By DENA EAKLES
Echo Valley Hope, rural Ontario
This article is No. 6 in a series of information compiled by Dena Eakles of Echo Valley Hope. The purpose is to provide critical information to all Vernon Electric Cooperative members so they can actively steer their cooperative. To view the entire series, you can visit https://echovalleyhope.org.
The only way to advance in this time of energy transition is to do so with empowered individuals who care enough to take the time to learn and are concerned enough to take initiative. As we wake to the local and global implications of continuing our use of fossil fuels, we must also step up our actions and our understanding of how to transition to renewable, sustainable and local energy practices.
As members of Vernon Electric Cooperative, we are 10,000 strong. Steering our cooperative toward locally produced renewables will go a long way to reduce our energy footprint for future generations. There are incredible discoveries being made in energy storage, and the costs for renewable systems continue to go down. We can make this transition if we have the will to do so. Or we can continue into the very uncertain realities that lurk if we chose inaction.
Member capital is held and used by VEC to secure loans, loans that have interest. Members pay on the loans and on the interest. As VEC members, we are engaged in a free lending system; we do not receive interest on our capital. Building power plants are costly 30- to 40-year investments; add transmission costs, and we will carry a heavy load of debt. Our rates will continue to increase to help cover these costs. Renewable technology is advancing very quickly and at lower costs. Studies predict that Wisconsin energy use and peak demand will remain unchanged for the next several years. This means no change in use or in demand from utilities. Yet our rates are expected to dramatically increase. In other words, our electric bill will not decrease even if we use less electricity. Creating local renewable energy could change that.
The initiatives driving clean energy can and will disrupt the painful legacy of fossil fuels. It is up to us to make the choice and to make it now. Doing so is the most honorable thing we can do for ourselves and for future generations.
Here are some links to people, associations and organizations that are helping to pave the way toward energy independence from fossil fuels.
• Vernon County Energy District: https://www.vced.energy
• Midwest Renewable Energy Association: https://www.midwestrenew.org
• Focus on Energy: https://www.focusonenergy.com
• Vote Solar: https://votesolar.org
• SOUL: http://www.soulwisconsin.org
• Danielson’s Power Point “Bettering Household Energy Practices”: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Cxyj5VyXkwPx6m7DQFxi-GmQLquxD4o9/view
Most importantly, while it takes empowered individuals, it also requires a collective of people to change a system. If you agree that we need to be aware of the sources of our energy, that we should be kept apprised in timely ways about changes in our cooperative, and that our collective voice should be heard, then please make it a point to attend the annual meeting March 25, 2023.
Exert your member influence. Take part in policy decisions involving rates, conservation of energy and the transition away from fossil fuels. Elect board of directors who have your best interest front and center and encourage legislative support on behalf of the entire membership. Remember, you have the right and the power as an investor and as a member of VEC to steer the course. Use it.