ARLINGTON, Va. – The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) today expressed support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to replace the Clean Power Plan with a more workable rule.
“The proposed rule appears to provide electric cooperatives with a more achievable plan that adheres to EPA’s historic approach to using the Clean Air Act,” said NRECA CEO Jim Matheson. “This is necessary to provide electric co-ops the certainty and flexibility they need to meet their consumer-members’ local energy needs.”
“It is imperative that EPA’s rules recognize the investment that cooperative members have made in power plants and that there is a prudent path forward for 42 million consumers to benefit from those investments,” Matheson said. “Electric cooperatives are built by, and belong to the communities that they serve. Because of this ownership structure, there are no shareholders to shoulder the weight of early power plant closures. The Clean Power Plan would have resulted in stranded assets and stranded debt, significantly increasing electricity costs for many consumers.
“At the same time, co-ops are responding to their members’ needs and market forces affecting the entire electric power sector. The electric cooperative fuel mix for providing electricity is changing, with increased investments in natural gas and renewables,” Matheson added.
From 2014 to 2016, the use of coal to generate electricity for electric co-ops declined from 54% to 41%, with a corresponding increase in the use of natural gas—from 18% in 2014 to 26% in 2016. Over the same period, the use of renewable energy sources to provide electricity to co-op member-consumers increased from 14% to 17%.
Co-ops own or purchase more than 19 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity, with another 1.8 gigawatts planned. Total solar capacity at electric cooperatives is more than four times what is was in 2015, capable of generating more than 860 megawatts of electricity. “Co-ops are diversifying their energy portfolios to provide the greatest value possible to their members,” Matheson said.
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape. As local businesses built by the consumers they serve, electric cooperatives have meaningful ties to rural America and invest $12 billion annually in their communities.