Carbon Cap and Trade May Cause Price Volatility •
Co-op Employees Help Others Dig Out of Ice Storm •
Illinois Electric Cooperatives Help Save Hospital Jobs •
From Humble Beginnings: Lincoln’s Illinois, 1830-1861 •
DOE Loan Program Can Help Co-ops Survive Power Crunch
Carbon Cap and Trade May Cause Price Volatility
A discussion paper released in January by The Brattle Group argues that a cap-and-trade approach to reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions could result in a high level of price volatility. That will deter investors’ willingness to undertake capital-intensive investments to reduce emissions, increasing the cost of the program and undermining its effectiveness. The most direct way to reduce price volatility would be to introduce a carbon tax instead of cap and trade, the paper says.
Electric co-ops across the nation are also concerned about price volatility and keeping rates affordable for members. A 2008 Environmental Protection Agency analysis of the Warner-Lieberman bill to cap carbon emissions projected that under the bill, electricity prices would increase 44 percent in 2030 and 26 percent in 2050. Ultimately, consumers will be paying the bill for programs to reduce carbon emissions, whether it involves Wall Street in a cap-and-trade system or a simpler carbon tax. Consumers should, therefore, be considered equal stakeholders in policy debates that, until now, have included only environmental groups and industry. That’s why electric co-ops are urging members to go to www.ourenergy.coop on the Internet. Enter your address and send Congress your questions.
Co-op Employees Help Others Dig Out of Ice Storm
In some areas of Kentucky and southern Illinois the damage was said to be similar to the aftermath of Katrina after a winter ice storm knocked out power to 1.3 million homes across parts of the Midwest and South in late January. Thousands of co-op crews came from across the country to restore electricity to areas that were in the dark for weeks.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn asked President Obama to declare nine southern Illinois counties federal disaster areas to help them recover from a severe ice storm that struck the area in late January. If approved, federal assistance would allow local governments, municipally-owned utilities and electric cooperatives to recover 75 percent of their extraordinary storm-related costs. The state estimates that response and recovery costs to these entities will total more than $16 million.
Officials blamed at least 55 deaths on the winter storm, which struck particularly hard in an eight-state swath from Oklahoma to Ohio. Tragically, one co-op lineman gave his life during the storm repair battle in Kentucky. Andrew Reichwein, 35, from Connexus Energy in Minnesota, suffered fatal injuries when a pole snapped while he worked with others to restore power for members of Jackson Purchase Energy in Paducah, Ky.
The consensus among co-op veterans is that Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear was right on the money when he called the wintry blast “the biggest natural disaster that this state has ever experienced in modern history.” In Kentucky alone, 1,000 co-op employees from 12 states, along with about 700 contract employees, were in the field for weeks.
In Illinois, Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative in Dongola and SouthEastern Illinois Electric Cooperative in Eldorado were hardest hit. More than 150 workers, many of them from unaffected Illinois co-ops, worked 12-hour shifts.
Illinois Electric Cooperatives Help Save Hospital Jobs
In 2008, four Illinois electric cooperatives were awarded a total of $2.82 million for projects that will create at least 120 jobs and retain another 175 jobs in their rural service areas.
The funds are provided through the USDA Rural Development Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) program. The cooperatives pass the interest-free funds on to public bodies, non-profits and private businesses of their choice at 0 percent interest for 10 years. Grant funds are used to establish revolving loan funds to continue the program.
Co-ops can use these funds to help finance business start-ups and expansions, implement economic development plans, and make community improvements to ensure rural areas remain attractive, economically viable places to live and work.
Western Illinois Electrical Cooperative received a $740,000 loan and a $300,000 grant to help the City of Carthage fund the infrastructure needed for the local hospital. In February, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) honored Western Illinois Electrical Cooperative with the NRECA’s Community Service Award for the cooperative’s successful effort to leverage funding that enabled the community to keep its hospital.
“It’s hard to imagine any other utility working cooperatively with the government to protect their consumers’ access to health care. Taking on the challenge of keeping a medical facility open in the face of many hurdles illustrates the cooperative difference,” says Jack Wolfe, President of the NRECA board of directors.
Other co-ops receiving REDLG grants included Corn Belt Energy Corporation in Bloomington, Monroe County Electric Co-Operative in Waterloo and Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative in Winchester.
From Humble Beginnings: Lincoln’s Illinois, 1830-1861
In honor of the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, the Illinois State Museum in Springfield will present an interdisciplinary exhibition entitled, “From Humble Beginnings: Lincoln’s Illinois 1830-1861,” which will explore the Illinois that Lincoln knew through the eyes of the people who lived here. Lincoln’s Illinois traces the dynamic changes in Illinois’ agriculture, industry and transportation that, by 1860, helped transform Illinois from a frontier region to a powerful state.The exhibition runs from Feb. 6, 2009 to Jan. 10, 2010. For more information go to www.museum.state.il.us or call 217-782-7386.
DOE Loan Program Can Help Co-ops Survive Power Crunch
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) CEO Glenn English says $50 billion in U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantees authorized by the Senate will finance low-carbon power generation projects. These projects include advanced nuclear, renewable energy and carbon capture and storage technologies that will help meet new demand for electricity and carbon dioxide reduction goals.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts that by 2030, demand for electricity will be 30 percent higher, the equivalent of adding four Californias to the power grid. In some regions, demand will soon outstrip supply, according to the North America Electric Reliability Corporation.
Uncertainty over regulation of carbon has hobbled the electric utility sector’s efforts to plan for projected increases in demand. The electric cooperatives, which are growing faster than other sectors of the industry and whose power plants are older, are facing tighter time constraints.
Cooperatives are aggressively seeking workable approaches to reducing carbon emissions from power generation. Clean Renewable Energy Bonds have helped jumpstart cooperative renewable energy projects. In 2005, co-ops owned or purchased 927 megawatts (MW) of renewable capacity. By the end of 2008, co-ops will have more than doubled this number adding 1,205 MW of new renewable capacity. This is a capacity increase of 130 percent in just three years since renewable energy incentives have been in place.
Low-cost financing for low-carbon projects would likewise provide a significant boost for a new, more climate-friendly energy future.
© 2013 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
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