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Electric cooperatives press on with renewed hope

Chris Meyers
General Manager
Oklahoma Association of
Electric Cooperatives

 

Even at the end of a difficult year, electric cooperatives pressed on with the unwavering commitment to advocate for their members’ interests. At the time of this writing, the U.S. Congress is attempting to reach an agreement on a coronavirus relief package. While the result of this bill is uncertain at the time the magazine is going to press, what is certain is the steadfast resolve electric cooperatives have, to work on behalf of their consumer-members. 

While we look to the future with hope that the pandemic is nearing its end, we know that it has taken a toll in our communities, businesses, state, and nation. Electric cooperatives and their members have not been free of adverse impacts, but we continue to diligently work to alleviate and minimize impacts for the benefit of every member at the end of the line. 

One demonstration of this commitment is the effort put forth by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), along with electric cooperatives from all over the nation, to send a consistent message to Congress seeking inclusion of the Flexible Financing for Rural America Act, which advocates for the ability to reprice electric cooperative loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS), the longest-serving and most prevalent financing source for rural electric cooperatives. Electric cooperatives need the financial flexibility as they face pandemic-related financial stress. 

With access to RUS loans, co-ops are able to invest in upgrades for generation, transmission, and distribution infrastructure to accomplish their mission of delivering safe, affordable and reliable electricity. If passed, the bill would bring about substantial savings for electric cooperatives nationwide and right here at home in Oklahoma. It’s estimated that co-ops nationwide could save $10.1 billion over the life of the loans from repricing $42 billion in RUS loans. 

Additionally, NRECA is seeking support for consumers who are struggling to pay their energy bills due to COVID-19 economic burdens. Our message to Congress is to not overlook the impact the pandemic has caused on America’s rural families and businesses. We are grateful for the support and efforts from both Oklahoma U.S. senators, Sen. Jim Inhofe and Sen. James Lankford, who advocate for inclusion of this language in the next coronavirus relief bill. Their support to ensure Oklahoma’s rural electric cooperative members are not overlooked is deeply appreciated. 

We will continue to work with our nation’s leaders to communicate issues that could impact electric cooperatives and, ultimately, their members. After all, electric co-ops are built by, and belong to, the members they serve; we will never lose sight of that. We wish you and your families a new year filled with blessings and renewed hope.

 

"Neither Snow nor Rain nor Heat nor Gloom of Night..."

Brent Bacon
President
Oklahoma Association of
Electric Cooperatives

 

The United States Postal Service (USPS) has an unofficial motto that could also well be used to describe the life of an electric utility lineman: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” If you substitute “linemen” for “couriers,” and maybe throw in the words “nor ice, nor tornadoes,” you have a vivid description of what power line workers face every day to serve their communities. 

Our most recent October 2020 ice storm is a fitting example of their unwavering commitment. Linemen and contractor crews from across Oklahoma and from several surrounding states rushed in to help their sister cooperatives in western and central parts of the state in a massive mutual aid effort that lasted more than two weeks. In fact, the entire co-op family—from managers, directors, dispatchers, engineers, IT professionals, accountants, communicators, member service specialists and every role—were in some way engaging, helping or cheering on the linemen on the frontlines for a safe and efficient restoration effort. 

One particular tool that is available to the end consumer during widespread outages is their cooperative’s local outage map, which is typically accessible via the co-op’s website or Smart Hub app. Outage maps are updated every few minutes and they help keep consumers informed about outage impacts as they occur. Additionally, our statewide association, the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives, offers the same tool for a statewide audience. Their map shows collective outages after major weather events; this map is accessible at: https://outages.oaec.coop/outages/maps.

As we welcome the winter season, we have already faced an early ice storm as well as a winter storm that brought snowflakes to much of Oklahoma; be assured that your co-op prepares for such events and their team of employees work hard to minimize impacts to consumer-members. Collectively, co-ops’ preparedness and response efforts help keep outage duration times as low as possible, whether during a snow, rain, heat, or “gloom of night” event. It’s what they do, day in and day out—just like your local mail courier. It is your electric cooperative’s honor to provide safe, reliable and affordable power to you and your family every day of the year. On behalf of all Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives, we wish you a happy and safe new year! OKL Article End