Sunday, November 8, 2009

Grass-roots power: Rural electric co-ops promote efficiency, renewable energy

Staci Matlock | The New Mexican
Posted: Saturday, November 07, 2009
- 9/1

"The members of rural electric cooperatives can't control their electric rates any more than the customers of investor-owned utilities such as Public Service Company of New Mexico. But they have one advantage over PNM customers: They can change management at the ballot box.

Plus, their membership meetings can be almost as much fun as a professional wrestling match.

Take the Mora-San Miguel Electric Cooperative that serves more than 10,000 people in four counties, including a little corner of Santa Fe County. Two years ago, the members voted at the annual meeting to reduce the board's size from 11 to five. Six months later, the board called a special election in the middle of the week in the little mountain village of Mora to re-vote on the matter.

"Some of the board members that were going to be kicked off because of the earlier vote cooked up the special election in the middle of day and middle of week when everyone was working," said Ed Littleton, a cooperative member from Ojo Feliz, N.M., who attended the meeting.

More than 850 people — three times the usual number who participate in the annual elections — took time off from work and braved icy roads to show up for the special election at the VFW building. "It got into a screaming match, and almost a fistfight, between board members who were losing positions and some of the co-op members who were championing the reduced board size," Littleton said.

The members voted overwhelmingly to uphold the board reduction.

A similar issue drew heated debate at the Kit Carson Electric Cooperative's annual meeting in June. State Rep. Al Park, an Albuquerque attorney, was invited to act as parliamentarian because the meeting was expected to be controversial. And Park was impressed. As a PNM customer, he said, "I don't get to say anything. They read my meter and I pay the bill." This was different. "It is not representative democracy. It is democracy in action," he said."

Going renewable>>>>

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