The Thomas B. Fitzhugh Generating Station near Ozark, Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation’s (AECC) first power plant, will mark its fiftieth anniversary on June 30.
The plant began commercial operation in 1963 after a long, challenging battle over the cooperatives’ rights to own generation facilities. The plant is named for Thomas B. Fitzhugh, former AECC attorney who led the fight for the plant until his death in 1954. Today, AECC owns more than 3,400 megawatts of generation capacity and provides wholesale power to 17 electric distribution cooperatives that serve more than 500,000 members.
“The Fitzhugh generating station anniversary symbolizes Independence Day for the Arkansas electric cooperatives,” said Duane Highley, CEO/president of the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas. “The plant represents a fight for the future of the cooperatives and control of their destiny and power costs. This plant meant reliability and affordability for cooperative members. It set the path for the future of independence we have today.”
A project to add 111.6 megawatts of generating capacity to the plant’s original 59 megawatts of capacity was completed in 2003. Former Arkansas Gov. Sid McMath, a strong supporter of the electric cooperatives in Arkansas, spoke at the event.
“The building of the Fitzhugh Steam Generating plant at Ozark was vital to the cooperatives’ ability to extend electrical service to the rural areas of Arkansas at a reasonable rate,” McMath said. “This story is a most significant chapter in the history of Arkansas.”
According to Highley, the hard work and dedication of electric cooperative pioneers established a legacy of advocacy for electric cooperative members.
“We work for cooperative members at the end of the line,” he said. “We are not trying to obtain profits. We work to improve the quality of life for our members.”
Highley said as the result of the great vision of Arkansas electric cooperative pioneers and dedicated employees that work to operate and maintain generation assets at the highest level, AECC is now the lowest cost generation and transmission cooperative in the United States.
The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas comprise 17 electric distribution cooperatives; Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (AECI), a Little Rock-based cooperative that provides services to the distribution cooperatives; and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. (AECC), a generation and transmission cooperative. The distribution cooperatives provide electricity to more than 500,000 members, or customers, in Arkansas and surrounding states