NRECA CEO: Reliable Electricity Is Main Focus of Legislative Conference

Electric co-op leaders are meeting with lawmakers during NRECA’s Legislative Conference to push for policies that emphasize the importance of reliable electricity for consumers. (Photo By: bentrussell/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

More than 2,000 electric cooperative leaders are gathering in Washington D.C., for NRECA’s Legislative Conference, and they will urge Congress and federal agencies to focus on maintaining reliable electricity for the American people, NRECA CEO Jim Matheson said at a media teleconference Thursday.

“Affordable and reliable electricity is an issue of growing concern among members of NRECA,” Matheson told reporters ahead of the April 16-19 conference.

“American families and businesses expect the lights to come on whenever they flip the switch, and we’re concerned that the reliability of the grid is at great risk.”

He pointed to rolling blackouts that took place in nine states last December as evidence of “a stressed grid.”

Electric co-op leaders will discuss five major issues that impact reliability with policymakers. They include:

  • Growing demand for electricity as other sectors of the economy are electrified.
  • Decreasing electricity supply due to the retirement and insufficient replacement of existing generation.
  • Supply chain challenges.
  • Permitting delays that prevent new electric infrastructure from being built.
  • Problems with natural gas availability.

Recent reports by the North American Electric Reliability Corp. underscore the risks to electric reliability, Matheson said. NERC warned last year that the U.S. is experiencing a “disorderly retirement” of older electric generating plants without replacement power coming online fast enough to meet growing demand. NERC’s 2023 summer reliability risk assessment is due out soon.

“Demand is going up and supply is going down, and that’s not a good trend if you want to maintain system reliability,” Matheson said.

In addition to advocating for reliability issues, co-op leaders will push for robust funding for rural broadband and rural development in the new five-year Farm Bill that Congress is considering.

The bill is likely to include funding for the Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Program, which provides loans and grants to electric co-ops and other groups to provide high-speed internet service to rural communities.

Erin Kelly is a staff writer for NRECA.

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Rep. Bob Latta: Rural Connectivity ‘Is Everybody’s Issue’