Many times this past winter I looked out the window and thought about how thankful I was to simply be warm. For me, this quickly lead to thoughts regarding the complexity and volatility of the production and transmission of electricity, probably because this is what I’ve spent my life doing. I have witnessed changes in the electric industry that I would have thought impossible 20 years ago.
However, one thing remaining constant throughout the evolution of the business is that cooperatives have always strived to do the right thing for their members. For us, this is a continuous search for ways to lower costs, ensure long-term price stability and be environmentally responsible. This harsh winter served as a reminder as to how elusive these goals can be without taking affirmative actions to secure our future.
I frequently discuss various elements of how we supply energy to our members with interested people all over the state. They share their concerns over our future and their opinions on issues of affordability and environment. One thing I have found to be true is that it often seems easy to resolve such issues when one problem is addressed at a time, but it is very difficult to find a comprehensive solution when all issues must be considered together.
But our mission requires that we do just that. Anything short of looking at the big picture is just not sound business. We know that focusing solely on one particular technology or fuel source is not in the best interest of our wallets, the future of our economy or the environment. Common sense alone is enough to see the danger in being too narrowly focused.
That is the reason cooperatives have truly embraced the “all of the above” philosophy with respect to energy resources. We don’t just do it in word, we do it in practice. Cooperatives have invested billions of dollars to secure multiple, diverse energy resources to ensure that our future remains bright. We understand our responsibility to deliver reliable energy affordably — and our responsibility to the costs that our children will face, and to the environment in which they will live.
That is the reason cooperatives serving Illinois have added state-of-the-art clean coal generation, wind, solar, landfill gas and anaerobic digester resources into our generation fleet. It is also the reason we have invested heavily in pollution control equipment to keep the best of our existing fleet viable while simultaneously lowering emissions. Each of these technologies possess different cost characteristics and has differing impacts on the environment. At various times throughout a typical day, any of these resources can be the one that makes the most sense for generating electricity. However, none of these technologies is the best option all of the time.
Diversity in generating resources leads to the lowest cost, the lowest risk and the least impact on our environment. Putting diverse resources in place is not always the cheapest thing to do in the short-term, but it most certainly will be in the long run.
We also recognize that often the best supply resource is conservation. Cooperatives are investing in cutting-edge technology to facilitate managing demand and flow of electricity. The great thing about this technology is that it can do much more than help conserve energy; it will also facilitate lower bills through better market interaction, improve reliability and lesson environmental impact.
Here at Prairie Power, Inc., for example, we are currently in the process of implementing new high-speed data communications capabilities and are developing new software platforms and
computers to make good on the promises of a smarter electrical grid.
Why do we do these things? Because it is the right thing to do. Illinois electric cooperatives invest wisely for the long-term, realizing that affordable, stable energy prices are essential to support our local economies.
I am proud of what electric cooperatives have accomplished by taking a proactive, common sense approach to the supply of electric power. I’m even more proud that we have had the character to do what is right each step of the way as the electric industry modernizes. I truly believe it will pay off in the future. Doing the right thing always does.