Co-op leaders gather on Capitol Hill

Hundreds of electric cooperative leaders, including 25 from Illinois, converged on Capitol Hill for the annual NRECA Legislative Conference to urge Congress to help co-ops take advantage of energy incentives, reduce their federal debt and access billions of infrastructure dollars.

“We have a 100 percent consumer focus on everything we do, particularly in the context of a discussion about policy priorities,” said NRECA CEO Jim Matheson.

NRECA has identified more than two dozen components in the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by Congress last year that may be of interest to electric co-ops, said Matheson.

NRECA is helping co-ops band together in consortiums to seek funding for projects in five categories: electric vehicles, microgrids, cybersecurity, natural hazards, and smart grids and data.

Co-op leaders also asked members of Congress to help pass two additional bills this year. The first would provide direct federal payments for electric co-ops to develop new energy resources and technologies, including renewable energy, battery storage projects, nuclear energy facilities and carbon capture and storage.

A direct-pay incentive would put co-ops on a level playing field with investor-owned utilities, which already receive federal tax breaks for providing power from solar, wind and other renewable sources and for investing in carbon capture.

“Over the last several years you had billions of dollars of tax credits go toward renewable energy,” Matheson said. “We’re on the outside looking in.”

The other major priority is passage of the Flexible Financing for Rural America Act, which would allow co-ops to refinance their loans from the Rural Utilities Service at lower interest rates without prepayment penalties.  

Electric cooperative leaders in Illinois met with the Illinois Congressional delegation during the Legislative Conference to advocate for issues important to electric co-ops and member-consumers. They met with Senators Tammy Duckworth (pictured) and Dick Durbin as well as the offices of Mike Bost, Cheri Bustos, Rodney Davis, Darin LaHood and Mary Miller.