This is the last column I ever wanted to write. I’d rather use this space to write about anything else related to electric co-ops: what we are doing for our communities, such as providing affordable, reliable, emission-free power or money-saving energy-efficiency programs. Or broadband, economic development and scholarships. I’d rather write about anything other than a global pandemic that has changed life as we know it.
As a movie buff, I’ve watched a fair number of movies about super-viruses that sweep the globe. The movies follow a familiar formula: Guardrails come off society and there is always a scene of looting in a supermarket as panicked citizens resort to violence to secure common household items.
Hopefully nothing like this occurs, but we have already witnessed some unscrupulous people profiting off this crisis. Things could get worse. Unlike predictable Hollywood screenplays, we have no idea how this story will end. The shutdown of schools and businesses could go on for a long time and change every aspect of our lives.
One thing I know for sure: Your local electric cooperative is on the job. They’ll not pat themselves on the back with self- congratulatory press releases, but I have read their elaborate response plans, and they are ready for the long haul. If you provide a vital service like we do, a national emergency will bring challenges that will break our hearts locally. Our member-owners will get sick, others will lose their jobs. Planning is important, but what may be more important in this crisis is our local connection. We know these people—someone at the co-op invariably went to school with them or they attend the same church or club. They are not an account number on a power bill. They are owners of the co-op.
An Oregon electric co-op CEO reminded me the other day of the mindset that dominates his co-op’s every decision. “Profit is never our motive,” he told me. “Every day is spent in service to our members, and their well-being is always our primary concern.”
We are at our best when things are at their worst, because that is what keeps the guardrails on. Hopefully soon I’m writing about something else.
In the meantime, be safe and take care.