Every month, CEO/General Manager Tony Mallory has a message for our members in Your Co-op Connection in Rural Missouri.
Members expect reliable, affordable power
Co-ops deliver message to Congress
As a Touchstone Energy Cooperative, one of our taglines is “the Power of Human Connections.” That sounds catchy. But it’s more than just brand messaging. It’s a good reminder that this cooperative was built by and for the communities we serve. That close connection is built on strong relationships.
And that’s what makes cooperatives different.
I was reminded of this as I participated in the annual legislative conference of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Hundreds of co-op representatives – directors, CEOs, leaders of all sorts – gathered this spring in Washington, D.C. Working together, the co-ops brought a powerful message to their members of Congress: Our consumer-members care about reliable, affordable electricity.
This is an especially important message for lawmakers to understand. Reliability cannot be sacrificed in a rush to a so-called energy transition. After all, the national electric grid has been called the biggest machine ever built. Any change in direction must allow for sufficient time for the change to actually occur.
Picture a huge ocean liner. Maybe you’ve even been on a cruise in one. Do you think those behemoths can turn on a dime? Fair warning, clear direction, and skilled piloting are all needed to accomplish such a change.
Similarly, the nation’s turn to an electricity grid fueled only by renewable resources likely can and will occur. But it can’t just happen with a stroke of a legislative pen. Some time, more transmission and new technology are needed to make it occur without capsizing. We call those the “Three T’s.”
The nation’s transmission grid must undergo significant upgrade and expansion to accommodate a significant amount of renewable energy. Today’s transmission lines were designed and built to move power in one direction, not so much back and forth. Transmission upgrades also would be required to support the dreamed-of nationwide network of charging stations for electric vehicles.
Technological advances, such as large-scale battery storage, are still needed to integrate intermittent renewables into the system to ensure 24/7/365 baseload energy supply.
Without adequate solutions in place, any attempt to mandate a full-steam-ahead change in direction inevitably will result in a less reliable electric grid. That means a less reliable supply of electricity to our consumer-members. And that, my friends and neighbors, is simply unacceptable.
The good news is that co-ops’ strong relationships are helping that message sink in. We’re privileged to have an all-important “Fourth T” with our congressional delegation: trust.
They know we’re straight shooters, sharing an honest message in support of the consumers (aka voters) in their home districts.
Over the course of my career with the electric co-ops, I’ve already seen a major change in direction. We used to be reliant on coal for 70-80% of our generation capacity. That’s been cut nearly in half, as natural gas, significant utility-scale wind generation, some solar and hydropower all have been integrated into the baseload mix. This “all-of-the-above” approach has benefited our members, our country and our environment.
As this summer heats up, I know I’ll be thankful to have an affordable and reliable source of electricity keeping me cool. Here’s hoping cooler heads will prevail among policymakers as well.