“The communities we affect”

Power for Progress …
A weekly column from the Grand River Dam Authority

Relaying the benefits of public power … Two members of the GRDA Electric Relay Department work on components inside a GRDA substation, doing their part to help insure electricity can flow reliably to customers. When that power is put to work in the Oklahoma communities that buy GRDA wholesale electricity, the benefits extend far beyond the light switch and electric outlet.

Relaying the benefits of public power … Two members of the GRDA Electric Relay Department work on components inside a GRDA substation, doing their part to help insure electricity can flow reliably to customers. When that power is put to work in the Oklahoma communities that buy GRDA wholesale electricity, the benefits extend far beyond the light switch and electric outlet.

Though it has been detailed here before, the story of the Grand River Dam Authority and its Oklahoma “public power” partnerships is worth another visit. After all, GRDA is the direct wholesale electricity supplier for 16 public power hometowns across the state and the benefits of those relationships go well beyond the electric outlet and light switch.

A public power community is one that owns and operates its own electric distribution system. That arrangement allows citizens – the ultimate customers of the system – to exercise local control. In other words, through local utility boards or city councils, the citizens make the decisions to insure the city-owned distribution systems always matches the city’s needs.

In Oklahoma, the communities that purchase wholesale electricity directly from GRDA then resell that power, at retail rates, to residents. Part of the revenues generated from those sales is used to purchase more electricity from GRDA, but the rest is put to work in the community, to operate the utility and fund other city services. Police and fire protection, streets, parks and other city services are often supported by revenues from electric sales in public power communities. In fact, the numbers may vary slightly from year to year, but typically, these 16 community-owned utilities combine to return over $35 million to general funds for other city services. In addition, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce’s Economic Impact of the Grand River Dam Authority report found that the statewide impact of GRDA – including places far removed from customer communities – was worth $453 million in 2012.

According to the same report, “communities that have high involvement from utilities usually have a higher quality of life and higher property values.” That would seem to be the case in these public power hometowns, where the utilities are not just involved in the community; they are an essential part of it and, thanks to those revenues and support for other city services, the quality of life is high.

Finally, add in the fact that GRDA electric rates are at least 20 percent lower than national averages, and the economic benefits of these public power relationships are evident, impacting the lives of thousands of Oklahomans in a positive way.

All these numbers are a reflection of the GRDA mission statement pledge to “provide low-cost, reliable electric power and related services to our customers and to be responsive to the interests and concerns of public power users, the communities we affect and the people of the state of Oklahoma.”

Headquartered in Vinita, GRDA is Oklahoma’s state-owned electric utility; fully funded by revenues from electric and water sales instead of taxes. GRDA’s low-cost, reliable power touches 75 of 77 counties in the state. At no cost to Oklahoma taxpayers, GRDA also manages 70,000 surface acres of lakes in the state, including Grand Lake, Lake Hudson and the W.R. Holway Reservoir. Today, GRDA’s 500 employees continue to produce the same “power for progress” that has benefited the state for 75 years.

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