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Leading the energy future

Electric co-ops are among the earliest adaptors of new technology

Last month, members of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) gathered in Nashville, Tennessee, to discuss key topics and trends under the theme “Leading the Energy Future.”

Throughout the meeting, one fact was clear: Electric cooperatives are uniquely positioned to lead the energy future while ensuring that their members benefit from cutting-edge technologies. That’s because we have a business model that can’t be beat. We are driven to exceed the needs and expectations of co-op members.

That goal has already taken us to great heights. But it has not changed our fundamental mission to provide reliable and affordable electricity. In fact, that mission is our springboard to the future.

The local control and unique community relationship empowers co-ops to be hubs of innovation where member demands and new technology can intersect—in many instances for the very first time.

The very nature of the electric industry is changing. And many cooperatives are on the cutting edge of this transformation, which gives consumers greater control over how they use electricity and access new energy options.

Innovation and reliability

That’s why electric co-ops were among the earliest adaptors of new technology to automatically detect outages and improve system reliability while expediting power restorations.

Electric cooperatives across the nation are working to harness smart grid advances to provide consumers with new energy-saving opportunities.

In Kentucky, I encourage you to keep a close eye on this Future of Electricity column each month in Kentucky Living to see the innovation and forward thinking of Kentucky’s 26 electric cooperatives.

In fact, in the upcoming April and May issues of Kentucky Living, co-op managers are being challenged to envision the future of

Here’s what you can do to help. Ensure you’re registered to vote right now. Then, encourage your friends and family to register, too. Click the image to get information on how to register and to learn more about your elected officials. You can also learn more about the issues that matter in our communities.

electricity over the next 25 to 50 years.

They understand the revolutionary changes that are coming, from smarter homes and electric vehicles run by power stored in batteries or fuel cells, to the wide range of energy-efficiency and management tools that will allow members to have more control over their energy future.

As technological advancements bring changes to the energy mix, especially an increase in renewable energy, Kentucky co-ops are always mindful that member-owners are also counting on the electric grid’s reliability.

Achieving a balance of safe, reliable and affordable electricity takes an unwavering commitment that co-ops reaffirm every day.

Your vote speaks 

Another way that co-ops reaffirm that commitment is at the ballot box. As member-owned electric cooperatives, voting is already in our DNA. It’s how we maintain an electric utility which is responsive to the consumers it serves. But voting also plays a crucial part in our representative democracy. Federal, state and local elections offer an opportunity to exercise a civic responsibility—to select the best leaders for our communities.

Two years ago, Kentucky’s electric cooperatives played a major role in helping turn the tide of decreasing voter turnout in rural areas. Across America, turnout was up by more than 500,000 voters in co-op territories. In Kentucky, rural voter turnout increased by more than three percent and our elected officials took notice.

The Co-ops Vote campaign is a non-partisan initiative that remains quite simple at its core: to ensure that members are registered to vote and they go to the polls for every election, and to ensure rural issues remain part of the national discussion.

The year 2018 is going to be an interesting and important election year, and electric cooperatives have the opportunity to play a vital role in encouraging rural voter turnout and engaging on issues that matter in our community. When voters miss the chance to vote, they also lose the opportunity to communicate their concern to our leaders about the issues that matter to us, where we work, live and raise families.

Electric co-ops are driven by close ties to their local communities. As part of this commitment, co-ops are taking meaningful steps to make the energy future a possibility for each of their members.

JIM MATHESON is CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), the national service organization that represents more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives. 


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