By Matt Brandrup
The equipment needed to power our homes, farms and businesses is an afterthought for some. We simply flip a switch or press a button, and we have power. We don’t think of the power grid and labor needed to deliver electricity. And without the necessary materials to ensure power delivery, routine maintenance, emergency work (especially during storm seasons) and new utility-related projects could come to a standstill.
An adequate inventory of power cable, transformers, utility pole hardware and other products is vital, especially in times of supply chain disruptions and inflationary challenges. That’s why 37 electric cooperatives in Iowa are members of the Rural Electric Supply Cooperative (RESCO) to ensure equipment and materials are readily available, regardless of the circumstances.
Delivering wholesale equipment and materials for generations
Founded in 1936 in response to the challenge rural electric cooperatives faced in acquiring equipment and materials, RESCO is a member-owned, not-for-profit electrical wholesaling organization. Its members are rural electric cooperatives in the Upper Midwest, extending from Michigan to Montana, including Iowa.
RESCO operates under a not-for-profit membership model, like the cooperatives it serves. This model enables RESCO to work with its manufacturer partners to deliver extremely competitive prices, which in turn allows its cooperative members to stay within their expense budgets and, ultimately, pass these savings to their own members. And just like electric cooperatives, any “profits” RESCO makes are returned to members in the form of patronage credits.
In addition to cost savings, RESCO’s cooperative model helps ensure that electrical equipment damaged during storms and other weather-related emergencies is addressed and repaired in a timely manner. RESCO operates a warehouse in Ankeny for quick distribution of products and materials, 24/7.
Addressing the impact of supply chain disruptions and inflation
No industry has been immune to the disruptions caused by ongoing supply chain issues. For electric cooperatives, the impact could delay the start of new projects or postpone scheduled maintenance. High inflation rates have also contributed to operational challenges, stretching budgets and potentially requiring cooperatives to pass some of these increases on to their members.
Fortunately, RESCO is effectively managing these challenges by carrying a record amount of inventory. This gives members the peace of mind that their product needs will be met.
In addition to its inventory reserves, RESCO is also helping members stay within their purchasing budgets by maintaining product pricing, thanks to its not-for-profit cooperative model. When demand increases, for-profit companies typically increase their pricing to maximize margins. RESCO does not. This, along with the availability of many necessary products housed in its warehouses, is enabling RESCO and its cooperative members in Iowa to weather the storm, so to speak, of logistical challenges in the electric utility sector.
What goes on behind the scenes is what keeps the lights on. RESCO’s membership model helps cooperatives ensure reliability, along with savings passed on to their own members.
Matt Brandrup is president and CEO of Rural Electric Supply Cooperative (RESCO), a member-owned and not-for-profit distribution and transmission material supply distributor serving electric cooperatives and public power districts in 11 states in the Upper Midwest and Northern Plains.