Oil, gas boom bumps demand for electricity

Jul 26 – McClatchy-Tribune Regional News – Chris Day Stillwater NewsPress, Okla.

Oklahoma’s oil and natural gas boom is fueling growth in another energy sector — electricity.Central Rural Electric Cooperative recently received a $9.7 million Rural Utility Service loan from the Department of Agriculture. CREC will use the money to upgrade lines, smart meters and other infrastructure, the cooperative’s Chief Executive Officer David Swank said.

“CREC is fortunate that we’re seeing growth throughout our service area,” Swank said. “The recent increase in oil and gas production in the area has created a steady boost to our economy. Businesses are busier, houses are being built and CREC is working hard to meet this new demand.”

The Stillwater-based electricity cooperative is working with more than 250 oil and gas producers throughout its service area which covers 2,000 square miles and includes parts of Noble, Garfield, Lincoln, Logan, Oklahoma, Pawnee and Payne counties. Much of the growth is on the western half of the CREC system, CREC Communication’s Coordinator Larry Mattox said.

“We serve all the way down to Stroud and east of Cushing, but most of it (growth) is happening near Mulhall-Orlando on west side of our system,” Mattox said.

The cooperative already has responded to that growth using its utility crews and contractors to upgrade the system, Mattox said. The federal loan will spur the process forward.

The federal loan is commonplace for cooperative and the capital-intensive rural utility industry.

CREC was founded and began operating with a $130,000 Rural Electrif-fication Administration loan in 1937. Over the years, federal loans from the REA, which evolved into the Rural Utility Service, have helped CREC keep up with growth. The cooperative has assets in excess of $110 million and employs approximately 80 people, according to information on the CREC website.