The communities across Oklahoma that purchase wholesale electricity from the Grand River Dam Authority are considered “public power” utilities. These are communities that own and operate their own electric distribution system. In other words, the public owns the power system.
These communities purchase low-cost, reliable wholesale electricity from GRDA and then resell it to homes, businesses and industries within the community. The revenues they generate from their power sales is then used to purchase more electricity from GRDA, but also used to help fund other city services like police and fire protection, parks and streets. Typically in a public power community, the general fund relies heavily on funds from the utility operations (electricity, gas, water, sewer or other services) to meet annual budget requirements.
Today, through sales to its direct municipal customers and sales to indirect municipal customers, through utilities like the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority, GRDA electricity is powering over 180,000 homes in Oklahoman communities. Add to that the sales to electric cooperative customers across the state, including sales to Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative and Western Farmers Electric Cooperative, and GRDA power is reaching nearly 500,000 homes in Oklahoma. In fact, through direct or indirect sales, the positive impact of GRDA electricity is realized in 75 of 77 Oklahoma counties. And everyday, the 500 employees of GRDA are at work, to make sure power flows across the state. As a result, GRDA has forged strong and beneficial partnerships with many communities, cooperatives and neighbors across the state. And it all works without using any Oklahoma tax dollars – GRDA is self-supporting agency, operating on revenues from sales of electricity and water.
Meanwhile, across the nation, public power is a popular concept that has been in place for over a century. Today, nearly 35 million people in the United States receive their electric service from a public power utility.
Still, just a generation or two ago, people still marveled at electricity’s uses and the improvements it could bring to their lives. After all, it was not until the 1940s that our country became “electrified.” Back in those days, just getting the power flowing into a community was a struggle. However, GRDA has a proud history of helping those communities meet that challenge, and a proud history of working with partners like Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative to deliver power not only to the cities, but also to the rural areas, farms and ranched. It’s “power for progress” produced in Oklahoma, by Oklahomans.
It’s also a tradition that continues today. GRDA still generates this electricity at Pensacola Dam (just like it did 70 years ago) along with Robert S. Kerr Dam, the Salina Pumped Storage Project, Redbud (natural gas) Plant and its Coal Fired Complex. GRDA still delivers that power to customer communities that began buying it way back in the 1940s and in those communities and rural areas, the benefits of low-cost, reliable electricity are still at work, helping to improve the quality of life.
— Justin Alberty
GRDA Corporate Communications Director
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This article is part of the GRDA Power For Progress series.