Nolin Rural Electric Cooperative Corp. has been working for years to ensure that its investment in smart meter technology provides value to its members, and the efforts are paying off with national recognition.

The Elizabethtown, Kentucky-based distribution co-op is the first in the nation to earn the U.S. Green Building Council's Per­form­ance Ex­cel­lence in Elec­tri­city Re­newal certification. The designation is the utility service and performance equivalent to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifications that have been awarded by the organization for energy-efficient building projects since 1998.

The Washington-based Green Building Council praised the co-op's power system performance, the quality of its infrastructure and its efforts to ensure power quality and reliability and mitigate problems like equipment failure and outages.

"The Nolin team has really excelled in this particular area in showing how much value an electrical co-op can deliver to their customers and members," said Jamie Statter, vice president of the Green Building Council. She visited Elizabeth on June 26 to announce the certification.

"We've built a lot of redundancy and resilience into our system to help minimize inconveniences to members when outages occur," said Greg Lee, vice president of system operations at Nolin RECC. "Our system enables us to reroute service to meet most member demand while permanent repairs are made to damaged components on our system."

The co-op pursued PEER certification with grant assistance from Kentucky's Energy and Environment Cabinet. Much of the initial work leading to the certification was done as part of the co-op's commitment to modernizing the power grid and enhancing service to the U.S. Army's Fort Knox installation.

"We worked on certification on behalf of Fort Knox as part of our utility privatization contract, and we pursued a separate certification for our standard service territory," said Lee. The results were a gold-level utility certification for the co-op's standard service territory and a silver-level campus designation for the system on the military base.

"We made absolutely no pre-emptive investments in the Nolin system to purposely help improve our PEER scoring," Lee said. "We're using the program to establish a baseline for our system, and the results will help us with strategic planning and potential opportunities for improvement."

"Beyond recognizing the performance of the co-op and its staff, the PEER certifications also reinforce Nolin RECC's commitment to members," said Lee. "We'll be looking at specific aspects of our operation to see how we can improve service delivery and reliability."

The Green Building Council points to Nolin RECC as an example of what co-ops and other utilities can achieve with focused improvements, Statter said in announcing the certifications. "We hope that you will join our growing movement in getting others to follow your lead."