growth brings challenges
I can remember a
time when there was talk about turning parts of rural Missouri into
a “deer commons” because the population was
shrinking. In the 1980s, because of the farm crisis, we were all worried
that rural Missouri would dry up and our sons and daughters would leave
our communities to look for jobs in the big city. That’s not the
case today, with every electric cooperative experiencing growth.
good news for rural Missouri. Not only are more people moving to the
countryside, but the economic development efforts begun more than two
decades ago with passage of the federal Rural Development Act are paying
Co-op managers are
telling me their commercial loads also are increasing as new businesses
move into rural areas and existing businesses expand. It seems like
we hear about a new ethanol or soydiesel plant every other month. That’s
even better news, because it will allow our agriculture industry to share in
a dark side to this growth, it is the fact that demand for electricity
is growing at unprecedented rates and future sources of power will
be more expensive. Forecasts from Associated Electric Cooperative predict
membership will grow from the 830,000 we have today to 1.2 million
by 2025. Not only will there be more members, they will use more energy.
Because wholesale electricity prices have not increased for the past
20 years, we have all added conveniences powered by electricity and
not worried about how much we use.
I believe as the
cost of electricity increases, all members will want to use electricity
more efficiently and electric cooperatives will provide the tools to
help members meet that goal.
In the meantime,
co-ops must take steps now to meet this increasing demand. In the
works is a multi-pronged approach.
One prong is the
Dell Plant, a gas-fired unit located in northeast Arkansas. Associated
bought this mothballed plant at a much lower cost than a new gas-fired
plant would have cost and expects to bring it on line this month.
prong is the three wind energy farms being built in northwest Missouri.
Already the Bluegrass Ridge project, featured on our cover, is being
tested and should deliver power soon. Your electric cooperatives
are proud of being the first to build large-scale wind farms in Missouri
with the Wind Capital Group and John Deere Wind Energy. It fits well
with Associated’s strategy to
have a diverse mix of generation resources.
To give Missourians
a new source of power they can depend on, Associated is in the early
phase of building a new coal-fired power plant at Norborne in Carroll
County. Hearings held at
Sedalia, Salisbury and Carrollton brought up some interesting comments
from those who attended.
Rick Bagby, who operates
a foundry served by Sac Osage Electric Cooperative, said his business
requires reliable and affordable electricity or he can’t
compete in today’s global marketplace. Jack Woods, a
Platte-Clay member, said we should be using coal to generate
electricity because it is not subject to international pressures.
Frank Burton, a pastor who operates a boarding school at Stockton,
said new generating facilities should be built ahead of the
need to prevent shortages like those experienced in California.
the demand for power requires new generation sources. These
new megawatt hours will be more expensive than existing resources.
The good news for
all electric cooperative members in Missouri is that, even with the
increases in our cost of electricity in the future, our electric bills
will still be lower than most other states.
Hart is executive vice president of the Association
of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.