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Advocating for co-op members

Chris Meyers
General Manager
Oklahoma Association of
Electric Cooperatives

Your local rural electric cooperative is a part of a vast network of co-ops that power our nation. In fact, over 900 electric co-ops are united through a national organization, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), based in Arlington, Virginia. Through this national representation, electric cooperatives have a steady voice on Capitol Hill and advocate for the best interests of their members.

As the U.S. Congress considers another coronavirus relief package, co-ops continue to emphasize the cooperative message and work with members of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate to clearly communicate issues that impact electric cooperatives and, ultimately, their members. Through the co-ops’ efforts and influence, members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives have introduced the Flexible Financing for Rural America Act of 2020, 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. These capital-intensive loans are needed as co-ops invest in upgrades for generation, transmission, and distribution infrastructure to deliver safe, affordable and reliable electricity to their members.

At the time of this writing, the U.S. Congress is in recess, but could still consider this bill and related provisions upon their return. If passed, the bill would bring about substantial savings for electric cooperatives nationwide and right here at home in Oklahoma. The bill would enable more than 500 co-ops that are RUS borrowers to reprice loans without penalty fees, which in turn would help manage consumer electric bills during this difficult economic period. 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. If Congress were to adopt new provisions that waive pre-payment penalties for electric co-ops, NRECA estimates that co-ops in Oklahoma would save at least $14.5 million annually in financing costs and over $300 million total over the life of those loans.

Collectively, we will continue to ask the U.S. Congress to include the RUS repricing bill in the next COVID relief package to provide co-ops with additional financial security. After all, electric co-ops are built by, and belong to, the communities they serve. This local community ownership and member-driven mission keep us focused on effectively responding to challenges and local concerns as they arise. OKL Article End

Safe, affordable and reliable power

Brent Bacon
President
Oklahoma Association of
Electric Cooperatives

 

As consumers of electricity, we have come to expect electric power that is delivered in a safe, affordable and reliable manner. Your electric cooperative, along with all sister cooperatives in the state, are committed to serving you with high standards of service, plus more. These three attributes that we often talk about—safe, reliable and affordable—are the core of the cooperative mission, but what do they mean exactly? In this message, we break down these attributes for you with the goal of emphasizing our commitment to each consumer-member at the end of the line. While these standards are what we strive for every day, our “why” is you (and an enhanced quality of life for you and your community). 

Safe: Ensuring that our consumers have safe electric power and that every electric co-op employee returns home safely at the end of each day is a priority for your co-op. To achieve this goal, electric co-ops constantly nurture and enforce a strong culture of safety in their work practices with relevant training, accountability and commitment to excellence. 

Affordable: Keeping rates affordable while maintaining more miles of line than any other electric utility in the state is a commitment from electric co-ops to their valued members. While the cost of most things (such as cars, houses, eggs, milk, stamps and gasoline) has increased at least twentyfold or more during the past 80 years, electricity has remained affordable. In the southern region of the United States, including Oklahoma, the cost per kilowatt-hour of electricity in 1938 averaged 3.36 cents. Today, that cost is about 10.99 cents, or slightly more than a threefold increase over 80 years. 

Reliable: Reliability is our priority and maintaining a reliable system requires hundreds of hours of careful planning, inspections, maintenance and system upgrades. During the past five years, Oklahoma’s electric co-ops have kept the lights on 99.99% of the time, despite ice storms, tornadoes, wildfires or other extreme weather events. The average Oklahoma co-op member experiences one outage per year lasting two hours and one minute. We prepare continuously for scenarios beyond our control that could cause outages. If an electric co-op experiences extended outages due to an extreme weather event, they work with sister co-ops through mutual aid assistance to restore power as quickly and as safely as possible.

At the end of the day, your electric cooperative is fully committed to bringing the best service to you at the lowest possible price. We are proud to stand on the mission of powering lives and empowering communities. OKL Article End