Being a responsible corporate citizen goes far beyond the fence line of our property, to the heart of the communities and economies in which we operate or that we serve. Our investments range from the thousands of hours our employees volunteer locally, to corporate financial support for important community programs and initiatives, to economic training and development efforts. The need for our support is greater than ever as many areas continue to struggle economically at a time when several of our coal units are retiring, eliminating jobs and other economic support provided by those units.
Corporate philanthropy is important to our communities because it helps enhance quality of life, advances education and other worthy endeavors, and enriches communities. In 2014, AEP and the American Electric Power Foundation donated more than $25.3 million to support more than 2,500 community organizations.
Contributions are made primarily in the areas of education, the environment and human services, such as hunger, housing and health, and safety. In the area of education, preference is given to grades pre-K through 12 in the fields of science, technology engineering and mathematics, otherwise known as STEM.
In 2014, the AEP Foundation collaborated with Bossier Parish Community College in Bossier City, La. to provide a $1.4 million grant over five years to expand the Credits CountSM program. Credits CountSM is a five-year, dual enrollment program to help students pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education and careers while completing a high school diploma. The Foundation launched the program in 2013 with a $5 million, five-year grant made to the Columbus State Community College Foundation to implement the program in five Columbus, Ohio city high schools and middle schools that feed into them to explore STEM fields and remove barriers to college. The program engages students’ families and it provides the opportunity for students to graduate from high school with at least 12 college credits toward a career-ready certificate or toward a college degree in STEM fields that may include energy, the environment or information technology.
Major components of the program include middle school STEM experiences, college readiness assessments, tutoring, and a summer bridge program to enhance English, science and math skills. The AEP Foundation was honored for its work and development of the Credits CountSM program, winning the Columbus Business First Corporate Caring Award. This award identifies exemplary companies who are dedicating resources to nonprofit organizations in and around the Columbus area.
In early 2015, the AEP Foundation announced a further expansion of Credits CountSM to Tulsa Community College Foundation in Oklahoma to provide $3 million over five years, benefiting high school and middle school students in Tulsa Public Schools. The program will reach nearly 1,000 students to assess college readiness. About 800 students will participate in the Summer Bridge program to improve math, science and English skills. About 3,000 middle school students will participate in a summer STEM college experience and up to 800 students will receive for-credit college-level course work, while completing high school.
We also look for opportunities to support projects focused on energy research. In 2014, AEP Energy partnered with The Ohio State University (OSU) to install solar panels on the roof of their Recreation & Physical Activity Center at their main campus in Columbus, OH. AEP Energy fully funded the $400,000 project, which consists of a 10,000-square foot solar array that was installed in the shape of the University’s signature “Block O”. The panels provide the university with an opportunity to diversify its energy portfolio, adding to their wind farm that is already in place. The University owns and operates the panels, paying below market rates for their electricity. AEP Energy is a certified competitive retail electric service (CRES) provider and a certified Competitive Retail Natural Gas Service (CRNGS) provider affiliated with AEP.
In 2014, Appalachian Power Company (APCo), operator of the Smith Mountain hydroelectric facility in Southwest Virginia, completed two community projects to improve navigation signage on the lake and open a new public access boating facility. Approximately 265 in-water navigation signs were replaced to make them more visible and make it easier for boaters to navigate more safely. APCo also opened a 10-acre Oak Grove Public Boating Access Facility to serve visitors to Smith Mountain Lake. The public access area includes handicap-accessibility to the lake with a double-sized boat launching ramp and fishing pier. The facility has more than 60 parking spaces, public restrooms, and “dark skies” lighting. It will be operated by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and is available to visitors at no charge.