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Advocating for co-op members

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