Historic Southern Maryland gets it power via the South Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO), which distributes electricity to more than 152,000 residential, commercial, and industrial customers in four counties. One of the ten largest electric cooperatives in the US, the member-owned enterprise gets its wholesale power supply through its membership in wholesale energy trading and risk management service company ACES Power Marketing. Overseen by a board of directors, SMECO's single mission is to provide reliable, competitively priced energy and related services to its members.
SMECO's service area includes all of Charles and St. Mary's counties, and parts of of Calvert and Prince George's counties. Cities covered include Hughesville, Leonardtown, Prince Frederick, and White Plains.
In 2011 SMECO reported a 9% drop in revenues, primarily due to lower residential power demand thanks to a significant power disruption caused by a major hurricane and the growing adoption of conservation measures that lessened energy use during peak (higher-cost) periods. However, the lower power demand also resulted in lower costs paid for third-party purchased power, helping SMECO to narrow the drop in its net operating margins for the year to 6%.
Like other coops, SMECO is pushing conservation, the use of green energy, and smart technology to reduce power costs. By the end of 2011 the coop had installed 32,800 thermostats and digital control units in members' homes and businesses. That year it installed 1,900 smart meters in military installations in its service area. It is also pushing the development of solar and wind energy and integrating it into the power supply it makes available to its members.
In 2011 the coop's service areas felt the full brunt of Hurricane Irene, which knocked out 11 transmission circuits and cut power 108,000 customers, and caused $7 million of damage to the coop's electric system.
In 2010 SMECO began construction of the Southern Maryland Reliability Project, which aims to upgrade SEMCOs existing 69,000-volt transmission line to 230,000 volts by 2015. The Project's expanded capacity will ensure a more reliable supply.
In 1937, as part of the national rural electrification drive of the Roosevelt government, a local committee in St. Mary's county and one representing Charles and Prince George's counties merged to form the Southern Maryland Tri-County Cooperative Association. The members converted this association into a non-profit membership cooperative in 1942 and changed its name to Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative. – less