When the woman stepped to the microphone it meant this was not business as usual at the business session. She rose to talk about high energy prices, at the annual meeting of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. The result was a resolution that reads:
“We call on NRECA to identify or design and promote conservation and efficiency programs that can be delivered through cooperatives to address our consumer-ownersï¿½ desire to take personal and cooperative action to conserve or use electricity efficiently to reduce rising electricity costs paid by our consumer-owners.”
An English teacher might rewrite that endless sentence. But its approval makes it a command for the national group that represents about 930 consumer-owned utilities across the country.
To truly understand the significance of that resolution it helps to know what those business sessions are like.
Any controversy gets worked out in a series of small meetings during the previous six months. It has to be that way. The issues deal with incredibly detailed topics like how to raise money to build power plants. Bringing up problems like that in a room of nearly 1,000 people would launch a discussion that could last days.
So the carefully crafted resolutions are read in monotone and approved with little fanfareï¿½until the woman broke the routine to introduce her resolution from the floor.
I looked up from my work to watch the TV monitor in the annual meeting newsroom. The unusual scene told me two things.
First, that electric co-ops do listen to their customers who, after all, own the utilities. Although the hundreds of co-ops form a powerful network, they will stop their highly scripted proceedings to listen to concerns from the countryside.
Second, the fight to do something about high energy prices is a top-of-the-mind issue for electric co-ops everywhere. Itï¿½s been translated from the difficulties you face paying your monthly bills, to the marching orders for the organization that represents co-ops nationally.
The resolution on high energy prices may not have started out as business as usual, but it is now.