The Changing Landscape

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When history books are written, prophets and pundits will offer a variety of descriptions of the past year. One thing — possibly the only thing — on which they will agree is that the political landscape changed dramatically in 2017. Changes in regulatory and legislative priorities as well as never-ending technological advancements will ultimately bring changes to the electric utility industry.

Operating an electric utility may look a little boring from the outside. And, most days, that’s completely accurate. Yet on a daily basis, electric utilities are faced with legislative and regulatory hurdles that impact the delivery of electricity to you over those boring power lines. Just over two years ago, we were battling proposed regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). We believe the Clean Power Plan was unneeded regulatory overreach.

The regulations were so sweeping that we, along with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) and 39 generation and transmission co-ops, filed suit to prevent the rule from taking effect. We didn’t take that action lightly. We did so as a last resort because the EPA had repeatedly ignored concerns from the nation’s rural electric co-ops that we needed commonsense safeguards to ensure afford-ability and reliability.

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan posed a serious threat to the reliability of the nation’s electric grid. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (an entity responsible for ensuring the reliability of the nation’s electric power grid) stated that “constructing the resource additions as well as the expected transmission enhancements may represent a significant reliability challenge.” The courts agreed and took the extraordinary step of halting the rule in its tracks until the litigation played out.

The decision became unnecessary just over a month ago. The EPA is repealing the Clean Power Plan, stating the repeal “will also facilitate the development of U.S. energy resources and reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens associated with the development of those resources.”

The EPA plans to take input on a new rule that will not endanger the nation’s power supply. The nation’s rural electric cooperatives look forward to working with the administration and other stakeholders on solutions that protect our environment, promote the diversity of our energy supply and bolster rural America.

“Electric co-ops are dedicated to a healthy environment, vibrant rural communities and prioritizing the needs of their members,” said Jim Matheson, NRECA’s CEO. “These factors, along with market forces, are driving co-ops to enhance the diversity of their electric generating portfolio to affordably and reliably meet their members’ energy needs.”

We are serious about a clean energy future without costly, unneeded regulation. Since 2005, co-ops nationwide have increased generation by 15 million megawatt-hours while reducing carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 10 percent through billions of dollars in investments in renewable technology, energy efficiency and other practices.

It has been an interesting year or two. In 2015, we couldn’t have imagined that we would be looking at today’s regulatory landscape. What we hope is that two years from today, we are looking at a stable regulatory environment.

We’ll take boring and predictable over exciting any day.

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About Author

David Callis

David Callis is a 1982 graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, with a degree in business administration. He began his career at the Tennessee Valley Authority in Chattanooga as an accountant, later becoming supervisor of power revenue. A Nashville native, he relocated back to Middle Tennessee in 1992 to join Tri-County EMC in Lafayette first as director of finance and administration and then as general manager. In February 2001, he joined the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association as director of government and public affairs. In June 2010, he was named vice president of statewide services with oversight over government relations, communications and marketing and member relations for the association. He became general manager in January 2012.

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