Rural Missouri - September 2012 - (Page 5)
Hart to Heart
Power you can count on
by Barry Hart firstname.lastname@example.org
’m hoping that by the time you read this, temperatures will have moderated and you can give your air conditioner a rest. This has been a summer to remember for its prolonged heat wave. I know those responsible for ensuring you had reliable electric service worked harder than ever to keep that promise. I’m pleased to report that the electric power grid that serves you functioned as designed. Even on July 25 — when your use of electricity reached a peak of 4,354 megawatts — there was plenty of power to meet your needs. But this did not happen by accident. To understand why rural Missourians don’t have to worry about reliability like those in other parts of the world, you have to go back to the days when electric cooperatives were getting underway. Those pioneers contracted with municipal or investor-owned utilities to purchase wholesale power. But those early boards knew these power suppliers would not meet their needs for long. As early as 1942, efforts were underway to create a super cooperative to supply power for the growing electric cooperatives. In time, six regional generation and transmission cooperatives (G&Ts)
were formed, and these turned over the power supply duties to Associated Electric Cooperative in 1961 while focusing on transmission. Today, Associated owns and operates a diverse portfolio of generation sources to meet your needs. Virtually all of the resources were called on during this heat wave, and they performed as designed. But that’s only part of the story. Getting that power to your home requires an integrated, high-voltage transmission system. Missouri’s electric cooperatives made this investment, and they continue to plan and invest in this grid. For example, last year Associated and its owner transmission coops spent $71 million on high-voltage trans-
mission facilities. Its 10-year plan calls for an investment of another $386 million. In addition, the six regional transmission cooperatives spent about $24 million last year, and they plan to spend another $346 million during the next 10 years on lower-voltage lines. This planning goes back to Associated’s mission to provide reliable and affordable electricity to member co-ops. Innovative from the start, Associated and its six owner transmission cooperatives have worked with neighboring utilities to build an interconnected system that helps keep electricity affordable and reliable. That “win-win” philosophy was there from Associated’s formation in 1961, and Associated built several
“I’m always impressed by the employees working to ensure you never have to think about electricity being there when it is most needed.” Barry Hart
high-voltage interregional tie lines in its first few decades. It built the first 345-kilovolt line owned by a cooperative in 1970, as well as Missouri’s first 500-kilovolt line. That line also was the first to be financed by the Rural Electrification Administration, now called the Rural Utilities Service. Today, the Associated system stretches across parts of three states, has 187 interconnection points with neighboring utilities and 9,645 miles of high-voltage transmission lines. This system includes alternative routes that enable Associated to get power to members’ homes when transmission constraints develop or those lines are down for maintenance. In addition to building needed transmission lines, Associated and its six owner G&Ts are leaders in achieving full compliance with an increasing number of standards set forth by federal agencies that regulate the reliability and security of the nation’s grid. I’m always impressed by the employees working to ensure you never have to think about electricity being there when it is most needed. They are truly the best in the business, and we all owe them a huge debt of gratitude. Hart is the executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.
We know who pays the bill
by Tom Steska email@example.com
any electric cooperatives have been taking a close look back at their history. At Black River Electric Cooperative where I work, our 75th anniversary is fast approaching. We’ve found a lot of interesting facts about how and why the cooperative began. What strikes me the most is that many of the issues we thought were unique to today also were challenges in the early days. Take copper theft, for example. Electric cooperatives across the state are battling this problem, which is causing financial and safety concerns. Before Black River Electric could energize its first lines in 1940, thieves stole some of the wire that was ready to be energized. By the way, those thieves were caught and sentenced to hard time. I have been working for Black River Electric since 1972, first as a mechanic, then as a lineman and later in several management positions. It is nice to know this business from climbing poles to supervising others who help keep the power flowing.
I also highly value the many contacts I’ve had with members while working out on the lines and in the front office. It seems to me, the No. 1 concern they’ve always had is making ends meet. In 1938 when my cooperative was formed, rural people were struggling to pull themselves out of the Great Depression. Today, the economy is once again a huge concern for electric cooperative members. I’ve been around long enough to remember the rate increases that came in the 1970s. We’ve seen the same thing happen recently,
and it hurts me to recommend an increase to my board because I know many of our members are struggling. The difference between today and the 1970s is that virtually all of the rate increases today can be traced to increased government regulations. Our operating costs are not rising significantly except for the cost of energy, which is affected by the government through Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. Our power supplier has spent billions complying with these regulations and must spend even more in the coming years to meet the latest edicts.
“What separates electric cooperatives from other forms of business is we have never forgotten who pays the bill: our member-owners. ” Tom Steska
I think we all believe in clean air and we all believe in a clean environment. I also believe that for the most part, those goals have been achieved. EPA has accomplished many things that benefit our environment. But the agency has reached the point where its actions are costing people much more than the incremental value received. I just don’t think they understand. With each stroke of the pen, the agency continues to burden all of us with higher utility bills, yet they seem disconnected from the reality that their pens empty our pockets. Whether it is an end user, or a business that has to pass those increased costs on to the end user, we are all impacted by what is going on. And it has to stop. What separates electric cooperatives from other forms of business is we have never forgotten who pays the bill: our member-owners. That’s why we will continue to challenge those who stand in the way of affordable electricity. Steska is CEO of Black River Electric Cooperative and president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - September 2012
Rural Missouri - September 2012
Table of Contents
Where the wild things are
Hit the trail
Plowing forward with a new tradition
Out of the Way Eats
Hearth and Home
Closing the gateway
A man & his monsters
Rural Missouri - September 2012