Advocacy is often the cornerstone of many associations, especially those participating in public policy debates. WECA is no different. As the voice for Wisconsin’s electric cooperatives and publisher of this magazine, the first part of our vision statement says, “WECA will serve its members by providing leadership on key legislative and regulatory issues.” It is for this reason that Wisconsin’s rural electric cooperatives were the first in the country to organize a statewide association. To this day, a good portion of our purpose is to engage legislators on behalf of our members on issues that affect both the daily operations and the long-term goals of our electric cooperatives.
Developing and nurturing relationships with elected officials is a core function of our vision statement. It’s a big reason why we exist. Having WECA and the members that make up our organization engaged in policy decisions and talking with legislators is tantamount to making certain our cooperatives have the proper tools—statutory and/or regulatory—in place to ensure they can continue to provide safe, reliable, and affordable electricity to our consumer members.
Speaking of advocacy, WECA will host our annual Education and Lobby Days event in Madison in February. This will be a great opportunity for members to hear from experts on key issues we are following at the Capitol. After the education component of the event is complete, our members will then make their way to the Capitol to have a discussion with their state legislators on these key topics and leave them with a better understanding of who we are and why we believe in the issues for which we are advocating.
As I write this column, my team is working on putting together a solid program that will discuss some pretty important issues like community solar, third-party financing, renewable energy, broadband, electric vehicles, easements, and electric grid reliability. In addition, we’ll hear how crucial our organization’s political involvement is to achieving the legislative wins we have experienced in recent years at both the state and federal levels. There will be plenty of political discussions as we head into another critical election cycle.
However, it won’t all be work. We’ll also set aside time to allow our members to enjoy some in-person camaraderie that we’ve all dearly missed over the last 18 months.
The most important aspect of Education and Lobby Days is when our members go to the Capitol and visit with their representatives. There is no more powerful voice than yours! Having our members advocate for the issues that will make a difference to their cooperatives and the consumer-members they serve is the best part of this event. Our strength is through our members, and watching them tell the cooperative story to legislators is exciting for me.
Even as toxic as our political environment is today, our cooperatives are committed to taking a reasoned and nonpartisan approach in communicating with elected officials on the importance of safe, reliable, and affordable electricity. We are seeing societal norms shift towards more renewable sources for energy, so we must showcase and share our collective stories about utilizing renewable energy resources in an energy mix that is moving away from coal generation.
Our cooperatives recognize that the words “sustainability” and “reliability” cannot be mutually exclusive of one another, but rather the challenge in the coming years is to make sure they can and must go hand in hand. Conveying the importance of this message to our elected officials during WECA’s Education and Lobby Days will be paramount to providing clean, reliable, affordable, and safe energy solutions for generations to come. I wish you all a very safe, healthy, and happy New Year!