The project examined eight trends that will challenge co-ops in the near future:    

  • Rising wholesale power costs

  • The replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy

  • The sharp rise in operational data available to utilities

  • Fast-evolving communications technologies

  • Changing demographics

  • Shrinking time frames for decisions

  • The demand for real-time response to changing grid performance

  • Intense political pressure to scrutinize co-op decisions, investments, and business practices

The report discusses both near-term strategies and long-term strategies for meeting these challenges.


Electric distribution utilities of the future will face an operating environment far more complex than today’s. Major changes—from rising power prices to changing consumer behaviors—are occurring in virtually every sphere of the industry. Co-ops are responding by deploying sophisticated technologies. This environment requires CRN to obtain intelligence on the external changes utility leaders feel will have the greatest impact on co-ops and how they are preparing to address those changes. This report aims at helping co-ops make more proactive and better informed technology investment decisions in preparation for tomorrow’s challenging operational environment.


The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA’s) National Consulting Group (NCG) conducted the investigation of new challenges and technologies through a series of focus groups and interviews in the winter and spring of 2007. NCG is a business unit of NRECA that specializes in the areas of governance, utility operations, leadership continuity, human resources management, and business process design. After preliminary research to identify the key forces shaping the electric power industry, NCG consultants:

  • Conducted 12 focus groups consisting of co-op CEOs, information technology (IT) managers, and engineers;

  • Carried out 20 in-depth interviews with industry consultants and experts; and

  • Carried out 20 additional in-depth interviews with co-ops and companies using particularly innovative or progressive approaches.

The consultants sorted through the wealth of resulting information to find the major concerns, trends, and solutions.


IT managers, senior managers, communicators personal


Information technology, communications, market research, industry trends, focus group