Keith Hayward has seen more than his fair share of technology development in the Valley.

Serving as General Manager and CEO of North East Mississippi Electric Power Association since 2013, Keith has worked tirelessly to keep his LPC at the forefront of innovation. We asked him to share his experience with innovative technology deployments as it relates to his LPC footprint:

“As technology develops in our industry, co-ops in rural areas need technology even more because we’re so spread out and often have fewer people. Over the years, our team mapped out our system in order to get it to where we could do load controls and load flow analysis. By 2006, we started implementing AMI, which enabled us to take phone calls, display outages on a map, and even pinpoint fuses and switches if they go out.”

To Keith, innovative change isn’t a nicety — it’s a necessity.

“Our investments in technology made a world of difference when we got the call from TVA before Christmas last year. There is no way we could have responded the way we did if we had not already invested in new technologies, like our full SCADA system, over the years. We were able to do everything right here in the office: we turned some of the load down, monitored it while we were doing it, turned it back on, and made sure everybody’s meter was working efficiently. It’s amazing to contrast that experience with the big ice storm of ‘94. When that storm hit, we were out for 23 days. We used big cellular bag phones while we monitored the restoration… we’ve come a long way since then.” 

In addition to keeping the lights on, Keith sees tremendous value in his co-op’s ability to offer fiber to his members.

“Until my members get connectivity, they can’t participate in a lot of other services. I was on the committee to help pass the laws to get us to where we could provide broadband service. This was important for us to be able to utilize smart grid deployment with fiber. We deployed that in 25 months because our goal was to try to make sure everybody in north Mississippi had access to fiber in the home.”

As his system continues to expand rapidly, Keith is also looking ahead to the future. He offered advice to general managers who might be just starting out in this quickly evolving industry.

“Often times people are reluctant to take a chance on new technology or spend money on it. As general managers embrace technology, I encourage them to make sure it fits their customers’ needs. And ultimately, you can’t sacrifice cost for service and reliability. That’s most important.”