A report prepared by Helen Deffenbacher
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), with offices in Arlington, Virginia and Lincoln, Nebraska, lists over 900 cooperatives in its membership directory.
Private, not-for-profit, and member-owned, many have served rural communities for decades, some dating back to the 1930’s and the New Deal Era, or even before. They are the largest electric utility network in America, providing service to approximately 42 million people in 47 states.
Rural electric cooperatives are governed by their consumers (known as consumer-members), and their governing principles are: voluntary and open membership; democratic member control; members’ economic participation; autonomy and independence; education, training and information; cooperation among cooperatives; and concern for community.
The following information, posted on NRECA’s website, further outlines what rural electric cooperatives are all about:
• Electric cooperatives support appropriate federal funding for renewable energy research and development, including incentives to fully utilize domestic resources that are available to all segments of the industry on an equitable basis, including Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs).
• Electric cooperatives oppose mandates on electric utilities if they undermine local board control of power supply decision-making, threaten system reliability, or unduly raise the cost of electricity for members.
• Electric cooperatives believe that electric power from federally owned hydroelectric projects are especially important sources of affordable electricity for electric co-ops.
Just as rural electric cooperatives have changed the energy landscape over previous decades, they are continuing to play that role today in a major way, expanding options for their member-consumers to include renewable energy and contributing to its rapid deployment.
Over the last five years there has been tremendous growth among rural cooperatives in renewable energy development. Currently, over 90% offer their member-consumers one or more renewable energy options: wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower, biomass, and manure methane.
There are 34 rural electric cooperatives in Nebraska listed in NRECA’s Membership Directory. According to the organization’s latest update, all but five of them now include renewable energy options in their portfolios, primarily hydropower and wind. Six provide solar energy as a choice for their member-consumers. (See Resources, below, to access this information).
One major contributing factor to the growth of renewable energy among rural electric cooperatives is the Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREB) mentioned earlier. The IRS has approved $900 million in Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREB) allocations for cooperatives’ renewable energy development.
A second contributing factor is simple and practical. With the costs of fossil fuels continuing to rise, renewable sources of energy provide cooperatives near and long-term price stability.
A third factor is that the majority of cooperatives, judging by NREA’s statistics, have apparently concluded that it’s the right thing to do for their communities. Rural electric cooperatives have a long history of investment in the common good of their communities. “Concern for community,” as mentioned earlier, is one of the seven principles informing and guiding rural electric cooperatives’ decisions and actions. Wind, solar, and other renewable sources of energy are bringing economic development to rural communities across America, creating jobs, and further empowering or revitalizing local economies.
A fourth factor that’s helping to transform the energy landscape in our rural communities has to do with another of the seven principles mentioned earlier, ”cooperation among cooperatives.” Information sharing creates excitement and interest in renewable energy, and collaboration among cooperatives contributes to a community’s success in planning and developing it.
The old and now trite saying, “It takes a village . . . “ doesn’t apply here. It takes many villages, rural and urban, and millions of people working together to transform the energy landscape in our nation. That transformation, of course, is occurring now in communities all across America, thanks in large measure to networks like the NRECA and many, many others.
NRECA’s website: http://www.nreca.coop
The search feature included with the interactive map posted at the web address, below, provides access to information and links to each of the rural electric cooperatives in our state that have renewables in their portfolios:
NRECA’s Membership Directory is available at the link, below. Select “country” and then “state” to access a list of Nebraska Rural Electric Cooperatives:
Historic Hydros, by Charlie Powell, Network Magazine, a quarterly publication that tells the stories of the people and communities of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. Tri-State is a not-for profit wholesale energy supplier owned by 44 cooperatives that it serves in Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming. Renewable energy currently comprises 15% of Tri-State’s energy portfolio, including: solar, wind, federal hydro, small hydro, and biomass:
Cooperatives in the news:
The Solar Electric Power Association recently recognized two cooperatives for achieving highest honors: www.nreca.coop/co-ops-win-top-solar-awards/
Frytown, Iowa, co-op strives to be leader in harnessing solar power, The Associated Press http://www.omaha.com/article/20131111/NEWS/131119858