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College to play key role in electric cooperative training programs

Electric cooperatives provide electricity to 37 million consumers
                        in 47 states.

(large image)

Faculty from the Department of Engineering Professional Development and other College of Engineering departments will play key roles in training electric cooperative managers and staff from throughout the country.

UW-Madison officials, including College of Engineering Dean Paul Peercy, announced last week that the university would serve as the home base for training programs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). The trade organization, based in Washington, D.C., represents the nation's 900-plus consumer-owned electric cooperatives. The cooperatives, created to provide electricity to rural communities and remote areas of the country, serve 37 million people in 47 states and employ 63,000 people.

NRECA's training programs will based in the UW-Madison School of Business, but will utilize faculty from throughout the university. Peercy said the College's Engineering Professional Development faculty members have a long tradition of training utility engineers, technicians and managers through the department's Electric Power Systems Group. Faculty from the Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Civil and Environmental Engineering will also play a role in NRECA's training programs.

"The College of Engineering looks forward to a long partnership with NRECA," Peercy said.

Peercy said the college's engineering professional development faculty members have developed a range of power electric systems courses, with a strong emphasis on practical applications, for utility workers. The Electric Power Systems Group offers more than 40 courses in key areas such as electric power transmission, electric power distribution, computer analysis, information systems, motor and power electronics, and regulatory issues.

NRECA Executive Director Glenn English said he welcomed the opportunity to have the nation's electric cooperative workers receive training through the university and programs like the Electric Power Systems Group. The association's training had been based at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, but state budget cuts in Nebraska led the group to look elsewhere for a university to house its training programs.

"We were looking for more than just bricks and mortars," English said of the NRECA's need for up-to-date training programs. "This industry is changing very rapidly."

State Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Rod Nilsesteun also praised NRECA's association with UW-Madison, noting Wisconsin's long tradition of electric cooperatives. Wisconsin cooperatives provide electricity to more than 200,000 consumers, primarily in the western half of the state.

"This can be a great partnership," Nilsesteun said.