CEO’s Message – April 2023

Anthony Smith headshotWhen someone is about to do something that may limit their options later, you might advise that person, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” This strategy is how I would describe URE’s commonsense approach to the current energy transition.

Many consumers — both individuals and companies — are interested in using renewable energy, citing strong interest in the environment and the availability of government incentives. We’ve seen this trend locally, as consumers increasingly take advantage of rooftop solar power and developers install utility-scale solar farms in our area.

Innovations in renewable energy technologies have led to decreases in costs, making renewables more feasible, accessible, and scalable. Over the past few years, our generation provider, Buckeye Power, has adjusted our fuel mix by utilizing more renewables. They have installed solar arrays at 24 sites throughout Ohio as part of the OurSolar community solar project. In addition, they provide us electricity from anaerobic digesters at livestock farms, methane-produced power from landfills, and hydropower transmitted from upstate New York.

Nationally, we’re seeing increasing reliance on renewable energy sources at the same time fossil fuel plants are being taken on the line, often before the end of their useful life. Meanwhile, we’re seeing more pressure on the electric grid caused by more frequent and intense severe weather events and rising electricity demand. This was evident during the winter storm and subsequent power emergency in Texas in February of 2021, and more recently when transmission grid balancing officials at PJM called for conservation to avoid rolling blackouts in our own area this past Christmas holiday, when temperatures plummeted.

Competing Pressures

So how do we reconcile the competing challenges of increasing electric grid stress and the need to reduce carbon output? Renewable sources like solar and wind energy are certainly beneficial for the environment, but they are intermittent resources because the sun does not always shine and the wind does not always blow. Our primary job is to provide electricity 24/7 to you and our community — especially during the hottest and coldest days. To do this, we also need access to plenty of consistent sources of power that will meet all needs of all our existing and newly electrified technology. For our part, through Buckeye Power, we have access to that power, but Buckeye is still a small part of a much larger electric grid.

At URE, we are passionate about providing our members with safe, reliable, and affordable energy. But no matter how well we take care of our local lines and substations, we still depend on robust transmission and generation sources to serve you.

So where does that leave us? Well, let’s not put all our eggs in one basket. There is great value in maintaining a diverse mix of fuel sources — both fossil fuels and renewables — to meet the growing demand for electricity while at the same time reducing our nation’s overall carbon footprint.

The Bottom Line

Providing reliable electricity when it is needed most is an increasing challenge as pressures mount to transition to more renewable generation. Lowering the overall carbon footprint in this country means we’re going to electrify more and more of our economy. Solar and wind power are an important part of a broader energy portfolio, but they are not available 24/7. In today’s ever-connected world, our communities need power around the clock.

What You Can Do

If this all makes sense, you might be wondering what you can do to help. One of the most effective ways to ensure we have reliable energy sources over the long term is to make your voice heard by our lawmakers and policymakers. Consider joining the America’s Electric Cooperatives Political Action Committee (PAC). You can find more info on page 18. When legislators hear directly from large groups of their constituents, they tend to pay attention. So, take action!

Anthony Smith