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F


MAX A. MEEK, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER & GENERAL MANAGER


rom the top Most of America’s


As a member of the 87th largest co-op in America, you have a powerful voice. Use it at ourenergy.coop.


electric cooperatives invested in new power plants in the 1970s and 1980s. This stock of generation allowed co- ops to maintain a safe, reliable, and affordable supply of power; but, current conditions may place affordability and reliability at risk. Half of the nation’s


total generating capacity—530,000 megawatts—passed the 30-year mark by the end of 2010, according to the U.S. Energy Information


Association (EIA). As with any aging equipment–be it a tractor on the farm, the family car or a power plant– there are costs associated with maintaining it. These expenses are compounded by a slew of environmental regulations; in fact, these rules could result in a chunk  down by 2018. In addition, some co-ops need to add new


generation plants to meet growing demand. However, with required environmental controls coupled with rising prices for construction materials, new power plants—as well as older ones “in for maintenance”— are going to be much more expensive. All of these factors will impact our electric bills


for many years to come. Our collective wallets are  Americans are using more energy. It’s easy to see why—TVs, laptops, “iGadgets,” and other electronics crowd power outlets. A typical Oklahoma home uses 1,189 kWh every month as of the 2010 U.S. Census—a 125 kWh increase since 2002 with a 92 kWh increase from 2009. [05-073-321-01]


Generally, when there’s increased demand,


manufacturers open new assembly plants to increase production to meet that demand. But at a time when electricity needs are rising, our affordable power supply is beginning to dwindle. Today, nearly 80 percent of the power provided


by electric co-ops nationwide comes from coal, compared to about half for the rest of the electric utility industry. Why the difference? The majority of co-op coal power plants were built between 1975 and 1986, when building natural gas facilities was restricted by the federal Powerplant and Industrial Fuel Use Act due to concerns that natural gas reserves were running low. Of course, those worries proved to be unfounded, and the law was repealed in 1987. But by then co-ops had already built a generation of  being saddled with heavy regulatory costs. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not against clean and


green energy. In fact, generation and transmission cooperatives nationwide have invested in green energy like wind farms and hydro. Our power supplier, Western Farmers Electric Co-op, uses only 26 percent coal, 47 percent gas, and 15 percent hydro with wind making up most of the remaining 12 percent. But I want to make sure lawmakers in Washington, D.C. keep balance, common sense, and affordability in mind when adding layer upon layer of requirements to the way we generate power. Working with the folks at our national service


arm, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), we’re urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to consider a more balanced and common-sense approach to rules, and to keep in mind how increased electric power costs affect consumers like you and me. As the 87th largest cooperative in the United States with 49,518 meters, we have a vested interest and a powerful voice. Stay  help us keep the price of power affordable at www. ourenergy.coop.


3


OEC News Magazine | March 2012


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