The Climate Keeps Changing

The Climate Keeps Changing

Regardless of your opinions on the hot topic of climate change, as a member of a Rural Electrification Association (REA) you know the climate around rural electric co-ops has changed and continues to change. Some changes have been positive and others detrimental to the long-term viability of REAs. When the Alberta Government encouraged the establishment of REAs, they began popping up all over rural Alberta – 381 REAs began operating from 1947 and on through the ‘60s. 

From rock and roll to mini-skirts, the 1960s were a time of change and the end of an era for REAs. Growth of REAs stopped by the end of the decade as abruptly as it began. Suddenly, disco was popular, REAs began to sell, and the REA world was concerned with staying alive. One hundred sixty-six REAs sold during the 1980s. The electricity industry became more complex, members’ lives became busier, and finding volunteers for boards was like trying to find Waldo.

In the 80’s, as “where’s Waldo” became a common phrase, some REAs chose amalgamation as an alternative to selling out. Twenty-five REAs recognized the dangers of the changing climate in which they were operating and chose to amalgamate. Their actions protected their REAs and equipped them to be viable into the future. They recognized the benefit of strength in numbers and were able to pool resources to offer their members even better service. The climate had changed but they responded proactively to address the threats and opportunities.

The World Economic Forum recently published an article about how farmers in Sicily adapted to climate change.[1] They grew lemons and oranges for generations, but global warming created alterations in the weather and temperatures that affected growing conditions. Instead of clinging to the old tentacles of history and refusing to accept change, these farmers began to introduce other types of crops. Soon, they were growing mangoes and papayas in the former lemon groves. They adapted – they looked for options and seized opportunities.

Like those farmers, REAs and the AFREA continue to adapt, consider options, and seize opportunities. Our response to change is more important today than at any other time in the last sixty years. The climate for REAs continues to shift. Climate change discussions are common place and provincial and federal climate change policies are triggering changes within the REA world. Legislative change, alternative energy, community generation, micro-generation, and a capacity market are just a few of the changes REAs and their members face in 2018 and beyond. Change cannot be ignored. It will not go away. As history shows, the pace of change only increases. We must always be open to ways to adapt and thrive within the changing climate of rural Alberta and the electricity distribution industry.

Thin Lei Win.  World Economic Forum. When life gives you lemons: Sicily’s farmers go tropical as climate warms.  August 21, 2018.