March 2016

Palmetto Electric Members Prepare to “Swing for the Green” : Celebrating the past and the future

Author: Kitty Bartell

There was a time when Palmetto Electric Cooperative members read their own meters and reported their usage to the co-op for billing. Today those meters are read remotely and automatically—just one example of how the not-for-profit utility provider has modernized and grown how they do business. Before electricity began flowing to the Lowcountry in 1940, residents remember a time when candle, kerosene, and lightning bugs were the only choices for illumination, and dinners were cooked over wood fires.

Ten years later, in 1950, Palmetto Electric brought power to Hilton Head Island, and the work to complete that connection nearly bankrupted the co-op. With only 30 households benefitting from that first power surge, the cost-benefit ratio of completing the project didn’t make a whole lot of fiscal sense. Making sense was not the reason the members were willing to take that risk; however, today it is still the way Palmetto Electric charts its course into the future. Improving the lives of its members has been the pillar on which the co-op has stood, from that first decision to electrify the area in 1940 to the decisions it makes today.

Green Power is one of Palmetto Electric’s initiatives with a proven record of positively impacting lives in the Lowcountry, and when the RBC Heritage presented by Boeing golf tournament and the PGA Tour jumped on the green bandwagon in 2009, they started something electrifying—pun intended. With the 2016 event, the tournament is celebrating its eighth year of teaming up with the co-op and Santee Cooper to power the event with 100 percent Green Power, this year themed “Swing for the Green.”

“The entire block of electricity that the tournament consumes is offset with green power,” said Tray Hunter, Palmetto Electric’s vice president of marketing and public relations. “Green Power is a program originated by Santee Cooper where you purchase green power blocks, and the funds generated from those blocks go to further the generation of Green Power, whether it’s biogas, biofuels, solar, or any green power.”

As Green Power fuels are collected, they gather in what can be imagined as a melting pot of energy. Any Palmetto Electric member may elect to get power for their home or business directly from that resource. The co-op will have a tent at this year’s tournament in Sea Pines Resort from April 11-17. “At the tent, everyone can learn how to purchase power for their home, learn about different programs beyond green power, and get updates and info on solar and any other green power initiatives in the state,” Hunter said.

“RBC is very into the Green movement,” said Missy Santorum, public relations manager for the co-op. “They fully embrace our Green Power efforts. We’re very pleased to have been the first PGA Tour event in the country to go green, and I think others have followed suit.” Also, if you’re not a member of the Palmetto Electric Cooperative, you can stop by the tent and learn how to contribute through Green Power tags.

The co-op also recently disclosed a broad solar power initiative for 2016. “We’re excited to announce that Palmetto Electric will construct a community solar farm this year. Members will be able to purchase locally generated solar power,” said A. Berl Davis, Jr., Palmetto Electric’s president and chief executive officer. “We are looking forward to an exciting 2016!” Likely, a bit different than the Green Power melting pot of energy concept, members may be purchasing power from specific panels installed and maintained at the farm. The details of this dynamic program will be announced throughout 2016.

Palmetto Electric’s new app is another way members can engage with their co-op, along with managing their energy usage and the accounts. “You can set an alert that your usage has exceeded a certain amount,” Hunter said. “It’s good for heating season if your HVAC system is having an issue and it’s not operating normally. It will notify you if your usage has spiked because your emergency heat is running, and that’s helpful because it costs approximately three times the normal amount to run. You can look at your usage trends, and report an outage and view outage maps.”

Palmetto Electric’s commitment to improving its members’ lives began with providing electricity where there was none, and every year since, their mission has grown through new power initiatives, charitable contributions, and community involvement. This year’s annual meeting on Saturday, May 7 will be a celebration of the past year’s work and growth and a look toward the exciting opportunities planned for the coming year. For Palmetto Electric board member Eunice Spilliards, the meeting is a celebration of what the delivery of electricity did for the community. “When it came, there was celebration everywhere, and of course it changed completely the way that we lived. The thing I remember most, every year we had to go to the annual meeting, and it was big stuff. You did not miss that meeting, because the electric company had given us something that was so valuable.” It’s still pretty big stuff.

This year’s annual meeting will likely exceed previous years for the fun planned. Every member household in attendance will receive a special gift and a Palmetto Electric credit, along with plenty of other prizes to be awarded. The grand prize drawing will be for a Ford Escape Hybrid vehicle. There will be music, concessions benefitting Technical College of the Lowcountry’s ACE program, entertainment, a bake sale benefiting the co-op’s WIRE scholarship program, and an auction, all culminating with the annual meeting of the members. With over 10,000 people expected, “It’s probably one of the biggest Lowcountry events you will find in the area,” Santorum said.

“Some folks remember when electricity was just a lightbulb hanging from the ceiling. The programs we do, whether it’s the Green Power, or the events at the annual meeting, or the app, are programs to better the lives of our members,” Hunter said. Still on-mission, co-op members would certainly say it was worth the risk. 

For more information, please visit or call Hilton Head (843) 681-5551; Ridgeland (843) 726-5551; New River (843) 208-5551; or Hampton (803) 943-2211.

Palmetto Electric’s New App:
is another way members can engage with their co-op, along with managing their energy usage and the accounts. The app allows clients to set an alert if they have used or exceeded a certain amount of energy usuage. just another way to save energy as well as money!

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