Executive Vice President/General Manager
Meeting Your Power Needs JJJ
At this year’s Annual Meeting on July 25, we will celebrate Egyptian Electric Cooperative’s 75th Anniversary. You might recall from last month that the Cooperative was formed on August 25, 1938 at the Farm Bureau building in Murphysboro. When the first piece of Cooperative line was energized on September 13, 1939, it was 95 miles long and served truly rural areas. Today, your Cooperative serves over 14,760 meters with over 2,270 miles of distribution voltage power lines. From a single substation with a very small power transformer in 1938, we’ve grown to 23 substations.
All of this electricity has to come from someplace. In 1938, the power came from the investor-owned power companies. Substations were built near their transmission lines and the cooperative purchased all of its electricity from them.
That might still be the case had it not been for a meeting that was held on September 23, 1948, in Dongola, IL. Attendees at that meeting were representatives of Egyptian Electric; Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative, Dongola; and SouthEastern Illinois Electric Cooperative, Eldorado. Also attending were representatives from Cairo, a community with a municipal electric system that was suffering from an oppressive power contract with the power companies. This meeting resulted in the incorporation of Southern Illinois Power Cooperative (SIPC).
The goal of this meeting was to link together and obtain power from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Despite a series of discussions and studies of wholesale power costs and future needs, the link never came to fruition. While a TVA link did not materialize, the new cooperative was able to achieve a notable reduction in wholesale power contracts with the power companies in 1950. Shortly thereafter, the city of Cairo withdrew from the cooperative.
As lower cost power contracts resulted from the formation of SIPC, there was no further need for the organization and it lay dormant until 1957. However, contracts with the wholesale power suppliers were due to expire on December 31, 1959 and early discussions revealed the power suppliers intent to increase rates. Being at their mercy, the three distribution cooperatives that formed SIPC held a reorganizational meeting and SIPC once again became an active cooperative.
Studies as to the feasibility of building a power plant and transmission system in southern Illinois to serve the three distribution cooperatives were undertaken. The key result of the studies was that the power plant, transmission system and a lake to supply cooling water would be feasible if the REA would make a $25 million loan for construction. Suddenly, with the thought of losing three very good customers, the attitude of the power companies changed. They lobbied REA administrator David Hamil to deny the loan; they had ample resources to serve southern Illinois’ power needs.
Mr. Hamil was scheduled to deliver a key speech at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) annual meeting, on February 23, 1960, in St. Louis. Prior to the meeting, Mr. Hamil had not revealed his decision. As he neared the end of this speech, he paused for a moment and almost as an afterthought, announced the loan to SIPC had been approved, one of the first REA loans for the construction of a power plant.
While this was exciting news, it also meant the beginnings of very hard work. A site had to be selected that would allow creation of a lake for cooling water; Lake of Egypt, with its 2,300 acres and 93 miles of shoreline was the result. Designs for a power plant, administrative office and 450 miles of 69,000 volt transmission line had to be made. And the land for the lake had to be purchased.
To think that loan approval was made in early 1960 and the plant was producing electricity on October 1, 1963, from its three 33-megawatt turbines is almost unfathomable. And this was before desktop computers, fax machines, cell phones or email existed.
From its early days in 1963, with the construction of the 99 megawatt plant, SIPC has continued to grow to meet the needs of its member distribution cooperatives---Egyptian, Southern and SouthEastern. In 1978, Unit 4, a 173 megawatt turbine was installed along with new, state-of-the art environmental controls.
SIPC’s mission has been to meet the energy needs of southern Illinois in an environmentally responsible manner. It has also attempted to support the southern Illinois coal industry, a large employment sector of the local economy. In 2002, SIPC replaced the original boilers built in the early ‘60’s with a new, more environmentally friendly, circulating fluidized bed (CFB) boiler that increased capacity of the original turbines to 120 megawatt, along with installing even more environmental control equipment on Unit 4.
To help spread the cost of the new boiler and environmental control equipment over more meters, SIPC added additional member distribution systems during that time. Monroe County Electric Cooperative, Waterloo; Clinton County Electric Cooperative, Breese; Tri-County Electric Cooperative, Mt. Vernon; and Clay Electric Cooperative, Flora, are now distribution members of SIPC.
As the economy and electric consumption continued to grow in the early years of the 21st Century, SIPC began examining options for additional generation. In 2006, the opportunity to own a part of the new Prairie State Energy Campus (PSEC) near Marissa presented itself. Knowing the existing plant could not be expanded and that building new generation that met new environmental regulations by itself would be cost prohibitive, PSEC offered an alternative. SIPC agreed to purchase 125 megawatt of the plant’s 1,600 megawatt capacity. PSEC began generating electricity in 2012 and will provide environmentally responsible electricity while using southern Illinois coal for years to come.
As an environmental steward, SIPC also supports renewable energy when economically feasible. SIPC has 28 megawatt of hydro-power available to it from the SouthEastern Power Administration. It also has a Purchased Power Agreement for 10 megawatt of wind turbine electricity from the Pioneer Trail Wind Farm near Paxton, IL.
SIPC has become a major component of the southern Illinois economy. From the original construction jobs in the early ‘60’s, SIPC provides full-time employment for nearly 120 local residents. During annual maintenance periods, many local, skilled labor groups are provided with temporary employment; many in the coal and trucking industry can count SIPC as the reason for their employment. Lake of Egypt, originally built as a source of cooling water, is today a recreational mecca providing boating, fishing and other recreational activities. The 93 miles of shoreline have become residency for three marinas and many subdivisions of upscale, day-to-day and retirement homes.
SIPC was created 65 years ago when local cooperative leaders united to find a secure source of power for their members. As the membership and loads of Egyptian Electric and the other SIPC member distribution cooperatives grow, SIPC has continued to find ways to ensure the distribution cooperatives have access to highly reliable, reasonably priced and environmentally responsible wholesale electric power. While this task has its challenges with the ever changing climate control rules and regulations, SIPC has always met challenges head on; this is the organization that went from nothing to building a power plant, administration building, a 2,300 acre lake and a 450 mile transmission system in less than three and a half years…without desktop computers, fax machines, cell phones or email!