Our Energy, Our Future

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Exec. Editor

Richard Johnstone


The 900-plus electric cooperatives spread across 47 of our 50 states have started a campaign of public awareness in recent weeks dubbed, “Our Energy, Our Future.” It’s an effort to inform, and to engage the help of, you and the other 40 million Americans who receive their electricity from a consumer-owned electric cooperative. In Virginia, 13 local cooperatives provide electric service to over 400,000 homes and businesses owned and occupied by about one million Virginians.

As not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric utilities, we are: structured to provide electric service at cost, determined to provide this service in the most reliable way possible, and committed to protecting the environment in the process. (After all, the community you call home is our home as well.)

As consumer-owned utilities, electric cooperatives occupy a unique position, able to speak with members of Congress both objectively and with a lot of credibility on behalf of average consumers. In fact, last month almost 100 electric cooperative leaders from across the Old Dominion traveled to Washington, D.C., to deliver our concerns to Virginia’s U.S. House and Senate members. Your co-op representatives, both elected board and key staff members, met with most of Virginia’s House members or their staffs, as well as with Senators John Warner and Jim Webb. In these meetings, your co-op leaders encouraged our federal officials to work with all interested parties to seek a balanced solution to the many energy challenges facing our nation.

Specifically, we expressed concern about the growing demand for electricity in this nation, fueled by our larger homes, additional appliances, and new technological wonders that use large amounts of power. We also expressed concern about the shrinking level of our nation’s “capacity margins” — the surplus electricity that needs to be available to meet growing demand and to fill in if there are planned or unplanned outages at electric-generating stations. In fact, the head of the non-profit North American Electric Reliability Corporation, Rick Sergel, said earlier this year that “We’re very close to the edge. We operate under tight conditions more often than ever. We need action in the next year or two to start on the path to having enough electricity 10 years from now.”

We also shared that we are determined to do our part to practice and encourage conservation, to utilize renewable fuel sources where feasible to generate electricity, and to continue the demand-side management programs for which cooperatives have been known for decades.

But we are also concerned about the cost impact on you and other cooperative member-consumers that may result from whatever legislation Congress ultimately passes to address these energy issues. Therefore, we are encouraging our federal elected officials to consider the impact on consumers and the economy as they explore and develop solutions to climate change.

We are also asking our members of Congress to be sure to provide the necessary technical, financial and policy support that will be needed to address the huge task of determining how to capture and store the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are at the center of concern over climate change. Under every known scenario that Congress is considering to address climate change, the electric bills of all Americans would increase, and under some of the pieces of legislation, the increases could be substantial, perhaps doubling electric bills, or more, over the next 10 years.

Virginia’s electric cooperative leaders    along with 3,000 others from states across the country  — fanned out across Capitol Hill last month to deliver these messages, all of which embody an overarching, rock-solid promise: that cooperatives will be vigilant in looking out for consumers. We’re determined to protect the environment of our communities, and the pocketbooks of those who live and work there.

Over the coming months, thousands of electric cooperative member-consumers from across the country will be taking part in the “Our Energy, Our Future” campaign, by contacting their elected members of Congress and expressing their concerns about the energy challenges facing our nation. If you would like to join this effort, or to learn more about the views of electric cooperatives on these issues, please visit a special Web site that’s been set up by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. The address is www.ourenergy.coop.

We need your help as we work to make “Our Energy” as reliable and affordable and clean as possible, which will make “Our Future” as a nation even brighter.


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