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Illinois Country Living

Rick Coons
Rick Coons,
Chief Executive Officer, Wabash Valley Power Association, Inc.


Renewable energy without mandates
Co-op is adding renewable energy where it makes sense

Climate change. Greenhouse gases. Renewable resources. Renewable energy credits. Cap and trade. Carbon taxes. These terms have become common in recent years, at least for those of us entrusted to operate electric cooperatives on behalf of our members. And while we’re dealing with many new concerns and topics, the most important aspect of our business hasn’t changed: providing a reliable source of energy at a reasonable cost.

Wabash Valley Power is a generation and transmission cooperative (G&T) headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind. Founded in 1963, we provide wholesale electricity to 28 electric distribution cooperatives in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio. We are proud to count Illinois cooperatives Corn Belt Energy, EnerStar Electric, and M.J.M. Electric as members of our G&T cooperative.

Since 1999, Wabash Valley has been a leader in the development of renewable generation in the Midwest, converting methane gas captured at landfills into electricity. We own 12 landfill gas plants, which combine to generate 33 megawatts of electricity.

Our board of directors has been very clear in its intentions: expand our use of renewable resources where it makes good economic sense. Throughout the last decade, building landfill generation plants has done just that. These facilities deliver low-cost, reliable electricity. In addition, we’ve been able to purchase power from two wind farms, one located in Illinois and another in Iowa. And we’re working with several dairy farms to convert methane created from animal waste into electricity. Whether we’re working on landfill plants, or wind or dairy farms, these projects are environmentally friendly, economical and will provide a reliable source of electricity for many years. And we’ve done this without a government mandate.

As a seasoned executive in the electric utility industry, I feel strongly that the United States needs a comprehensive energy policy encouraging electric generation using all types of fuel, while considering such factors as the environment and economy. Coal, nuclear, natural gas, solar, wind, hydro, biomass, methane are all viable fuels for the future. As much as we believe in and have invested in renewable fuel sources, we know that they alone won’t meet the energy needs of a vibrant, growing economy.

In a region that relies on coal as the fuel source for the overwhelming majority of its electricity, we face increasing environmental pressures. Coal is abundant and local, and technology exists today that allows us to burn it in a much cleaner fashion. Scientists are working to improve the processes by which coal becomes electricity. It can be done without releasing harmful greenhouse gases; it just isn’t achievable, yet, in the quantities needed to meet the needs of America’s consumers and industries.

Electricity is a “must have” in a growing economy. It is not optional. How will plug-in hybrids thrive if we can’t produce enough clean, affordable electricity? Consider all the devices in our homes that use electricity: TVs, cell phones, computers, printers, iPods, and more – technology plays an increasingly vital role in our everyday lives, and it’s dependant on electricity.

Electric cooperatives nationwide are participating in Our Energy, Our Future - a dialogue designed to improve the understanding of the complexities of balancing affordability, achievability and the environment. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to visit for more information. Your voice is important!

As electric cooperatives, we want to help you manage your electric usage and your electric bill. We want to be good stewards of the environment. And we want to be certain that affordability is considered as our legislators debate energy policy and climate change. Lend your voice to Our Energy, Our Future. Working together, we can have it all: reliable, affordable, and achievable.

Rick Coons is the Chief Executive Officer for Wabash Valley Power Association, Inc. Wabash Valley Power Association is a generation and transmission cooperative operating in four Midwestern States.

© 2016 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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