MREA editorial shows we're all in this together

On Sept. 8, Mike Bull, director of policy and regulatory affairs for the Minnesota Rural Electric Association (MREA), wrote an editorial for the co-op’s website about the importance of reliability to Minnesota’s clean energy transition. Following are some excerpts:

From having lived in both worlds (a clean energy advocate and an electric utility guy) for a good part of my career, I’m convinced reliability means something different to an electric utility than it does to a clean energy advocate. For a utility, reliability is a duty, an obligation, a solemn responsibility. That’s especially true for a rural electric co-op, where co-op leaders have to face their neighbors at church or the grocery store. It’s a heavy responsibility and these leaders bear that responsibility gladly. It’s part of why they do what they do.

For advocates, reliability is important, but not nearly to the same degree or intensity as for electric utilities. It’s something they know they need to pay some attention to, but it’s not more important than decarbonizing the economy. Reliability is something that advocates expect utilities will take care of because utilities always have.

Minnesota electric utilities are all decarbonizing much faster and much deeper than I’d ever expected – I’ve been working in this area for nearly 30 years, and the power supply transition has been incredibly fast for an industry that, by design, takes a long view on investments. As that clean energy transition goes deeper into power supply, electric utilities will discover important reliability issues that need to be paid attention to and adequately addressed, just as they have on the transition to date.

I’d counsel my clean energy friends to give utilities the space and grace they need to help and support those efforts, and to not discount reliability issues. The grid is the most fantastic, complex machine ever created, and nothing about it is simple.

The hard fact is, if there becomes a significant or widespread concern about the reliability of electric service in Minnesota, the clean energy transition in Minnesota will grind to a halt. If the warnings of rolling blackouts in the Midwest we heard earlier this summer happen, we will collectively lose the social license to continue the clean energy transition in our state. Electric co-op members, electric utility customers, voters, legislators, regulators won’t allow that transition to continue. And that won’t be good for anyone.

Read the full article on MREA’s website: Life from Both Sides Now – Ensuring Reliability is Critical to Grid Transition.