I am not what you would call a daredevil. Sure, I like adventure as much as the next guy, but it’s more along the lines of a rigorous hike than free-soloing rock walls in a national park. So this summer, when my 14-year-old daughter suggested we go zip lining during our vacation in Moab, Utah, I was reluctant. Yet soon I was flying off a cliff, trusting my equipment and trying not to think about how certain death was below.
It was a thrilling experience, but I am officially retired from zip lining. I see the benefit, however, of occasionally stepping outside my comfort zone, pushing the limits of my imagination and stepping into the breach.
This is something I think about quite often in a rapidly evolving electric utility industry. Many believe the breach is upon us. Distributed generation, battery technology, new market entrants and evolving consumer attitudes are only some of the ways our industry is fundamentally changing.
Electric cooperatives need to be prepared for the disruption that hits every industry at one time or another. Meeting consumer needs—such as the solar incentive at Salem Electric highlighted in our feature story this month—is one example of how we listen to our members.
Oregon’s electric cooperatives are already at the vanguard of our clean energy economy, and many have taken leadership roles in deploying broadband to keep rural and frontier communities in our state from vanishing from the map. These new programs are often leaps of faith for normally risk-averse boards of directors, but they too recognize this is not their grandparents’ electric utility industry. I am reminded almost daily of what disruption looks like.
Near my office is the shuttered former national headquarters of Hollywood Video. When the video market was upended by new entrants, the company was not prepared and ultimately fell into the abyss. I believe electric cooperatives are poised to soar in this new daunting energy landscape if we’re prepared to take the leap. It’s going to be a heck of a ride. Just don’t look down.