Co-op Leaders Work on Big Picture Energy Issues
At the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives’ Annual Meeting, President/CEO Duane Noland told more than 300 locally elected Illinois electric cooperative leaders to continue to be proactive in addressing energy issues. Noland said there isn’t a silver bullet that will solve all these issues. He urged co-op leaders to start a dialogue with members of Congress through the new Web site www.ourenergy.coop. Local co-op members can also go to the site to send a message to Congress, Noland said.
More than 300 locally elected Illinois electric cooperative board members and managers met July 30 through Aug. 1 in Springfield to celebrate 67 years of cooperation at the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives’ (AIEC) annual meeting. Co-op leaders discussed future power supply, renewable energy and climate change policy.
AIEC Board Chairman Robert Inman of Grand Chain said, “Cooperatives are taking the initiative in advancing new and renewable sources of electricity. Wind turbines are popping up everywhere, biomass generation is becoming a reality, and new clean generation with Illinois coal is becoming a reality. However, it takes time to develop these new energy sources. It doesn’t happen overnight.”
Inman urged the electric cooperative leaders to speak up and continue to educate local co-op members and members of Congress about the challenges facing electric cooperatives. He said in addition to the need for clean, reliable and affordable power supply, electric co-ops are challenged by increasing material and fuel cost, and even a shortage of qualified employees to replace retiring baby-boomers.
AIEC President/CEO Duane Noland told the co-op leaders that environmental and energy issues facing electric co-ops are unprecedented. He urged them to be focused on the “big picture and help position co-ops for the future during a climate of change.”
Noland thanked the co-op leaders for already addressing some of these changes in a proactive way. For example, all of the Illinois electric co-ops passed a net metering policy one month prior to a mandate requiring investor-owned utilities to provide the same benefit to owners of solar or wind generators.
Illinois electric cooperatives are also proactively addressing power supply by building wind generators, the state’s first biomass powered generator, participating in a new National Renewables Cooperative Organization that supports the expansion of renewable energy resources, and participating in the 1,600 megawatt Prairie State Energy Campus project.
“The surplus generation built in the late 1970s and early 1980s is virtually exhausted. The Department of Energy forecasts that the U.S. economic growth will drive a 17 percent increase in demand between 2006 and 2020, requiring a capacity increase of 118,000 megawatts,” Noland said.
“Overlaying this immediate need to build new generation and implement aggressive efficiency strategies is the environmental concern of climate change. As bad as Congress would like for it to happen, there is no silver bullet that will solve this issue. We need to have a dialogue with our elected officials.”
Noland urged the co-op leaders to log on to the Web site www.ourenergy.coop and ask elected leaders how they will address power supply, fund energy research, and balance environmental goals to keep energy affordable. So far, Illinois electric co-op members have sent nearly 7,000 e-mails to members of Congress.
During the meeting the co-op leaders honored State Senator Deanna Demuzio (D-Carlinville, 49th District) and State Representative Rich Brauer (R-Pertersburg, 100th District) with the 2008 Illinois Electric Cooperatives’ Public Service Award. Noland said both Demuzio and Brauer have been strong supporters of rural Illinois issues and outstanding public servants.
After the meeting, the AIEC board of directors reorganized and elected Douglas Darby of Geneseo, chairman; Stan Prox of Macomb, vice-chairman; Darrell Shumard of Stewardson, secretary, and Cary Dickinson of Breese, treasurer.
Based in Springfield, the AIEC provides legal, engineering, communications, safety training, legislative and other services to 27 electric cooperatives. AIEC member cooperatives serve more than 278,000 farms, homes and businesses in 90 counties, with 55,237 miles of line. AIEC is a member of Touchstone Energy® an alliance of more than 660 local, consumer-owned electric utilities around the country, committed to providing superior service based on four core principles: integrity, accountability, innovation and commitment to community.
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