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LIVE WIRE: Metal Theft Threatens Safety, Lives

Would you risk being struck by lightning for $100? Seems a bit ludicrous, but desperate times cause folks to do foolish things.

Theft of copper, aluminum, and bronze is scarce in our area, thankfully, but when it does happen, the results could be deadly. We need your help to keep our equipment safe, prevent outages, and save lives.

At a substation in Cochranton recently, metal thieves took off with less than $100 worth of wire, but they are fortunate they left alive.  They left behind thousands of dollars worth of a repair bill for our linemen and members to take care of.  It’s hard to understand why folks would put their life on the line for a few dollars. Any damage done to our system packs a big punch, since equipment can be ruined without the protection copper wires provide. There’s also the potential for loss of life.

We use copper to ground our equipment, protecting it from electrical surges and lightning by giving electricity a safe path to ground.  Copper is an essential component in our business and the theft of this safety mechanism puts our employees at risk as well as those that attempt to steal it.  This is not something we take lightly.

Our linemen are highly trained professionals who understand the dangers of working with electricity and take proper safety precautions. There is a reason our substations are surrounded by secure fencing and warning signs are posted:  to protect the public.  Unfortunately, some thieves will not be deterred.

Please help us prevent these thefts. If you notice anything unusual, such as an open substation gate, open equipment, or hanging wire or unauthorized personnel around our facilities, call Northwestern REC immediately at 1-800-352-0014 and the police.  Anyone with information on the Cochranton theft is asked to contact the Meadville State Police barracks at 814-332-6911. 

WARNING: Third Party Payment Websites

The cooperative urges members to stay away from third party websites when making payments. Many websites, such as, accept payments for hundreds of businesses. These websites make payments electronically or by check on a member's behalf. Most of them charge users to send payments.

Please be aware that sites like these are using the cooperative's logo and information but are NOT affiliated in any way with Northwestern Rural Electric Cooperative. Payments made through these sites are not guaranteed - they may not arrive on time, may not be applied to the account properly and could result in late fees or dis-connections.

Please do not use third party websites when making a payment to the cooperative. If paying online, use the cooperative's SmartHub application.

There is a cooperative difference

While all electric utilities offer the same product, where the electricity comes from makes a difference.

In the U.S., the vast majority of people receive their electricity from one of three types of utilities: investor-owned, municipal-owned or through their electric cooperative, which is owned and controlled by the people who use it. Let’s take a closer look at these three types of ownership models and see why it matters to you.

In the investor-owned model, the corporation is owned by a great number of stockholders, some of whom do not live in areas serviced by the utility. Investor-owned utilities tend to be very large corporations such as First Energy (Penelec and Penn Power). They serve large cities, suburban areas and some rural areas, too.

About 72 percent of the U.S. population is served by investor-owned utilities.

Municipal electric systems are government owned. They can serve large cities, like Los Angeles or Orlando, or smaller areas, like the Wellsboro Electric Company in Pennsylvania. In municipal systems, the municipality runs the utility. About 16 percent of the market is served by municipal utilities.

Rural electric cooperatives serve the smallest number of consumers, about 12 percent of the market, or about 42 million people. There are more than 800 electric co-ops in 47 states, including the Northwestern Rural Electric Cooperative in Cambridge Springs. While co-ops serve the fewest number of people, their electric lines cover more than 75 percent of the U.S. This is because co-ops historically provided power where other utilities once refused to go because of low population density. Electric co-ops, which rank high in member satisfaction, are not-for-profit, locally owned and operated, and serve member-owners, not customers.

As the electric utility business continues to evolve, co-ops are committed to being there for members to provide for their electric energy needs.

The Northwestern Rural Electric Co-op offers electric safety demonstrations, Clearly Brighter teacher grants, GenerLink transfer switches, three types of energy audits, and dry hydrants, to name a few.

There is a cooperative difference. You own us, and we are here to serve you.

Thanksgiving is on us

Northwestern REC employees, Michael and Gerda Frazier, along with their son Hunter, volunteer to gather all the fixings for Thanksgiving meals that will be provided to 75 co-op families. Funds for these meals were donated by employees and directors. The recipients of these surprise meal boxes are nominated by co-op employees throughout the year. We are thankful for our volunteers and for the receiving members. Happy Holidays!

Northwestern REC Helps Build Stronger Rural Pennsylvania

Cambridge Springs, PA - Northwestern Rural Electric Cooperative Association is joining with 30,000 other cooperatives nationwide in October to celebrate National Cooperative Month, which recognizes the many ways cooperatives help to build stronger communities and a stronger economy. “Cooperatives Build” is the theme for this year’s celebration, spotlighting the many advantages cooperatives offer to their members and the communities in which they live and work.


Nationwide, cooperatives create 2.1 million jobs and generate more than $650 million in sales and other revenue annually. “Our cooperative delivers electricity to 20,000 members in our five-county service area of northwestern Pennsylvania,” says Mary Grill, president & CEO of Northwestern REC. “Northwestern REC generated nearly $34 million in revenue last year. Revenue beyond what is required for salaries and expenses is either returned to members as capital credits or reinvested to make system improvements that enhance the quality of life for our members. Either way, our co-op revenue goes back to Main Street, not Wall Street.” 


The co-op is also a major employer in the region with a fulltime workforce of 65. Through the payroll taxes it pays, the co-op is a major contributor to the tax base of local governments, helping to support schools, police and fire protection and other vital community infrastructure. It also donates to a number of local charitable and civic causes every year.


“We like to talk about ‘the cooperative difference,’ because co-ops offer so many advantages to their members, “ says Kathryn J. Cooper-Winters, board president of the co-op. “Because our business is owned by the people we serve, all of our efforts are aimed at delivering improved services locally. Members control the co-op through their democratically elected board of directors.” 


Rural America is served by a network of about 1,000 electric cooperatives, most of which were formed in the late 1930s and 40s to bring electricity to farms and rural communities that large, investor-owned power companies had no interest in serving because of the higher costs involved in serving low-population-density areas. 


Northwestern REC was incorporated in 1936 and is celebrating 80 years of powering its members and local communities. This local cooperative has been identified by Touchstone Energy Best Practices as the leading cooperative in the Nation on member engagement. 


Northwestern REC is a not-for-profit electric distribution cooperative providing service to over 20,000 members in Crawford, Erie, Warren, Venango, and Mercer counties in Pennsylvania and Ashtabula County, Ohio. To view a video about Northwestern REC, visit and click on the spotlight link or YouTube icon.

Recycle your U.S. Flags

Photo of American Legion member picking up dropbox

Recycling U.S. Flags
Cambridge Springs, PA - May 26, 2016: The co-op has donated its retired payment dropbox to the American Legion in Cambridge Springs, where they will turn it into a U.S. flag recycling container. Matt Baughman, a rep from the Legion, picked it up from the co-op today. What a great thing!

Northwestern REC Joins National Initiative to Explore New Energy Storage Options

Cambridge Springs, PA; - Northwestern Rural Electric Cooperative Association is joining the Community Storage Initiative, a national effort to solve the challenge of energy storage with technologies and resources that are already available.

For decades the electricity industry has been researching energy storage technologies, such as utility-scale batteries, that can stockpile electricity for later use. As the industry develops more renewable energy resources, which are intermittent, the need for energy storage is becoming more pressing.

Community storage refers to utility-sponsored programs that coordinate electric storage resources available throughout the community, such as water heaters and electric vehicles. Many utilities already offer consumers incentives to lower their usage during times of high demand; community storage enhances and builds on those programs.  Currently over half of Northwestern REC’s members participate in one of the community storage (load management) programs available to its members.  This alone saves an average of one million dollars in avoided energy costs each year for its cooperative membership.

Community storage enables consumers and utilities to share the system-wide benefits of energy storage – environmental benefits, lower costs and grid optimization – in communities large and small across the country.  Such programs maximize the value of distributed energy resources, many of which are already available to participate in energy storage programs through simple retrofits and program design.

“The electricity industry is undergoing a rapid transformation,” said Mary Grill, Northwestern REC President & CEO.  “By looking at resources available now and using them in a new way, we can find affordable solutions to some of our biggest challenges.”

The Initiative’s supporters include a wide array of energy, environmental and business interests. The Initiative members are already implementing community storage programs, and will be working together to develop and enhance those programs to fit changing energy needs.

Northwestern REC has been identified by Touchstone Energy Best Practices as the leading cooperative in the Nation on member engagement.  Northwestern REC is a not-for-profit electric distribution cooperative providing service to over 20,000 members in Crawford, Erie, Warren, Venango, and Mercer counties in Pennsylvania and Ashtabula County, Ohio.  To view a video about Northwestern REC, visit and click on the spotlight link or YouTube icon.



Grant Recipients for 2016 Spring Term

Cambridge Springs, PA – Northwestern Rural Electric Cooperative is happy to announce the recipients of its Clearly Brighter Teacher Grants. Each spring and fall semester, up to fifteen - $100 Clearly Brighter Grants are available to teachers and educators throughout its service territory. First implemented in 2000, these grants are intended to help local educators receive additional funding for special class projects.

Grants have been awarded to the following teachers and their respective projects for the 2016 spring term:




Grant Purpose

Laura Wolff

Seton Catholic School


Supplies for Math & Science Center

Regina Kuppinger

Seton Catholic School


Trip to Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh

Carolyn Brown

Meadville Area Middle School

7th & 8th

Snacks for after school activities

Nyla Wolfgang

Home school

1st & 3rd

Science activities

Britanny Adkins

Penncrest School District

K through 6th

RAINBOWS program start up

Kelly Astor

Cambridge Springs Elementary

K through 6th

Headphones for gifted program

Christine Gordon

Meadville Area Middle School


Trip to Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Ann Zurasky

Maplewood High School

7th through 12th

Items for Life Skills instruction

Jake Scott

Meadville Area High School

9th through 12th

T-shirts for promotion against underage drinking

Michelle Cybulski

Meadville Cooperative Preschool


Fine motor manipulatives & winter play gear


As a community-oriented cooperative, Northwestern REC is dedicated to offering programs that help improve the quality of life. The teacher grant program is one way the co-op reaches out to children – the members of tomorrow.


Educators in public and private schools, as well as home-school teachers, are invited to apply. Applications for the next granting period, fall 2016, will be accepted through August 1, 2016, and can be found online at Questions may be directed to Amy Wellington Fuller at 1-800-352-0014.


Northwestern REC is a member-owned electric cooperative serving over 20,000 members throughout five counties in northwest Pennsylvania.

Teacher Grant Applications Still Accepted

Cambridge Springs, PA – Northwestern REC has extended the deadline to submit teacher grant applications to December 18, 2015. The Clearly Brighter Teacher Grant Program was started by Northwestern REC in the summer of 2000. Each semester, or twice a year, the co-op awards fifteen - $100 grants to teachers and/or home school educators for extra classroom projects that are not covered by school budgets.  Since the program's inception, Northwestern has awarded nearly $45,000 to local teachers and home school educators.
Active teachers for all grade levels in school districts, home schools and private schools located within Northwestern REC’s territory are eligible to apply for these grants. Teachers and schools do not need to receive service from the co-op however.
Grant applications are typically accepted through December 1; however, Northwestern has extended that deadline this year to December 18. Applications can be submitted online at Questions can be directed to Amy Wellington Fuller, manager of communications, at 800-352-0014.