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Electricity And Meatballs

Electricity these days makes me think of a bowl of spaghetti.

Trying to understand an electric industry issue, like this summer’s Northeast power blackout, feels like tracking the line of a noodle impossibly tangled with the others. Questions about the big electric outage intertwine with the nation’s need for an improved transmission system, and the politics of utility deregulation, and the energy bill in Congress, and concerns about electric rates, and, and, and…

Of course most of us just eat it.

That usually works. But when the bowl spits a meatball in our face we tend to wonder what’s going on in there.

To explain what’s going on we’ve expanded this month’s “The Future of Electricity” column. Beyond the Blackout starts with the country’s largest power outage, then follows the strands to describe how they all fit together, and what they mean to you.

It may be one of the more involved stories you read, and one of the most important. Every day engineers, politicians, and business people make decisions affecting the cost and reliability of your electricity.

Fortunately, you get your electricity from a co-op, which gives you a couple of advantages in facing down the tangle of issues.

First, we tell you what’s going on. Your electric co-op subscribes to Kentucky Living for you so you can get this kind of in-depth information about something as crucial as electricity. As a co-op customer, you’re one of the owners, so you need to know something about how your utility works.

Second, the co-op protects you from some of the market turmoil. Many of the plans to change the utility industry come from people hoping it will make them rich. But electric co-ops aren’t about getting rich. Since the customers own their electric co-ops, and the co-ops operate to provide low-cost service rather than profits, it wouldn’t make sense for co-ops to start chasing money and forget their customers. Would a Kentucky co-op sell its low-cost electricity for a higher price to a New York utility at the expense of its customers? There’s no incentive to do that. The incentive for a co-op is to put its members first.

So dig in and enjoy that bowl of spaghetti.

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