Co-op Voices

Fond Memories, But a Modern Focus

By Phillip Burgess Published: May 30th, 2012

On a recent trip home from a family gathering in Boaz, Ala., where I grew up, I passed a vacant lot where Needmore Grocery used to be. More memories of the “good ol’ days” came flooding back as I remembered selling watermelons from my daddy’s patch under the pecan tree near the store and sitting around a pot-bellied stove eating parched peanuts.

Phillip Burgess

Phillip Burgess

I recalled the serious discussions local farmers had when they routinely “held court” there to discuss politics, cotton and corn prices and football.

Those were simpler times.

Today, our world is much, much different. The country store has been replaced by super centers where you can buy your groceries, get your eyes checked and do your banking business, all at the same place. Few young people have ever sat under a shade tree and sold a watermelon or two for a dollar apiece.

And instead of gathering around a pot-bellied stove at the store to discuss the issues of the day, many folks now communicate in small bites on Twitter or on Facebook.

Electric cooperatives are not immune to our changing world, either. Back in the “good ol’ days” there were less politics, technology and regulations to deal with on a daily basis. Today, your local electric cooperative operates in one of the most complicated, rapidly changing industries in the world.

Yes, there are still lines, poles and substations. But there’s much more. How about fuel cost adjustments, smart meters, automated meter reading, outage management, energy efficiency, demand response and time of use rates?

For the average consumer, this new energy landscape is very confusing. It could even make one long for the “good ol’ days.”

But today, we can’t afford to be without electricity. Our reliance upon it means that your electric cooperative is working hard to embrace the new emerging technologies in a way that is effective and efficient.

At the same time, regulations affecting how an electric utility operates are being considered and approved at a rapid pace.

Finding an appropriate balance between protecting the environment, guaranteeing a reliable supply of power and keeping electric bills affordable amid all these changes is critical. No, it’s essential.

Please rest assured that the nation’s electric cooperatives aren’t living in the “good ol’ days.” It may be a good place to visit, but living and working in this new technological age is where the focus is squarely placed.

 Phillip Burgess is communications and government relations director of the Tennessee Valley Public Power Association.

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