Absent a shift in policy and coordination between federal and state governments, this is the energy reality America faces for years to come. And as the nation leans on electricity to power more of our economy, failing to live up to the fundamental premise of affordable, reliable electricity would devastate American families and businesses.

The ability to keep the lights on is a cornerstone of our economy. No one recognizes that more than America’s electric cooperatives. The co-op focus on local communities lends us clarity on these issues that few other organizations have. That’s why NRECA continues leaning into our role as truthtellers amid the ongoing conversation about the energy transition.

Other organizations have recently sounded a similar alarm about reliable electricity in the months and years ahead. Electric co-ops have been voicing grid reliability concerns for years, while simultaneously rising to the challenge to keep affordable, reliable electricity a constant in rural America.

Some are quick to blame these reliability threats on changing or more extreme weather patterns. That’s certainly part of the story, but there’s a deeper problem that must be acknowledged. Spurred by policy and market factors, the ongoing energy transition has prioritized the disorderly and premature closure of baseload power plants without considering the collective impact on the power grid and the availability of feasible technology to fully replace them.

That’s proving to be a misstep with potentially severe consequences.

Driven by a focus on keeping the lights on, America’s electric cooperatives have demonstrated what a responsible energy transition can look like. Electric co-ops lowered their carbon emissions by 23% between 2005 and 2020. Co-ops also continue investing in energy innovation technologies to help meet tomorrow’s electricity needs with speed and flexibility.

Policymakers play a critical role in our energy future. As they establish energy policies, legislators and regulators must consider threats to reliability before setting arbitrary dates and deadlines. This must include allowing adequate time, technology development and the construction of desperately needed transmission lines.

That’s why NRECA and our member co-ops consistently push policymakers to recalibrate their focus on a commonsense energy transition that recognizes all of the factors above and doesn’t jeopardize reliability or punish families already struggling to make ends meet.

When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging. Today’s energy decisions will determine whether there are sufficient resources for the lights to come on tomorrow. Failure is not an acceptable option for the consumers and communities we serve.