June / 2001
From The Editor

Lobbying for consumers

Last month I went to Washington, D.C., with 75 electric co-op leaders who wanted to remind Congress to focus on consumers as it writes energy legislation. We were part of a group of 2,700 people from nearly 900 co-ops in 46 states, asking senators and representatives to act on our slogan of putting "Consumers First."
Making a priority of consumers might seem like an obvious thing to do. But federal policy could end up favoring the largest energy corporations rather than ratepayers, as lawmakers try to help douse California's four-alarm fire of electricity shortages and high rates (see "Future of Electricity" for more on the California crisis).
In fact, policies now under consideration ignore the unique role that local, consumer-owned electric co-ops can play in the electric utility industry. Those proposals would allow the nation's largest utilities to further dominate the market, and would lay a new set of regulations on all utilities, including cooperatives, even though co-ops haven't contributed to the California disaster.
The co-ops made that point by publishing an ad in Washington newspapers, saying that while millions of Californians face blackouts and price gouging, consumers of Anza Electric Co-op in Anza, California, have kept the lights on and prices under control. How? By belonging to their local electric co-op, which exists not to produce profits, but to give its consumer-owners the best price and service.
The co-op leaders also made that point by visiting their elected officials during those days in early May. The good news is that Kentucky's two senators and six members of Congress recognized that electric co-ops, which serve about 10 percent of the people in the nation and about 33 percent of the people in Kentucky, are an important part of the electric utility industry. They stressed the importance of developing a national energy policy, which is currently being written in the White House, and the part that Kentucky can play in that policy with its plentiful coal fields. Most of all they said that California's energy crisis has strengthened their resolve to protect Kentucky's electric rates, which are among the lowest in the nation.

Paul Wesslund