BY STEVE SEIDL
As the end of the year approaches, I find myself reflecting on what Iowa’s electric cooperatives have achieved and accomplished in 2016. We’re experiencing an era of unprecedented change in areas of technology, regulation and legislation.
Our statewide association, the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives, recently held its annual meeting in early December. Many presenters talked about this era of change and the need for cooperative leaders to work together, standing strong and united in our mission to improve the quality of life for the member-owners we serve.
Electric utilities are challenged with incorporating distributed generation – including member-owned solar – into the grid, in addition to exploring ways we can add solar to our utility-scale generation portfolio to benefit all member-owners. The Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives worked closely with the Iowa Energy Center earlier this year to develop and publish a resourceful guide for those who are interested in their own solar generation. The Solar PV Energy Guide has been mentioned several times in this magazine, and you can download the free PDF at iowarec.org. In addition, Iowa’s not-for-profit electric co-ops have continued to educate member-owners about solar power generation, and many local co-ops now offer community solar subscriptions and supply power from utility-scale solar generation.
This year, Iowa’s electric cooperatives also worked through complex policy issues, including a review of the Iowa Energy Plan and acquiring much-needed funds from FEMA to cover costs associated with storm repairs.
The presidential election is now behind us, but we recall the flurry of activity and attention Iowa received earlier in the year. Advocates of Iowa’s electric cooperatives attended events along the chaotic campaign trail, engaging with presidential candidates. Wearing their green Iowa Rural Power T-shirts, they asked the candidates a simple question: “What is your plan to ensure affordable and reliable electricity in the future?” For many hopeful candidates, this was their first interaction with electric cooperatives, and we educated them on the challenges and issues impacting electric co-ops and their members.
In 2016, you probably heard something in the news about President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. No matter where you stand on the issue of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandates to reduce carbon emissions from coal plants, we have a long way to go before this issue is finalized. Back in February, the Supreme Court surprised many by issuing a 5-4 decision to stay implementation of the Clean Power Plan until litigation is concluded. Days after this ruling, Justice Antonin Scalia died. (He had ruled in the majority.)
In September, the full court of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard oral arguments on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. No matter how the lower court decides, the ruling will most likely be appealed to the Supreme Court. If a new justice is not placed on the high court, a 4-4 tie ruling is possible, which means the lower court’s ruling will prevail. With Donald Trump as the president-elect, the fate of EPA’s Clean Power Plan is indeed murky. The new year will provide more answers as Iowa’s electric cooperatives continue to advocate for affordable, reliable electricity on behalf of our member-owners.
Times of change cause us to prioritize what is truly important by bringing co-ops together to achieve a common mission, ultimately forming a stronger bond. We are united through this season of change, and I look forward to serving Iowa’s electric cooperative member-owners in the year ahead.
Steve Seidl is the board president of the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives and is a director at Raccoon Valley Electric Cooperative.