By David Bailey, General Manager
I would like to take some time this month to talk about adversity, which is a part of everyone’s life. How we choose to deal with it can define us. I like to think I have been able to lean on my character and my faith to help get me through when I have faced adversity.
As is so often the case, we can look to the Bible for prime examples of how we should face the adversity that comes our way. We are told that the Apostle Paul carried a “thorn in the flesh,” even though we don’t know what the thorn was. He prayed to God to remove it, but he carried it anyway, knowing God’s grace was sufficient for him. In doing so, he became one of the Bible’s great writers.
As I explained to many of you at our annual meeting, the electric industry faces adverse times of its own. One example is the closure of the Charles R. Lowman Power Plant that had operated for over 49 years. With the regulations placed on our industry, the Lowman plant is no longer cost-effective. The decision was made to convert it from coal to natural gas. I likened that change to our own cooperative’s decision to begin construction on a new building: It will be inconvenient at times, but it is ultimately a necessary change.
At the meeting, I showed members our current energy profile, one that relies greatly on coal-fired generation, versus our future energy profile, which places more reliance on natural gas.
One shorthand way to put it is that we have a lot of our eggs in the same basket. This may not be the best approach, but in the energy business it’s sometimes the only approach. In the future, we may see a greater contribution from resources like solar power and nuclear energy, but these could take years or even decades to make a real impact.
Having so much dependence on a single energy source could lead to further adversity down the line. You’ve probably heard a lot about opposition to fracking, a way of extracting natural gas. I haven’t seen any proof that fracking is dangerous to the environment, and yet there are people who would have us do away with it.
What they don’t say is that if fracking is not an option, we will face even more adversity. By limiting us to more expensive processes for extracting natural gas, the cost of your power will increase. As an electric distribution cooperative, the only means we have to recuperate those additional costs will be to raise electric rates. But that won’t be something that happens just here at our utility. The same will be true for utilities across the country that depend on natural gas in their energy portfolio.
The good news is that we can prevent this by being good stewards of our earth. No one is more conscious of preserving our rich environment than I am. We are told in Scripture that God provided the earth to us and gave us the authority to subdue it — not to abuse it, but to use it. We have many renewable resources that we can take advantage of, but we must also be practical.
I would like to close by acknowledging that no one wants adversity in their life, but it comes to all of us anyway. I hope and pray that when adversity comes your way you have something you can lean on, as I rely on my character and faith, to bring you through those difficult times. There’s a great quote from Winston Churchill: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” If we must face adversity as a utility, then we will all work together to overcome anything that impacts our members.
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