Fifty years of history

In 2013, Wabash Valley Power marked its 50th anniversary and took the opportunity to reflect back on its rich history. Twenty-one distribution cooperatives came together in 1963 to create the generation and transmission (G&T) cooperative, and there have been many challenges and successes in the decades in between. Through it all, the focus has remained on serving our cooperative members. The Board and staff continue the mission that brought us together in 1963: delivering safe, affordable and reliable electricity to our Member Cooperatives.

Today we serve 26 distribution cooperatives. Twenty-one of those are located in the northern half of Indiana; one is in western Ohio, with one in Missouri and three in Illinois. It’s our job to ensure adequate electricity to serve nearly 350,000 meters, in the heat of summer, the bitter cold of winter, the light of day and the still darkness of night.

The Wabash Valley Board of Directors has a long history of supporting diversity in the Association’s fuel mix and has worked hard to lessen our dependence on coal as a single fuel source. Some of the nation’s most coal-dependent states are in the Midwest – Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri fall in the top five – but because of its proactive approach, Wabash Valley relies far less on coal than its neighboring utilities, and has already made significant investments in both natural gas and renewable fuel sources like wind and biomass. Looking to the future, we’re keeping a close eye on solar options, although the pricing is still not in line with other fuel sources.

Despite the fact that we’ve lowered our use of coal to 50%, we remain very concerned about the EPA’s efforts to ban the use of coal in the future. As we learned ­during this winter’s extreme cold spells, coal-fired power plants were the key to ­keeping lights, and heat, working. Not only were there problems getting natural gas flowing to the Midwest and Northeast, but the extreme price spikes made it a very expensive fuel source. With affordability and ­reliability in mind, coal is an important part of our energy future.

As we face the regulations enacted by the EPA, we strongly encourage co-op members to visit and lend their voice to these realities. A healthy environment is important to all of us, just as is affordable, reliable electricity.

Wabash Valley’s Board has also made a strong commitment to energy efficiency programs, as is evidenced by POWER MOVES ( With a goal of helping co-op members save energy and money, POWER MOVES is designed to provide benefits today and in the future, to homeowners, ­farmers and business owners. POWER MOVES delivers information, ­programs and incentives that make a difference – in your bill, and in the bigger picture.

In fact, in the last few years, ­members of Corn Belt Energy, EnerStar Electric Cooperative and M.J.M. Electric Cooperative have removed 425 old refrigerators from their homes and the power grid. That amounts to a savings of 336,045 kWh. Furthermore, through the combined efforts of these co-op members, one million kWh have been saved since 2010.

You might wonder why an electric utility would brag about saving energy? We only have one product to sell, and yet we encourage our members to use less. That’s because, ultimately, what’s best for our ­members is best for us. If we can delay the need to build a new power plant, that helps all of us. If we can help cooperative members learn to better manage their own energy use, that helps all of us.

Our Board determined the Association’s strategic goals for 2014 during its Fall (2013) planning ­process. A few of the key priorities for the coming year include:

• Continued diversification of the power supply portfolio – to ensure long-term stability and afford­ability for the membership

Rick D. Coons is President/CEO of Wabash Valley Power Association, Inc.,, a generation/transmission cooperative located in Indianapolis, Ind.
Rick D. Coons is President/CEO of Wabash Valley Power Association, Inc.,, a generation/transmission cooperative located in Indianapolis, Ind.

• Support of the communities we serve through enhanced economic development and growth initiatives

• Continual review and enhancement of enterprise-wide risk ­strategies that support long-term power supply goals.

With a solid 50-year history and the proven leadership of industry ­professionals, the future of Wabash Valley Power is on firm ground. And with the focus on delivering ­affordable, safe and reliable power to its member cooperatives, in 1963, in 2013 or in the years ahead, we have the right people and tools in place to accomplish our goals.