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New year, New Initiatives

Chris Meyers
General Manager
Oklahoma Association of
Electric Cooperatives

Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives are part of a network of 900-plus electric co-ops across the nation. When our voices combine, we are powerful in ensuring our members’ needs are heard in the legislative and agency rule-making processes. 

There are two federal issues that are of significant importance to Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives in 2022: Rural Utility Services (RUS) loan repricing and direct pay tax credits. Our legislative team works closely with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) to continue these efforts to shape legislation that will help electric co-ops ensure electric system reliability in an increasingly difficult economic environment following the pandemic. 

The pandemic reduced demand for electricity from many commercial and industrial co-op members, including hard-hit oil companies, agricultural producers and tourism-related businesses. Some residential members also suffered job losses and other financial hardships. RUS’s electric program provides funding to maintain, expand, upgrade and modernize rural electric infrastructure. The loans finance the construction or improvement of electric distribution, transmission and generation facilities in rural areas.

As co-ops look ahead to reinvesting in the communities we serve, we are asking to have access to lower interest rates like other businesses do without being impacted by penalties. Broad bipartisan support for this initiative, the Flexible Financing for Rural America Act, is crucial to ensuring the legislation will be heard in Congress this year.

Based on 2021 interest rates, NRECA estimates that about 500 co-ops could realize a total net present value savings of $10.1 billion from repricing $42 billion in direct and guaranteed RUS loans.

The second priority is to advocate for co-ops to be eligible for direct pay tax credits. This eligibility would help level the playing field by allowing co-ops to apply for the same incentives investor-owned utilities receive for clean energy generation and storage projects. One of NRECA’s legislative goals this year is to ensure co-ops are included in any federal incentive programs that encourage the use of renewable energy.

These two important initiatives directly affect costs. We are proud to be a part of a team effort in ensuring co-op focused legislation is heard at the federal level. We appreciate all the members of Congress who understand our mission of providing safe, affordable, reliable and environmentally responsible power to all.

 

EVs: More Than Just Cars

Gary Roulet
President
Oklahoma Association of
Electric Cooperatives

Every day we hear more talk about electric vehicles (EVs). EVs are not only cars, but they are also trucks, bicycles and motorcycles. I am a person who enjoys driving a truck instead of a car. I rarely use the truck for hauling, pulling a trailer or for work. Occasionally, I take a trip across the state or I might travel out of state a few days in a row, but generally I am just a back and forth to work commuter. Rarely do I drive more than 125 miles a day. I generally have no preference on the brand of vehicle I drive, and I am happy as long as it is comfortable to ride in and very reliable. So, what would it take to make me become an EV driver?

With some of the newer car and truck models entering the market, I feel confident in the comfort level EVs provide. I also suspect they are reliable as there are fewer moving parts to fail. From what I have read, it is likely far cheaper to drive each mile than a traditional gasoline powered vehicle. Then there is the fact you don’t have to change oil.

If I owned an EV, my plan would be to charge it primarily at home, and I would intend to have a charger in the garage for convenience. Almost any electrician can do this. Current EV owners have told me technology exists that will allow me to plug in the vehicle, set a timer and charge it at night, or any time I want, especially when electric usage and price is the lowest. They might, in a few years, even be able to power my home when the power is off.

I can see four charging stations from my office at work. I observe the folks that drive and charge EVs every day, and most seem to have little trouble getting vehicle charging accomplished. Occasionally though, a customer seems to have a little trouble and I can tell the process is frustrating. While almost all conventional gas stations are pretty common on use of pumps, I believe that commonality is not quite the same for EV chargers, and there are some differences in the charging process, and at the least, less familiarity.

I can fill up with gasoline, go into the store, go to the bathroom, get a cold drink and be gone in 15 or 20 minutes. I am not sure all EV charging technology is quite as fast, and my observation is it may take a little longer.

Finally, on trips, I am certain I can find a gas station easily, every 10 or 20 miles along the highway. I can’t say I have never run out of gasoline; however it was my fault when I did and not because a station was unavailable. To make me feel comfortable, there would need to be many more EV charging stations than there are today.There are a lot more being built, and soon there may be enough to increase my comfort level.  

Today, I can see a time, maybe as quickly as a couple years, that all my worries will be solved, and I do own an EV. Two years ago, I did not know if I ever would. As fast as the world of vehicles is changing, maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks.