N. Duane Noland, President/CEO Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives
Our Energy, Our Future
Keeping energy affordable requires dialogue
Electric cooperatives and their members are very supportive of efforts to preserve our climate and our environment. We need to start a dialogue with our elected officials, both federal and state, so they understand how monumental this task really is and the impact it could have on consumers. We want to be a part of the solution.
That is why the electric cooperatives have started a program called Our Energy, Our Future and a Web site and an e-mail communication program that will assist you in communicating with your elected officials.
We are asking three key questions of our leaders. Where is the electricity going to come from in the future? The surplus electric generation built in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s is virtually exhausted. Our base load energy reserve is shrinking, while at the same time we are all using more and more energy in our homes and businesses. We are just beginning the summer months when the demand for energy peaks. In the future will we have the supply to meet that demand, or will we see brownouts and blackouts?
The second question is how will we fund the technology and research needed to meet the energy needs and provide answers to our climate change concerns? We just saw the plug pulled on the FutureGen project right here in Illinois. We need that kind of research, development and demonstration of new energy technologies. That is not being done at the pace and level that will be needed. We are asking Congress to help fund the research and development.
The third question is how will we balance all of these energy supply issues and climate change expenses with the cost to our economy and our members’ monthly budgets. It is going to be costly and we need to strike a balance. Some of our rural members are already struggling to pay all their bills. Many are retired and on fixed incomes and we are already seeing increases at the gas pump and the meter. It is going to be a tremendous strain on those that can least afford it.
We are going to be asking our elected officials where the new capacity is going to come from, how are we going to fund the research that is needed and what is this going to cost our members on their electric bills?
The legislative conference in May saw 3,000 electric cooperative leaders from across the country go to Capitol Hill to ask these questions. It appears that we are one of the few consumer-based organizations that is really talking about our energy future, climate change and the cost to consumers.
That is the strength of the electric cooperative program. We represent members, the consumers that actually own our system. So when that grassroots member out on the line corresponds with
a member of Congress they know that person is
a voter that they represent. We are asking you,
our members, to step up and get involved. Go
to the Our Energy, Our Future Web site at
www.ourenergy.coop, and send an e-mail to your elected officials.
E-mail is the best way to get your legislators attention. We need members to make their voice heard. It is easy to become cynical and wonder, “what does my voice matter?” But I know from my service in the state legislature that it does matter. It gets their attention. That is what we are trying to do, get their attention and start this dialogue.
Our members, because of their rural nature, will be impacted even more than others by these climate change and energy issues. Whether it is the higher cost of gasoline for longer commute times to work, or for the farmer that must pay for diesel, fertilizer and gas, energy expenses are hitting rural folks hard.
Now is the time to act and make your voice heard. We have to strike a balance. We can reach these goals in a common sense way that won’t be a huge burden on our economy and our members’ budgets. We have to strike a balance and start an intelligent dialogue.
N. Duane Noland is the President/CEO of the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives, Springfield. He is a former state senator, active on his family farm near Blue Mound and a member of Shelby Electric Cooperative.
The opinions and views of guest commentators are their own and may not represent those of the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives or the electric co-ops of Illinois.
© 2008 Illinois Country Living Magazine.