The impact of energy policy

Change is a constant in today’s energy industry, and electric co-ops across the country lean into change while new ways to meet tomorrow’s energy needs emerge.

Electric co-ops play a crucial role in ensuring the lights come on every time Americans flip a switch. Their primary responsibility is to their members, and they are committed to providing reliable and affordable service. Energy policy has a profound impact on their ability to accomplish those goals.

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), the watchdog for our nation’s grid, has issued warnings about threats to grid reliability, warning that rolling blackouts could be the new norm. Nine states experienced blackouts in 2022 when electricity supply could not keep up with demand. Over the next five years, NERC forecasts that all or parts of 19 states from Montana to Louisiana are at high risk of rolling blackouts during normal peak conditions.

These warnings should not be taken lightly, which is why electric co-ops are pressing policymakers to recognize the need for time, technology development and new infrastructure alongside policies that include a diverse mix of energy sources to maintain reliable power.

The economy of the future will be heavily reliant on electricity. From data centers and manufacturing to electric vehicles and electric heat pumps, electricity demand is set to rise dramatically. Co-ops are planning for this surge in demand by investing in infrastructure, technologies and power supplies that will allow them to meet members’ needs, but additional challenges lie ahead.

Opposite this increasing electricity demand, many power plants that generate always-available electricity are being shut down without adequate replacements, posing a threat to reliability. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is pursuing sweeping new regulations that would force the premature closure of power plants, while also making it harder to permit, site and build new plants. Electric co-ops have urged the EPA to withdraw these proposed regulations that could lead to more blackouts and higher costs.

Advocating for rational policies in Washington, D.C., that preserve reliability and affordability is crucial. In April, electric co-op leaders will gather there for the annual Legislative Conference, where they will meet with members of Congress and federal agencies to discuss key issues and concerns surrounding reliability. This allows co-ops to educate policymakers on the issues that matter most to the families and businesses they serve.

Today’s energy decisions and policies will determine if there are enough resources to meet tomorrow’s energy needs. Electric co-ops will continue advocating to ensure a reliable supply of electricity to power everyday life for their members.