ST. MARYS — More than 250 members and guests attended Midwest Electric’s legislative breakfast on Friday, Oct. 7, where Congressman Jim Jordan, Buckeye President Pat O’Loughlin, and CEO Matt Berry presented on energy issues and industry updates. Midwest Electric is a political leader in Ohio with more than 700 Action Committee for Rural Electrification (ACRE) Co-op Owners for Political Action members. After the breakfast, another 500 members attended Member Appreciation Day festivities until 4 pm.
During the breakfast, Berry discussed how affordable and reliable electricity “is being threatened by misguided federal energy policy.”
“Consider what’s happened in California and Texas with blackouts and rising energy prices… now we’re seeing the great suffering in Europe because so many of those nations abandoned affordable and reliable fossil fuels in exchange for the renewables delusion,” Berry said.
Berry explains these issues further in his recent CEO industry series published in Ohio Cooperative Living magazine over the last six months and published on Midwest’s website.
Berry described the new kilowatt-hour (kWh) tax legislation, which would put the co-op’s kWh tax revenue into a “state rural development fund” that could be used by co-ops toward local community and economic development 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.
“We feel this is a good compromise; it’s still not a fair playing field for co-ops, since the local electric municipalities like St. Marys don’t have to pay the kWh tax, but it’s better than the current structure because it allows us to use the money locally,” Berry said. “For Midwest, it would be about $1.2 million a year. We’re looking at 2023 to maybe see a bill introduced… so stay posted for a grassroots call to action, where we may ask you to make a phone call or send an email.”
Another state issue Berry addressed was deceptive solar dealers. Late last month, the Ohio Attorney General announced legal action against a company called Pink Energy (formerly known as Power Home Solar), which has “more than 800 complaints on file with the Better Business Bureau and some very sad stories about the elderly cashing in their retirement to buy solar equipment that will never pay off, low-income people being tied to solar loans that they can’t afford, shoddy installations, deceptive marketing, and predatory lending.”
“The point here – and I cannot emphasize this enough – 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 before you do solar, 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.”
O’Loughlin explained to members how Buckeye, Midwest’s wholesale power supplier, owns coal-fired Cardinal Power Plant’s three 600-megawatt units, of which AEP receives one-third of the output and Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives receives two-thirds. Cardinal is located in Brilliant, Ohio.
“In 2009, Cardinal was one of 21 coal-fired power plants in Ohio generating over 20,000 megawatts of electricity daily. Today there are 5 plants left,” O’Loughlin said. “We’ve invested $1.2 billion in making this as clean as a power plant can be, and we plan to operate it for many years to come, but we continue to face nonsense government policies that make it harder and more expensive… we’re going to keep fighting the fight for co-op members.”
O’Loughlin showed how energy prices for fuels like natural gas and propane are trending up, and though Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives’ prices will, too, they will at a slower pace. Transmission costs have also been trending up, as aging transmission is being replaced across the state.
“When we have extra generation, we sell it back into the market, and we’re doing all we can to keep your rates affordable,” O’Loughlin said. “We are probably up about 5% overall from the costs you’re seeing on your electric bill today from what we were over the past few years; most other utilities in the state are up 25-30% from what they were.”
O’Loughlin expressed fear of going “too far too fast” with the renewables shift, which was supported by the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in West Virginia v. EPA, admitting the Environmental Protection Agency overstepped its regulatory authority in the Clean Power Plan. O’Loughlin believes each state should be able to consider local factors and have the final say on how they produce power.
“In the last 10 years, we’ve cut the amount of coal we use in this country by 50%… adding a lot more wind and solar energy. For Ohio, we have a diverse energy mix. But it’s going to take us decades – not years – to get to where we can change the way we do power generation today.”
Jordan wrapped up the breakfast, discussing four issues: a secure border, record inflation, high gas prices, and record levels of crime. The audience took over for a Q&A session afterward.
“We have an election in 32 days. This how we do it in this county: you show up on election day and you send a message,” Jordan said. “The most important race in the state of Ohio is the race for Ohio State Senate… Please get out and vote.”
Afterward, Member Appreciation Day kicked off with a free lunch, energy-efficient cooking demonstrations with an air fryer and Instant Pot, 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.
Members Rebeca and David Dircksen, of Wapakoneta, won the air fryer raffle, and Joseph Yahl, of St. Marys, won the Instant Pot.
Members who entered a drawing won $50 bill credits totaling $200. Winners included Amy Jessen, Wapakoneta; George Schwinnen, Delphos; Craig Bowsher, St. Marys; and Timothy Schoen, Celina.