How is Vernon Electric supporting members’ move to renewables?

By DENA EAKLES | Echo Valley Hope, rural Ontario

This column is No. 2 in a series of information compiled by Dena Eakles of Echo Valley Hope. The purpose is to provide information to all Vernon Energy Cooperative (VEC) members so they can actively steer their cooperative. To view the entire series, you can visit https://echovalleyhope.org 

The energy VEC uses comes from Dairyland Power Cooperative (https://www.dairylandpower.com). Dairyland Power, a Touchstone energy Cooperative (https://www.touchstoneenergy.com), was formed in 1941 and is headquartered in La Crosse. It is a generation and transmission (G&T) cooperative and provides electricity to 24 distribution cooperatives and 17 municipal utilities. These cooperatives include VEC.

Dairyland Power Cooperative gets 50–75% of its energy from carbon fuel sources like coal or natural gas. It owns and operates several power plants using hydroelectric, natural gas, coal, landfill gas and solar generation. 

Dairyland’s coal plants are due to be retired as the move away from carbon fuel sources continues and the move toward renewables escalates.

Questions to ponder and to ask: In the retiring of carbon fuel generation power plants, how do power plants become “stranded assets”? “Stranded assets are assets that have suffered from unanticipated or premature write-downs, devaluations or conversion to liabilities” — Wikipedia. 

How do stranded assets impact electric cooperative members?

Dairyland’s current generation plants that rely on carbon fuel sources are also exposed to fuel price fluctuations. When our electric bills show power cost adjustments, that means an extra charge due to higher fuel prices. These costs emerge when liquefied natural gas is exported (or transmitted to other regions by MISO https://www.misoenergy.org) from climactic extremes such as severe heat as well as man-made disasters such as war.

Solar generation does not have this rate volatility. In 2021, Dairyland Power’s renewable sources were 25%.

• Community and local PPA (power purchase agreement) solar projects: 0.42%

• Member-owned solar:  0.33% (from VEC Director Of Member Services Dave Maxwell)

The desire for home or community solar or off-grid generation is on the rise. The Inflation Reduction Act offers tremendous savings to individuals and businesses seeking to reduce energy costs.  The value of locally generated energy both as national security as well as local economic viability is becoming clearer.

Question to ponder and to ask: As solar and energy storage continues to become more affordable, how is Vernon Electric Cooperative supporting members’ move to renewables? 

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