NRECA CEO Jim Matheson urged electric cooperative leaders at Regional Meetings 1&4 to take on the historic changes and opportunities emerging across the industry and know the association is ready to lead and partner to ensure co-ops are equipped to best serve their members.
“It’s all about change and the opportunities it brings,” Matheson said in his keynote address Wednesday in Indianapolis.
“This meeting is your chance to meet the people at NRECA who are leading these efforts, and for you to learn more.”
Matheson noted three key areas of transformation and opportunity for co-ops—broadband, infrastructure and politics—and how NRECA is evolving in its own right to meet their needs.
“It’s the most important work we’re doing right now, and we want you to make the most of these opportunities to invest in your co-op’s reliability, resilience and relevance,” he said.
NRECA Broadband launched in July for co-ops delivering high-quality internet, building networks or finding other ways to help close the digital divide. Its team of experts are steeped in telecommunications policy, regulations and its highly competitive politics, he said.
“We’re positioning NRECA to best support our members [and] to make darn sure we are on a level playing field,” said Matheson.
When it comes to infrastructure, the $1.2 trillion federal law offers enormous opportunities for co-ops to invest in electric vehicles, disaster mitigation and technologies for a smart grid, microgrids and cybersecurity.
To help smooth the complex compliance process, NRECA is bringing co-ops together to work on projects and grant applications.
“NRECA is here to make it as easy as possible to access these programs and put them to work for you,” Matheson said.
In the political arena, polarized gridlock may be a constant, but “electric co-ops will be as respected, as relevant and as effective in politics as we’ve ever been,” he said.
“You have credit and credibility on both sides of the aisle for the work you do. NRECA’s reputation, your reputation, is sterling. And that matters more now than ever before.”
For example, Congress came together last month to pass the budget reconciliation bill with provisions giving direct-pay tax credits for electric co-ops to deploy new energy technologies—a top priority for NRECA.
“It covers any tax credit for energy technologies—renewables, storage, carbon capture—anything the federal government might offer as an incentive to a for-profit utility, a not-for-profit co-op can now use, too,” Matheson said. “Now, and in the future. And that’s a pretty big deal.”
In many ways, NRECA member co-ops “are much bigger than politics,” he said. By revolutionizing the electric industry and making key investments in their communities, co-ops draw bipartisan recognition in Washington, he said.
“It is a time of rapid change—to be sure—but it’s also good to be us,” Matheson said. “Thanks to the work of your co-op, we have every advantage with us as we lead the way to that bright future.”