At election time, after listening to endless political attack ads, have you ever wanted to register “none of the above” as your vote?
Sometimes it seems like people feel the same way about their energy supply — one person hates fossil fuels, another hates renewables. You could go 100 percent off-grid and vote “none of the above.” But, for the most reliable, affordable and increasingly clean power, you really want to vote “all of the above.”
There is no one perfect energy resource; all have their limits. Yet, when combined in a balanced portfolio, each can cover the other’s weakness. The blended result provides a lower price and greater reliability than any one resource could provide on its own.
Wind power is one of the lowest-cost resources in your electric cooperative’s portfolio, thanks in part to a generous federal tax credit. Wind blows stronger at night than during the day, so other resources are needed to fill in the gaps, especially during sunny afternoons. But wait — there’s solar for that.
Solar energy is the most rapidly growing source of energy in your power supply system. Prices for solar energy have fallen dramatically, making it competitive with fossil fuels (again, thanks in part to a federal tax credit). Summertime solar energy aligns particularly well with air conditioner usage. Be watching for new solar projects, to be announced soon.
Biomass (landfill gas) also generates electricity. Arkansas’ largest facility is part of your power supply portfolio. The plant generates day and night, providing baseload (power available 24/7) capacity to the grid.
Hydroelectric energy isn’t as cheap as wind and solar, but some of it can be stored and used when it is needed the most, making it more valuable.
The combination of wind, solar, biomass and hydroelectric generation provides nearly one of every five units of power provided to your home. That’s equivalent to supplying 100 percent of your energy usage for 10 weeks each year. We continually evaluate new wind, solar and biomass proposals, and will add them to our portfolio when they add value and are economic.
Coal has consistently provided a low-cost and stably priced energy supply. And since this fuel can be stored on-site, it also provides a unique measure of reliability, especially on cold winter days when supplies of natural gas can be limited. Natural gas has a variable price that often competes with coal, but the price swings are greater. Natural gas-based plants can start up and shut down energy production quickly, making them an ideal complement to intermittent renewable resources. Oil is a relatively expensive backup fuel, used mainly in the winter when the natural gas supply is tight.
These resources work together to keep costs low and reliability high. Thanks to an “all of the above” approach, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that Arkansas’ electric rates are the third-lowest in the nation! “All of the above” is a good energy strategy for your cooperative, and for our nation.
Duane Highley is president and CEO of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc., (AECI) and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC). AECI, a statewide service co-op, and AECC, a wholesale power suppl co-op, are owned by Arkansas’ 17 local distribution co-ops, which provide retail electric service to more than 1 million members.