July 2014

Quick quiz.  Pork bacon? Hogs. Beef burger? Cattle. Dairy milk? Cows, goats. Plant milk? Almonds, coconuts, rice, soybeans. Ketchup? Tomatoes. Electricity? The switch. 

As a kid, I spent many special days on my grandparents' dairy farm. I gained firsthand experience about agricultural products that fuel our lives: bacon, hamburgers, milk, bread, eggs and vegetables. For each shovel of manure I scooped, I learned where natural gas originated. But, I don't recall when I learned where electricity came from.  I just flipped the switch.

When thinking about electricity, which of the following attribute is most important to you: affordable, clean or reliable? Many members tell me they want reliable electricity at an affordable cost. When I ask how much more they are willing to pay for renewable energy, most say not much or none.

At a recent electric generation co-op meeting, I had the chance to meet Dr. Scott Tinker (photo below), the state geologist of Texas and acting associate dean of research in the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas. He said "We don't think about it (electricity), we just want it (electricity). It (electricity) comes from electrons. We don't grow them or mine them. A majority of the educated public do not know how electricity or gasoline are made... nor do they really care. They just want it affordable, available, reliable... and now clean."

Tinker said today's "energy security - affordable, available, reliable, sustainable - drives the energy mix and should be the goal of energy policy." I took that statement to mean we must rely on diverse options to generate electricity if we want a chance to keep it affordable and reliable.

He discussed the numerous ways electricity is generated: coal, natural gas, oil, hydro, geothermal, wind, solar and nuclear and how each method has its challenges. Clouds and darkness hamper solar.  Wind is intermittent. Coal has transportation and regulatory challenges. Natural gas has infrastructure issues. Every option has its distractors. Tinker said we "can't not like everything."

Electricity needs to remain affordable. Tinker said some countries, such as Denmark and Germany, have watched rates skyrocket without a diverse electricity generation plan. Denmark's rate per unit of electricity is .41 cents. Germany's rate per unit of electricity is .35 cents.  SEMO Electric's residential rate per unit of electricity is less than .09 cents. Which choice do you prefer?

Electricity has joined water and air as necessities in today's world.  We need to breathe. We need to drink. We need (want) to charge our mobile phones to stay connected. We expect results when we flip the switch.

SEMO Electric and its electricity supplier - Associated Electric Cooperative, Inc. - focus on providing you affordable, clean and reliable electricity to your home, farm and business that has been generated from hydro, wind, coal and natural gas. 

Many years ago, access to electricity improved my grandparents' dairy farm. Today, access to electricity helps us live better lives. Tinker says "Energy makes the modern world possible. Energy underpins everything in our world. All communication and computing. Every product and building. All food and water. Every family consumes energy 24 hours a day." 

To protect our access to affordable and reliable electricity, we need to better understand - and appreciate - where electricity comes from... it's not just the switch.

Be smart. Act safe. 

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