes, farms and businesses.
The directors kept busy taking care of business. They accepted a $744 bid for a ¾-ton work truck. They hired C.H. Young as the first operating manager at a salary of $150 a month, but he left when he was called to serve during World War II.
Throughout the early 1940s, the cooperative system continued to grow, although materials and supplies were often scarce because much of the nation’s manufacturing was focused on the war effort.
The cooperative’s first substation – in Newport – took longer than expected to build because it was hard to get transformers and other materials. Nonetheless, power lines were constructed to serve Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point and Navy Airfield at Bogue, as well as Salter Path on Bogue Banks and Crab Point north of Morehead City.
The War Production Board also approved the project to extend electric service, via underwater cable, to the Merrimon area.
During this decade, many people began remodeling their homes to make way for new appliances and indoor plumbing, and farms were making use of the new technology.
Growth was evident, too, in the increased use of electricity. Energy sales in October 1943 totaled $2,400, but jumped more than 55 percent to $3,730 just three months later.
At that time, there weren’t any meter readers. Co-op members read their own meters each month and sent in their readings along with their payments.
As the cooperative system grew, the organization moved from its rented office in Beaufort to Morehead City.
As technology improved and more employees were hired, the co-op bought two-way radios to keep in touch with crews. That not only increased efficiency, but helped improve the safety of workers, who often were in remote areas with no way to call for help.
New gadgets were hitting the consumer market as well. In 1947, the annual meeting prizes were a Maytag Washing Machine, General Electric Coffee Maker, an Electric Broiler, a Waffle Iron, an Electric Iron, a Lionel Electric Train, an Automatic Electric Iron, and Automatic Electric Toaster and an Electric Roaster.
Cooperatives were growing across eastern North Carolina grew, and they came together for the purpose of purchasing power collectively for cost savings, practice that has grown in many areas of the cooperative’s business today.
The 1950s – a decade of even more rapid change. Hanging lights were replaced by lamps; radios were pushed aside to make room for television sets; and the cooperative’s membership was growing at a pace of 25 to 30 new members a month.
The cooperative moved again, this time into a new and larger office and garage facility on Bridges Street in Morehead City.
By 1955, the cooperative was distributing electricity across 430 miles of line to 3,270 members. Many homes soon added outdoor “Safeguard” lights, which the cooperative offered to members to provide security and extend after-dark outdoor activities.
The decade of the 60s was an interesting time in our nation and for the cooperative as well. Office space was rented in Havelock to serve the growing number of members there.
The board of directors approved an economic development loan for construction of the Newport Medical Center, the first of several loans the cooperative has provided or facilitated over the years to help boost the local economy.
With increased growth in more rural areas, state legislators adopted service territory laws, defining areas served or to be served by municipal electric service suppliers, investor-owned suppliers and electric cooperatives. By the end of the 60s, Carteret-Craven had grown to nearly 4,000 members, and was still growing.
During this decade, Manager W.C. Carlton traveled to Costa Rica to help the government there set the stage for rural electrification. This marked the beginning of the Sister Cooperative Partnership Program and today’s National Rural Electric Cooperative Association International. To date, cooperatives nationwide have shared knowledge and have sent manpower and equipment to rural communities in more than 42 countries around the world.
In the 1970s the cooperative responded to two separate national oil crises by lowering the maximum speed limit of all company vehicles to 50 mph and turning off engines when they were not moving.
Even outdoor Christmas lights that were normally strung at the office stayed in boxes. Employees driving co-op vehicles were directed to use “self-service” pumps rather than full-service, which was significantly more expensive.
Technology was on the rise in this decade as well. The cooperative added a computer system, which improved office efficiency. The first, full-time meter readers also joined the workforce, as the co-op membership grew to more than 8,000.
The decade ended with a loan application to construct a new headquarters on 21 acres of land on Highway 24, where it is today. The official opening of the new headquarters building was Nov. 2, 1981.
Speaking of the 80s, let’s move on. On the political scene, the country saw the rise of conservatism. In a sense, the same was true of the cooperative. In this decade, the co-op implemented the “Volunteer to Shave” energy management program to reduce energy use during periods of high electricity demand. Switches were installed voluntarily on members’ water heaters and air conditioning units to control power consumption during peak periods.
With booming development, particularly on Bogue Banks, the cooperative built new transmission lines running west from Atlantic Beach through Emerald Isle across over the Intracoastal Waterway to Cape Carteret and then east along Highway 24 to Newport.
That also boosted reliability by providing two transmission feeds to Bogue Banks, one from our Newport substation and the other from Atlantic Beach, which could be switched if power went out at either substation. That project also included construction of a new substation in Emerald Isle and rebuilding several existing substations.
Growth also prompted the need for another branch office. A new facility was constructed in Salter Path and opened in December 1989.
In the late 1980s the local economy took a huge hit when poisonous algae showed up along 200 miles of North Carolina coastline. From the fishing industry to restaurants to tourism, the “red tide,” as it was known, left many without the means to pay their utility bills. In response to their needs, the cooperative started Project Care. The board of directors allocated $25,000, and collected donations more money through co-op fund-raising events and others.
Project Care later transitioned into our Operation RoundUP program, where co-op members volunteered to have their monthly electric bills rounded up to the nearest dollar amount. The funds collected are put in the care of the Carteret-Craven Electric Foundation, whose directors award grants to improve lives in our communities. To date, Operation RoundUP has funded grant requests totaling close to $2.5 million.
As the decade came to a close, the co-op’s membership had grown to nearly 15,500.
The 1990s: In a decade that saw only a single website on the World Wide Web in 1991 grow into 17.1 million websites, Americans were in store for an explosion in information technology. The co-op was no different.
We installed Supervisory Control & Data Acquisition equipment in all our substations. The system is the heart monitor of our electric system and provides real-time information that helps keep it running at peak efficiency. It records information that helps us find and fix existing or potential problems and sends alerts when there is trouble.
The cooperative purchased hand-held remote meter-reading units and associated hardware and software, which allowed field services representatives to take readings more quickly and transfer the data from the devices to the co-op’s billing system.
Many of the cooperative’s administrative operations were also moved online, such as ordering materials and supplies, and we developed a website as another way to connect with our members.
Energy conservation continued to be a key activity. The co-op offered a variety of programs to help reduce its wholesale power purchase costs and lower costs to members. Time-of-Use rates were adopted to help reduce the peak demand for electricity and reward those who were willing to shift their use of major appliances to “off-peak” times during the day.
Also in the decade, the co-op awarded its first Bright Ideas grants, totaling $8,700, to nine educators from Carteret and Craven counties for innovative projects that would not have been funded through regular school budgets.
Today, the cooperative has awarded more than $357,000 to deserving educators whose projects have impacted more than 88,000 students in our area.
Continuing its tradition of giving back to the community, the cooperative through the NC Electric Membership Corporation to provide zero-interest, economic development loans for installation of water and sewer lines to Jarrett Bay Marine Industrial park on the Intracoastal Waterway north of Beaufort, and to Jones Brothers Marine for early expansion of its boat-building facility near Morehead City. Parker Marine Enterprises was extended a zero-interest loan for accelerated expansion through our partnership with the USDA’s Rural Economic Development Loan & Grant Program. These projects collectively created some 250 local jobs.
Also during this decade, the cooperative donated three acres of land on the outskirts of its Highway 24 property and partnered with government agencies and university researchers to build a wetlands area to restore Jumping Run Creek — a creek that drains into a major shellfish area within the White Oak River Basin.
By the end of 1990, the cooperative had grown to more than 25,000 meters, with a plant value – the poles, wires, transformers and buildings – of more than $40 million.Land was purchased for construction of a new office in Havelock to handle growth in that area.
The year 2000 started with the announcement that VP of Engineering and Operations Craig Conrad would become the cooperative’s CEO, beginning June 1, when previous manager Eugene Clayborne retired.
The pace of technological innovations – from phones, to televisions, tablets, computers and more – has continued to soar in the new millennium.
Since the turn of this century, the cooperative has taken advantage of a variety of technologies that save money, improve service to its members and enhance operations. We upgraded our customer information system, revamped our website and developed a mobile application, and rolled out PowerPay 24, an online payment and account management system.
The cooperative energized the Maysville transmission substation and associated transmission lines, which significantly enhanced reliability by bringing a new point of delivery for power and providing capacity for growth in the western part of the service territory, including Bogue Banks.
The $14 million project, which included 16 miles of transmission line, has significantly increased system reliability.
CCEC held its first Youth Leadership Weekend, hosting 21 high school juniors for 3-days and engaging them in activities to help them develop leadership skills, teambuilding, cooperation, and learn about the cooperative business model. The highly successful program continues today.
With the seed planted during the Red Tide and the co-op’s Project Care program, CCEC employees have raised more than $290,000 in 14 years to support individuals in our area who have battled cancer. The co-op’s American Cancer Society Relay for Life team has been the top fund-raising team in Carteret County for several years.
Another employee-supported charity – the Harold Anderson Jr. Memorial Fund – was established in 2003 to honor the co-op lineman who lost his life while restoring power during Hurricane Isabel. The fund has distributed more than $75,000 to assist individuals, families and others in need in our communities.
The co-op’s 74 employees go well beyond just donating to charities; they are avid volunteers – in their churches, in our schools, for local nonprofit groups, in youth sports, and more. They live in the communities the cooperative serves, and they give their time and energy to help those communities thrive.
“Climate Change” has been a “buzzword” of the decade, as Congress considered legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s power plants. The cooperative joined others nationwide in the “Our Energy, Our Future” campaign, urging Congress to ensure that any environmental legislation would be fair, affordable and achievable.
In August 2007, state legislators adopted Senate Bill 3, the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency portfolio standard (REPS). The law required electric cooperatives to meet up to 10 percent of their energy sales through renewable energy resources or energy efficiency measures by 2018.
In response, the cooperative established REPS and Energy Efficiency rate schedule to collect money necessary to meet the REPS mandate and outlined activities and offerings to comply with the law. Some of those activities included distributing energy-efficient CFLs at the annual meeting and through schools; partnering with the ENERGY STAR program to enhance energy efficiency and conservation programs; conducting a pilot of PowerCost Monitors, which allowed users to see how much electricity they use in their homes moment-to-moment; installing a demonstration residential-scale solar PV system at the NC Aquarium in Pine Knoll Shores; offering rebates for purchases of energy-efficient appliances; and more.
Directors from CCEC and Harkers Island Electric Membership Corporation, after many months of talks, finalized plans to merge the two organizations and sent ballots to members of both cooperatives to vote on the plan.
An overwhelming majority of members voted in favor of the merger, effective Jan. 1, 2008. The consolidation had no rate impact on CCEC, but provided a significant rate reduction for members of Harkers Island EMC.
Just like CCEC, the Harkers Island co-op was founded by a group of residents seeing the need and benefit in bringing electricity to homes and businesses.
Director R.W. “Roger” Jones was awarded the prestigious Order of the Long Leaf Pine at the cooperatives 70th Annual Meeting of the Membership in May 2010.
Jones, of Broad Creek, served on the cooperative’s board of directors for more than 60 years and was a successful businessman and community leader. He also helped his parents collect signatures for membership when the cooperative was formed.
In 2012, the cooperative energized its new Temples Point Substation to accommodate growth in the Highway 101 area of Craven County.
Last year, we kicked off our AMI – or automated metering infrastructure – project, replacing meters across its system with new meters.
By 2015, the cooperative’s plant value is more than $132 million, with more than 39,000 active electric meters in place, 18 substations and 2,414 miles of energized power lines, which is roughly the distance from here to the edge of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. That sounds like big business, but it’s a “big” business with a board of directors and employees who never forget the most important piece of the organization – and that is you – our member-owners.
Today, the lights that illuminate our homes and businesses are a far cry from the single bulb hanging from a wire in the middle of the family kitchen.
While a lot has changed in 75 years, a couple of important things haven’t – the electricity that powers your homes and businesses and the principles adopted when Carteret-Craven Electric Cooperative was formed.
For decades, CCEC has built, maintained and improved an infrastructure and organization that has brought a better way of life to its members.
From poles set by hand and wires pulled by mules to the advances in technology and equipment the cooperative employs today, the core principles that were adopted when the cooperative was formed are still relevant.
Our mission, and our commitment to our 32,000-plus members and the communities we serve, still thrives. We have to work hard to do that every day, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Listen to members describe how it feels to be a “co-op member.”