Q&A with new SIPC President
Don Gulley says coal is still critical to power supply
Let me start by saying how humbled and grateful I am that the SIPC Board of Directors entrusted me with this responsibility. Growing up in southern Illinois, I understand the value of hard work and the importance of family and neighbors – southern Illinois values. Coming back “home” to the SIPC member owners was a perfect fit. Born and raised in the area, I genuinely care about how SIPC can best meet the needs of our seven owners (Clay Electric, Clinton County Electric, Egyptian Electric, Monroe County Electric, Southeastern Illinois Electric, Southern Illinois Electric and Tri-County Electric) as well as Norris Electric and the City of McLeansboro through our all requirements contracts.
What is SIPC’s main mission?
SIPC is all about those values I described – serving the needs of our member-owners by providing them with reliable, reasonably priced wholesale power through our generation and transmission assets. Safety is paramount and we also conduct our business in an environmentally responsible manner. SIPC’s 130 employees (or family) take great pride in the generation we own and operate, as well as the 900+ miles of transmission that interconnects our members to the power grid. In addition, SIPC is an eight percent owner in Prairie State Generation Station and we also have contracts for renewable resources – hydro power and wind generation.
SIPC has been providing service to southern Illinoisans since 1963 and has weathered many changes in our industry. Today we are benefiting from the good decisions that have been made in the past to the decision to participate in Prairie State. We work together, investing our time and resources for the long term. We are not swayed by the daily changes in the market or investors who scream for higher quarterly returns. We are committed to serving our members today and providing a secure future for our kids and grandkids. That’s what being a cooperative is about.
Are there any big issues facing SIPC today?
One of the most critical issues we face as an owner of coal-fired facilities is the Environmental Protection Agency’s new limits being set on CO2 emissions from power plants. The EPA recently established rules for new power plants to limit or capture the CO2 emissions from coal-fired plants – and yes it is only directed at coal. The EPA is requiring new coal plants to achieve reductions in carbon emissions that are unattainable. Technology to meet the requirements is currently unavailable both from a technical and an economic standpoint. The EPA has touted four projects where carbon capture is being used (but not yet completed). However those are very site specific (in other words it won’t work everywhere) and there has been substantial government funding to achieve the reductions.
In June of this year, the EPA will present its rules for existing coal plants – without legislative action. The potential impacts could be dramatic. Our concern is that it will cause significant rate increases as a result of costs to comply. Furthermore, natural gas prices are bound to rise as a result of increased demand if generators switch from coal to gas. We are equally concerned about reliability. Recent studies have shown that even if we could switch from coal to natural gas, the infrastructure to support the added transportation requirements is not sufficient to deliver the amount of gas needed to meet the demand.
We do support the environment, and have taken great strides to make the changes needed to implement necessary controls. We believe it’s important that we further study the overall impact and potential outcomes before jumping off this proverbial cliff.
Is there anything members can do to help?
Absolutely! The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association has developed a website,, where people can voice their opinion and join a grass roots movement to let the EPA know how concerned they are about these developments. I encourage everyone to let your voice be heard.
Anything else to add?
Yes. I just want to say how much I appreciate the cooperative family and the work being done by the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives. They have done a great deal to save all of us money and provide a good forum for us to discuss the critical issues we face.
And one more thing – It’s good to be home!