Mel Coleman, CEO of North Arkansas Electric Cooperative (NAEC) and Vice President of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) Board of Directors, testified about the challenges facing electric cooperatives at a hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Energy & Power Subcommittee today.
“Co-ops serve diverse communities with sharp economic and geographical differences with service territories that are sparsely populated. NAEC’s low density, 7.4 consumers per mile of line, is dramatically lower than the national average of 33.3, resulting in higher costs for our members. The legacy of rural electrification and the obligation to serve the ‘last mile’ results in higher maintenance costs as compared to our industry counterparts,” Coleman said.
He continued, “Arkansas’ electric cooperatives coal based generation resources protected co-op member from the full effect of the recent spike in natural gas prices. Although it would seem that EPA’s goal is to shutdown coal plants, this winter proves that such a move would jeopardize reliable and affordable electricity for Arkansas. Unfortunately, EPA’s proposed standard to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new coal units will require carbon dioxide capture technology that is costly and not viable on a commercial scale, effectively removing new coal generation as a hedge against future natural gas price spikes. EPA’s climate regulations may well be the greatest threat facing our industry.”
His full statement is available at http://www.nreca.coop/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/MelColemanHouseCommittee.pdf
NRECA’s members across the country share the concern Coleman expressed regarding a proposed rule on limiting emissions from new power plants and an upcoming rule regarding existing plants. Electric cooperatives serve 93 percent of the persistent poverty counties in the country and limiting fuel sources from electric generation would disproportionally affect rural Americans.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service defines counties as being persistently poor if 20 percent or more of their populations were living in poverty over the last 30 years. View the map depicting electric cooperative service territory overlaid with the persistent poverty counties at http://www.nreca.coop/wp-content/plugins/nreca-interactive-maps/persistent-poverty/.
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.