What do REAs and Coyotes have in common?
Rural Electrification Associations (REA) and coyotes are survivors. Both exist in rural Alberta and those that have survived have adapted over time to a changing environment. While the coyote might be a nuisance, no one can deny that it is a determined survivor and great adapter. Like the coyote, REAs continue to survive and adapt despite changes and challenges in the marketplace.
Lakeland REA was the latest REA to experience the challenges of the marketplace. In March, their membership participated in a vote regarding a sales proposal from Atco. Nearly 70% of Lakeland’s membership cast a vote. The sales vote was defeated and some declared it a win for REAs. However, it was less of a win and more of an indicator of a battle for the survival of REAs that has been unfolding across Alberta.
It’s a battle that will demand REA members get as excited and energized about their electricity distribution system cooperative as those who first established the REAs. Over six decades ago it was easy to get excited about being a member of the REA because it literally meant you would finally have access to electricity. That’s old hat now, so members will have to decide whether local control and ownership appeals to them. If it does, and if having a not for profit electricity distribution system that keeps money in the community is important then it’s time to get excited again. Gone are the days of apathy. Members will have to show up and get plugged into their REAs if they want to enjoy the benefits of cooperatively owning an electricity distribution system and having a say in their own rates.
Anyone with their finger on the pulse knows that rural Albertans are an independent lot. They like the idea of having some control over their destiny and some say in how things happen. Those same ideas were at the root of the cooperative REA movement over sixty years ago and they continue to energize REA members today. Alberta REA members are not ready to go quietly into a future without input or ownership rights.
Like the coyote, the REA is a survivor.
Copyright (c) AFREA 2016