OTEC and Oregon Co-Op Employees Bringing Electricity to Guatemala

By on Monday, January 16th, 2023 in Featured Stories Northeastern Oregon News

BAKER CITY – (Release from the Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative) Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative (OTEC) is proud to join forces with the Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association (ORECA) and other Oregon co-ops to embark on an ambitious project to electrify a remote village in the mountains of Guatemala. In March, three volunteers from OTEC will join a team of a dozen other volunteer linemen and electrical experts from Oregon rural electric cooperatives to bring power to an area that has none, creating a foundation for the village to achieve future economic prosperity and experience an improved quality of life.

The electrification project is run by ORECA’s 501c3, Oregon Empowers, and is a joint effort of Oregon’s electric cooperatives, which together serve more than 500,000 Oregonians. The mission is being coordinated through the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA) philanthropic arm, NRECA International.

Oregon Empowers had initially organized an electrification project in 2020 but was canceled and subsequently delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

OTEC’s volunteers will consist of journeyman lineman Travis Smart, Operations Superintendent Jeff Pillow and Director of Engineering Charlie Tracy, who is also the Oregon Empowers team leader on the ground in Guatemala. 

“Bringing electricity to remote areas in developing countries takes electric cooperatives back to their roots. It is an honor to pay it forward,” says Les Penning, OTEC’s Chief Executive Officer. “This mission reinforces our commitment to empower generations by improving the quality of life for local communities at home and abroad.

The project site is in the department (state) of Jalapa, east of Guatemala City. The team will work for up to three weeks wiring poles and homes to receive first-time electricity. Upon completion, homes, schools, and health centers will benefit from access to electric power. As of now, the locals live humbly without running water, food refrigeration or the use of electronic appliances.

The team will work on a stretch of close to three miles in mountainous terrain to wire the village, as well as install multiple large transformers. Each home will be equipped with lightbulbs, light switches, and electrical outlets.

“Knowing that we are making a difference in helping these people’s lives who have little to nothing is truly inspiring,” said Tracy. “Being able to provide such a basic service such as electricity and knowing that this small action could help lift them out of poverty brings a lot of perspective on what we take for granted here in the U.S. I am honored and humbled to be a part of this.”

According to the World Bank, 940 million people, or 13% of the world’s population, do not have access to electricity.

Oregon’s electric cooperatives have established a 501©3 not-for-profit, The Oregon Empower Foundation, to support this cause. All contributions are tax-deductible. To learn more, visit oregonempowers.com.

About the cooperative

Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative (OTEC) is a not-for-profit, member-owned electric cooperative that serves nearly 60,000 residents in four counties in Eastern Oregon. Headquartered in Baker City, OTEC has district offices in Burns, John Day, and La Grande.