Legislators discuss reliability concerns, industry updates


ST. MARYS — More than 250 members and guests attended Midwest Electric’s legislative breakfast on Friday, Oct. 27, to hear local legislators give industry updates and answer questions. State Reps. Angela King, Susan Manchester and Roy Klopfenstein, as well as State Sen. Matt Huffman and Pat O’Louglin, president and CEO of Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives, were on hand for the breakfast.

Midwest Electric is a political leader in Ohio with more than 700 members of America’s Electric Cooperatives PAC, a nonpartisan group supporting legislators who support co-ops and affordable, reliable electricity. After the breakfast, another 500 members attended Member Appreciation Day festivities until 4 p.m.

During the breakfast, legislators covered a wide range of topics from reliability concerns to local control of wind and solar farms, ag tax credits, electric vehicles, and decisions on this Nov. 7 ballot: Issue 1, 2, and electric aggregation (which will not affect Midwest Electric members; the co-op is neutral).

Klopfenstein and King both expressed the importance of being educated about the electric industry and current concerns, as well as the value of being a PAC member of the co-op. Both agreed action needs taken at the federal level, due to the continued shutdown of baseload power plants like coal.

“Solar and wind will not replace gas and coal,” Klopfenstein said. “Last I checked, I’m still looking for the person who can turn the wind or sun on and off. We need more members of the PAC. We have a lot of folks who need educated. It ought to be a goal for Ohio to have reliable, affordable, sustainable power.”

“I recently went on a tour of the gas Mone Peaking Plant in Convoy, Ohio, with Midwest Electric,” King said. “We all want reliable power, but it’s getting harder with the demand for net zero. The possibility of blackouts is a real concern. Having the ability to pick up the phone and dial CEO Matt at Midwest for energy advice has been invaluable.”

O’Loughlin cited last year’s Christmas Eve emergency event as evidence that power supply is not meeting demand during extreme weather.

“Any time it gets very cold, we’ll be faced with these emergency events,” O’Loughlin said. The biggest reason we have to close power plants is government policy. We have to produce the same amount of electricity as people use. Reliable power is becoming a bipartisan issue.”

Huffman discussed the passage of Senate Bill 52, giving control to local townships and counties for solar and wind farm decisions.

“We are now facing smaller scale projects in Ohio – the question is will we trade good farm ground for this?” Huffman asked the crowd.

Klopfenstein shared he felt electric vehicles “don’t make sense yet” for the general public, given the limited range and long charging times, stating he only knew two people with one.

“They are pushing EVs. It’s misguided,” Klopfenstein said. “It’s not there yet; I trust the consumer.”

CEO Matt Berry provided an update on the kilowatt-hour (kWh) tax legislation, which would put the co-op’s kWh tax revenue into a state rural development fund that can be used for local purposes. Currently, Berry states, Ohio’s kWh tax is four times higher than the national average – just under a half cent per kWh, which is collected and sent by Midwest Electric on to Columbus.

He also warned members to be cautious with deceptive solar vendors, becoming increasingly common in Ohio using shoddy installations, deceptive marketing and predatory lending.

“Do not sign anything until you talk to Midwest Electric first about how the billing works and help you to get accurate information on how much your array would produce,” Berry said. “We try to focus on energy efficiency first, which gives you a much better payback and lowers the investment you have to make upfront. As a not-for-profit co-op, you can trust we have our members’ best interests at heart.”

Afterward, Member Appreciation Day kicked off with a free lunch, electrical safety and energy presentations, linemen equipment booths, and more. Members had a chance to meet their CEO, local lineworkers, member service representatives and other Midwest employees.

Based in St. Marys, Midwest Electric is the not-for-profit, customer-owned electric cooperative serving 11,000+ homes, farms, and businesses in Allen, Auglaize, Mercer, Van Wert, Shelby, Putnam and Darke counties. To learn more, visit www.midwestrec.com.

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