Editorial: January 2016
Power with purpose
By the time this first issue of 2016 hits the hands of some 83,000 monthly subscribers, the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives (NDAREC) will have completed its 73 annual meeting. NDAREC is the trade association for the state’s 16 local electric distribution cooperatives and five generation and transmission (G&T) cooperatives that provide electric power to some 126,000 North Dakota members through about 190,000 meters. NDAREC is also the publisher of North Dakota Living.
The theme of the annual meeting was, “Power with a purpose.” We picked that theme to remind us why electric cooperatives were formed: To improve the quality of life of the members we serve and the communities in which they live.
Because of that purpose, we continue to believe that the power we provide to North Dakota is not just about kilowatt hours. Our power is also political. It is economic. And it involves a strong belief in corporate social responsibility.
As a trade association, NDAREC helps shape public policy. That’s because what the state Legislature or the Congress decides can have a large impact on how we operate in North Dakota and the rates we need to charge our members
for electric power. As member-owned cooperatives, we view public policy through one lens: that of our members. Electric cooperatives have no stockholders to please — only the members who own the cooperative and also buy the power.
The network of electric cooperatives across the state creates a large economic footprint. The state’s local electric cooperatives have invested more than $1 billion in electric utility plant to deliver kilowatt hours to members. The state’s G&Ts have invested about $6 billion in coal-fired generation and coal conversion facilities. Together, these cooperatives employ about 2,300 persons with excellent wage and benefit packages.
In addition to the day-to-day delivery of electric power, electric cooperatives are good corporate citizens and community champions. Employees donate thousands of hours each year in volunteer service to their communities. Since 1990, electric co-ops have secured and invested more than $33.5 million from the United States Department of Agriculture in 103 community infrastructure projects or rural businesses. Electric cooperatives were the first to insist that land mined to extract coal be restored to its original contour, and 22,000 acres have been restored since 1970. Since 2006, about $1 billion has been invested in technology to operate power plants more cleanly, leading to lower emissions of mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide — all of which allows North Dakota to proclaim that it is one of seven states in the nation to meet or exceed all federal air-quality standards.
Without question, the rural electric cooperative network in North Dakota knows how important it is to keep the lights on 24/7. But we also know that this power serves a greater purpose.