Featured as General Manager column in August edition of Living With Energy in Iowa Magazine
By Anne Prince
As I’ve noted before in my past columns, the energy industry is undergoing a dramatic transformation as consumer demand for more renewable energy sources grows, and innovation and technology continue to advance exponentially. You’re likely witnessing this energy evolution first-hand.
In driving across the region, you may have noticed fields of solar panels owned by this co-op and other utilities, along with an increase in solar panels on your neighbors’ roofs. Maybe you’ve heard about the impending changes in the transportation sector with most major vehicle companies announcing plans to offer more electric vehicles at more affordable prices.
Consumer interest in renewable energy is strong and growing. In addition, national studies indicate that consumers have an expectation that companies operate in an ethical and responsible manner––including when it comes to the environment.
At Access Energy Cooperative, it is in our mission statement and one of the principals under which we operate to focus on the good of our community. While our primary function is to provide safe, reliable, and efficient energy to our members, we are more than an electricity provider. Because we are a cooperative, our mission is to enrich the lives of our members and to serve the long-term interests of our community. We feel we’re doing both by investing in renewable energy sources.
Green energy is certainly not new. Solar, wind, and hydro power have been around for decades. However, the recent innovations and advances in renewable technology have led to sharp decreases in cost, making it more feasible and accessible. In recent years our power supplier, Associated Electric Cooperative, Inc. (AECI) has been able to adjust our fuel mix by utilizing more renewables. Today, 25% of our fuel mix is comprised of renewable energy sources, which are hydro and wind.
However, to borrow a nautical analogy, it takes a long time to turn the direction of a large ship––and changing the energy mix we use to power homes and businesses doesn’t happen overnight. While renewable energy use is increasing, we will still depend on traditional forms of energy to keep power flowing reliably to your home. After all, solar and wind energy are referred to as “intermittent” power since the sun does not always shine and the wind does not always blow. This fact coupled with the growing demand for renewables creates its own challenges. That’s why there is real value in maintaining a balanced mixture of fuel types to ensure reliability, resiliency and meet the growing demand for electricity.
As the energy industry continues to evolve, Access Energy Cooperative is striving to take advantage of technology advances and market opportunities as they become available. This means Access Energy Cooperative can leverage the flexibility of the grid to offer a wider range of renewable power selections as we continue to bring safe, reliable and affordable power to our community.
Albert Einstein once observed that, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” In order for Access Energy Cooperative to meet the growing demand for renewable energy and ensure the reliability of our power supply, we must constantly make operational adjustments as we strive for balance and a brighter future for our members.