Rising electrical costs discussed at meetingRunestone Electric Association (REA) members gathered March 28 at Jefferson High School in Alexandria for the 73rd annual meeting of the electric cooperative. In addition to the election of directors, presentations on the rising cost of electricity highlighted the event.
Runestone Electric Association (REA) members gathered March 28 at Jefferson High School in Alexandria for the 73rd annual meeting of the electric cooperative.
More than 800 members and their families enjoyed lunch served by the Douglas County Pork Producers.
Elections were held for the Runestone Electric board of directors. Bill O’Brien was reelected in District Five and Barbara Johnson was elected in District Two. Former District Two director, Charlie Wodash, chose not to seek reelection and was recognized for representing District Two for 15 years.
Operation Round Up board members, John Beem and Kathy Nelson, were also recognized for completing six years of service on the REA Trust Board.
In addition to the election of directors, presentations on the rising cost of electricity highlighted the event.
Guest speaker was Don Holl, Great River Energy's board president. Great River Energy is REA’s power supplier.
“Costs have dramatically increased in the past few years due to increased operating and capital expenses, legislative mandates as well as market exposure,” said Holl. “Because of the downturn of the economy, the priority of Great River Energy is rate affordability.”
Concerns of increasing costs were echoed by REA President Bill O’Brien.
“The utility industry faces major challenges today,” O’Brien said. “Current projections are for significant increases in the cost of power over the next 20 years, as well as a projected 30 percent increase in demand for electricity. Major upgrades are needed to our transmission and generation infrastructure. And this is before any additional costs are imposed by more environmental legislation.”
REA CEO Rick Banke explained some of the reasons why costs are increasing, especially wholesale power costs and how they have affected member’s electric bills. “Costs are going up and we will do all we can to contain our costs,” Banke said.
“Energy conservation is the one thing each of us can do to help offset the rising cost of electricity,” Banke explained. “Begin by conducting a home energy audit. Replace your incandescent light bulbs with Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs). Purchase Energy Star products whenever possible and utilize the federal tax credits for energy conservation investments. Be sure to contact REA for more ideas. We are here to help you.”
Banke continued by discussing current climate change legislation. He explained how a cap-and-trade program is designed to work and then proceeded to review President Obama’s proposed cap-and-trade program, explaining how it could negatively impact electric bills.
“I’m not here to debate the science of climate change,” said Banke. “I believe we have ways on a no-regrets basis, of being able to reduce carbon dioxide emissions over time with a minimal cost on you, and there are ways to do it with a severe cost to all of us. I prefer the former to the latter.”
Banke encouraged members to get involved in the political process to help shape the conversation regarding future climate change legislation. Members were encouraged to fill out cards asking legislators to keep affordability in the equation when they are debating any climate change legislation.
At an organizational meeting after the meeting, the following officers were elected: president – Bill O’Brien; vice president – Mike Johnson; secretary – Wilbur Burquest and treasurer – Ron Holm. Other directors include Bryan Withers, Audrey Hjelle and Barbara Johnson.
For more information on how to start the dialogue with legislators on balancing two important goals: addressing climate change while keeping electric bills affordable, visit www.OurEnergyMN.coop.