Priority Policy Issues for America’s Electric Cooperatives

NRECA and electric cooperatives look forward to working with the incoming Trump Administration and new Congress to ensure that issues important to Rural America and electric cooperatives are addressed. We have a number of issues facing electric cooperatives and the communities we serve, and we will continue to work with every elected official interested in meeting the needs of rural America.

Rural Policy and the Farm Bill

Electric cooperatives built and improved the infrastructure to bring electricity to people living in rural America who were being left in the dark and left behind. Today, more than 900 co-ops provide power to more to 42 million Americans in 47 states – serving 56 percent of the nation. Growing a vibrant rural economy is essential to America’s success and prosperity.

  • RUS Financing: The Rural Utilities Service continues to be a key source of financing for electric cooperative infrastructure development, and will continue to play an important role in the future. Importantly, the RUS electric loan program provides a positive financial return for the government.
  • Rural Development: USDA Rural Development programs generally have had a positive impact on rural America and should be continued and enhanced. The Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program is one of several programs used effectively by cooperatives to expand economic opportunities in Rural America.
  • Rural Broadband: Tens of millions of rural Americans continue to live without access to high-speed internet service. Bridging the digital divide continues to be a critical issue for rural America, and it must be addressed.
  • Farm Bill: The Farm Bill is due to be reauthorized in 2018, and we look forward to ensuring that updates of our nation’s agricultural and rural policies strengthen rural America.

Ensuring Access to Affordable Electricity and Regulatory Reform

Electric cooperatives support a diverse energy portfolio that includes conventional and alternative energy sources, and strongly advocate for policies that ensure the consumers’ interests drive policy decisions. Over-reaching regulations from Washington have a significant negative impact on rural America, and we look forward to working with the new Administration and Congress to ensure that there is not a “Washington knows best” mentality in regulations impacting rural America.

  • Energy Policy: Electric cooperatives strongly support an all of the above approach to energy policy that encourages a diverse energy supply to ensure an affordable, reliable, and safe supply of electricity.
  • Environmental Rules: The Clean Power Plan, Waters of the U.S., Social Cost of Carbon, and other regulations are examples of existing rules that should be revisited because they went too far and have a negative impact on Rural America.
  • FERC: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has recently made several decisions transferring authority from state and local decision-makers to the Federal level. Properly balancing federal and state/local decision-making is essential.  Additionally, FERC must continue to protect consumers.
  • Future Rules: Future rules and decisions under the Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and other laws should carefully balance the nation’s environmental and economic goals without imposing undue burdens on rural America.

Infrastructure and Investing in the Future

Throughout the campaign, improving our nation’s infrastructure was a consistent theme. Electric co-ops have been in the infrastructure development and improvement business for decades to improve the quality of life in the communities we serve – a mission we will continue.

  • Modernizing the electric grid: We look forward to continuing to work in partnership to improve the grid to meet member-consumers’ needs while continuously improving the resiliency of our electric system. Co-ops continuously improve the cyber and physical security of our systems and have been leaders in developing and using smart grid technologies. A strong public-private partnership is essential, particularly in the area of cyber security.
  • Energy Research and Development: Electric cooperatives support a wide range of research activities to help improve our nation’s future energy infrastructure. We will continue to seek advances in technologies including distributed energy resources, carbon capture and sequestration or utilization, and others. The federal government can be a key partner in advancing our nation’s energy research.
  • Land Use: Co-op facilities require easements and often times permits to cross through publicly- and privately-owned lands. We continue to need reasonable access to those lands and permits granted in a timely manner for infrastructure construction and maintenance, tree-trimming and other right-of-way maintenance, and other activities.
  • Power Marketing Administrations: The federal PMAs continue to provide affordable, reliable electricity generated from federal dams. That source of energy must continue to be available to traditional PMA customers.
  • International Electrification: Electric cooperatives have helped bring electricity to rural areas of developing countries for over 50 years. We look forward to continuing that proud tradition, and we look forward to helping bringing power to sub-Saharan Africa where more than 500 million people currently do not have access to electricity at all.