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Co-op Leaders Consider a Changing Market

January 19, 2015

Politics, policy and competition headlined issues that Texas Electric Cooperatives President/CEO Mike Williams presented during two recent conferences. TEC's 42nd annual Managers Conference was held in December 2014, and the 14th annual Directors Conference in January.

Educational sessions further developed these topics, providing the Texas cooperative leaders in attendance a preview of issues facing the electric industry. The need for electric cooperatives to stay relevant in a changing market undergirded top concerns.

In politics, change came with the 2014 election as voters placed new representatives in the Texas Legislature. "It will be a slightly different tone, I think, in this Texas Legislature in 2015, and we are prepared for that," Williams said in his opening remarks at the Managers Conference.

He explained how TEC is poised to represent co-op issues in Austin in the 84th Legislative Session, which commenced Jan. 13. Additionally, Williams applauded co-ops' regional efforts, which makes statewide lobbying successful. "Your leadership in your local communities is critical to our political success," he said.

In policy, change may come as the Environmental Protection Agency considers implementing regulations on carbon emissions. The rule would prevent construction of coal-fired power plants and eliminate coal in the existing fleet. Such a rule would affect the reliability and cost of electricity, Williams said, predicting that the issue will play out in court or with the next presidential election.

Regarding competition, Williams and guest speakers addressed distributed generation, nontraditional competitors and the possibility of new distribution neighbors. "We could have some new players with a competitive edge before long," Williams said.

Competition presents co-ops with opportunities to stand out. "We could begin to see a fundamentally different relationship with our members," Williams said.

One area where co-ops can become a resource for members is in distributed generation. As prices for solar systems drop and more installation options become available, more third parties attempt to woo members into buying products and services that co-ops could offer.

Attendees at both conferences also delved into additional timely issues facing the electric industry, including the relationship between power generation and water trends in homebuilding, and the synergy of energy, the environment and the economy.