I read with dismay the Western Oregon Electric Co-op's (WOEC) report by Board President Robert Van Natta in the August issue of Ruralite. It is evident Van Natta and his policies are entrenched in the past. He fails to connect to innovations that have shaped the present and will catapult us into the future. After all, our roots are firmly grounded in the pioneering spirit that has made our nation advance to prominence in the world.
As soon as I could lift an axe in 1940 I provided kindling and firewood from family-felled trees. This fed the voracious blue-and-white enamel cook stove and our beloved pot-bellied, Eisen-glassed heater. We got up with the sun and went to bed with the light of coal-oil lamps. We had a cattle ranch with riding and work horses, up to five milk cows, 1,000 free-range chickens, a huge garden and fruit trees. We had an icehouse with blocks of ice chopped from the Columbia River and a vegetable root cellar — in other words, we were quite self-sufficient. So please don't condescend to tell me I don't know where milk and eggs originate.
What I do know, and you seem to have difficulty wrapping your mind around, is that change happened. If we don't recognize that and find it exciting and energizing, we have no business being in positions of responsibility. More people are educated and information is only a finger-flick away. We don't have time to be bored and "discover" how we are being gouged by some of the highest electric rates while sitting on the doorstep of the Bonneville Power Administration. We are informed professionals seeking new ways to make our lives more efficient. We are not a status-quo generation, but thinkers pushing the envelope for a vibrant and sustainable green energy future.
Our family is proud to be a solar energy-producing member in your Chapman District 6. WOEC unfairly discounts reimbursement for power we pump back into the grid to WOEC's much lower energy cost and pay a meter premium. At least when the power goes out, we have back-up. This co-op has consistently tried to prevent member efforts in sustainable and more efficient energy sources. This begs the question as to why? It seems the co-op wants to hang on to the status-quo and ignore change and innovations sweeping the world.
If you are really creating a benefit for members, you would be the first to support efficiency in operations.
But your rates continue to escalate with the same tired thinking that ties Mr. Van Natta with inertia to his early years. It is precisely why your rates are so high, in the two Northwest states with the lowest national electric usage charges, that we support alternative solutions to energy. That is why we heat with a zero-emission pellet stove and cook with propane. We chose the rural life, but because we have the high cost of college education and the commute to Portland for work, we must question energy costs. With the exception of me, because I'm retired, every member of this family works. This is the reality of life today.
The WOEC depends on revenue from its members. It is time co-op energy users have more substantive transparency and efficient energy options.
Efforts by the co-op are needed to reduce energy costs and encourage new technologies that are cost-saving, green and sustainable. We pay your salaries. We also pay for the full-color Ruralite mini-magazine, its far-flung festival announcements featuring the Tillamook Creamery, and yes, the obscure financial sheet included in its pages. But for the rates we pay, it's time to see some cost-reduction thinking and measures established for future power innovations.
Editor's note: To read the current issue of WOEC's Ruralite publication, including Board President Robert Van Natta's comments about the utility's rates, visit http://ruralite-woec.or.newsmemory.com/
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