Rural co-ops wary of Obama’s CO2 policy prior to State of the Union

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) said Jan. 12 that it will be listening to President Obama’s final State of the Union address carefully, especially when it comes to energy policy and federal mandates.

The president is scheduled to deliver the State of the Union speech Jan. 12 at 9 p.m. in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol.

Cooperatives serving many rural areas will have a tough time paying the cost of federal mandates, NRECA Interim CEO Jeffrey Connor said in a Jan. 12 news release.

“This is certainly the case with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, the linchpin of the administration’s efforts to meet domestic and international commitments to address climate change,” Connor said.

“While it’s been suggested that the President tonight may ‘take a victory lap’ to celebrate the Paris climate agreement and EPA rule, co-ops and their member owners are left to foot the bill in the form of higher electricity costs and threats to reliability,” Connor goes on to say.

“Based on our latest analysis, we believe that co-ops’ total Clean Power Plan compliance costs will range from $13 billion to $28 billion over the 2022-2030 period. The Clean Power Plan is a serious threat to the economic health and vitality of rural America and jeopardizes co-ops’ ability to produce safe, affordable and reliable electricity,” Connor said.

The rule requires states to decrease power sector emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) 32% by 2030.

NRECA is already one of the parties challenging the legality of the Clean Power Plan before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. NRECA has also argued that the “limited safety valve” in the CO2 reduction plan is not adequate to ensure grid reliability.

Cooperatives have, however, partnered with the administration on efforts to accelerate development and deployment of solar technologies. Cooperatives lead the industry in community solar, Connor said.

Co-ops already own or purchase about 16.5 GW of renewable energy capacity, with plans to add more in the pipeline. Co-ops have a similar track record on energy efficiency, Connor said. Nationally, 82% of electric co-ops offer some type of efficiency program.

“As the President begins his final year in office, we hope his administration keeps in mind the needs and interests of rural America and makes affordable and reliable electricity a top priority,” Connor said.

Connor has been acting as CEO of the rural cooperative organization since last August after CEO Jo Ann Emerson, a former member of Congress, suffered a brain hemorrhage while traveling. In November, the association’s board of directors changed his title from “acting” to “interim” CEO.

NRECA is the national 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.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.