Engaging Policymakers for a Brighter Future
Electric cooperatives are engaging with policymakers to champion issues that matter to rural communities.By Michael Youth
As hometown utilities, North Carolina’s electric cooperatives serve as a local voice for our members, representing and advancing your interests. Each legislative session, representatives from electric cooperatives engage with policymakers and champion issues that matter to rural communities.
The 2021 legislative session was no exception. Last November, the North Carolina General Assembly and Gov. Cooper passed a $26 billion annual budget. The budget reflects bipartisan compromise and makes strategic investments in North Carolina’s future. Electric cooperative members have a lot to be thankful for in the budget.
In addition to lowering state taxes, the budget makes significant public investments that will benefit rural communities. In addition to funding state government operations, the budget:
- Provides funding of $1 billion for broadband deployment and accessibility for unserved or underserved areas
- Advances $100 million for locally administered home energy assistance programs
- Authorizes the NC Department of Environmental Quality to disburse millions of dollars to deploy electric vehicle chargers and electric school buses in the state
- Builds the state’s “rainy day” fund for future emergencies, including storm response, to $4 billion
Protecting members from unfair costs
When electric cooperative representatives advocate for the communities they serve, affordability remains a top concern. As the budget was being negotiated, big cable companies lobbied for a broadband policy that threatened to increase co-op members’ electric bills to subsidize those cable companies’ profits.
Rural communities have unquestionably gone too long without affordable broadband. While electric cooperatives vocally support broadband deployment in rural communities, shifting costs to your electric bill is not the answer. We opposed the cost-shifting provision and are pleased that legislators chose not to include it in the final budget. Looking ahead, we will continue to champion rural broadband deployment solutions that do not place undue cost burdens on our members.
Effective engagement is critical as we work to achieve our vision of building a brighter future for electric cooperative members, rural communities, and the state.
Strong stakeholder engagement and thoughtful legislative leadership produce beneficial public policy. We are thankful that legislators passed a budget that advances rural interests and protects our members from unnecessary cost shifts as broadband access expands.
About the AuthorMichael Youth is Government and Regulatory Affairs Counsel for North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives.