Central Virginia Electric Cooperative recently had the distinct privilege of hosting a delegation from the Republic of Burundi and Virunga Power Corporation. The government of Burundi and Virunga Power have formed a unique public-private partnership with a goal of creating an electric distribution network to make electricity available across the nation of Burundi. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association International Team has been working with Virunga Power to develop an electrification expansion plan that will guide electrification investments, including engineering design for the first phase of the project in Burundi.

During this early planning phase of the project, the leaders of the new electric utility, Burundi regulators and members of the Burundi administration wanted to visit the United States to visit a rural electric cooperative and pole-treatment facility. Among the many key questions for which they sought resolution during their visit, one of the most interesting was regarding the successful use of wood utility poles in Burundi. Prior to the visit, the government of Burundi was not convinced. Only about 10% of Burundi currently has electricity, but they have had a very poor experience with locally sourced wood poles. Mainly used are local eucalyptus poles that are not treated. These green, undried, untreated poles rot quickly, requiring the current Burundi utility to replace each wood pole on its system typically every four to seven years, depending on the level of rot damage in the pole.

NRECA International connected the Burundi delegation with CVEC for a tour of its facility and infrastructure. CVEC was proud to spend several hours with the delegation, presenting and answering many questions from metering technology, transformer and voltage standards, infrastructure procurement, and reliability rates with the co-op’s wood pole infrastructure.

The day also included a visit across the road to the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Electric Cooperatives Training Center, where the group witnessed pole-climbing techniques and a variety of tools and resources used throughout the apprenticeships.

CVEC representatives escorted the group on a small field trip to inspect healthy 30-year-old poles and a few poles that have been tested/treated that were even older. The eye-opening experience helped prepare the delegation for their next trip to a pole treatment facility in Georgia. Their goal is to potentially build a pole treatment facility in Burundi to help ensure the expansion of their grid is reliable and successful.

“CVEC appreciated the opportunity to welcome this delegation and to share best practices that we have learned,” says Galen Creekmore, government affairs and key accounts representative. “It was gratifying and humbling to see a team working toward bringing electrification to their nation in 2024, and working through intricate details to achieve what we so often take for granted.”

–Report by Central Virginia Electric Cooperative.