By Kent Singer, CREA Executive Director
On Monday, October 11, CREA will host the 12th annual Energy Innovations Summit. The Summit is an annual conference that we host in Denver for the purpose of looking into the future of the electric utility business. As the trade association for Colorado’s electric cooperatives, one of our core functions is to provide as much information as we can to our member co-ops and their managers and directors to help prepare them for a fast-changing and dynamic energy future.
There are many forces at work that impact how electric co-ops will provide electric service to rural Colorado in the coming years: legislative mandates to reduce greenhouse emissions from the power sector, technological breakthroughs for renewable energy and energy storage, desires of co-op consumer-members for more choices from their electricity suppliers and evolving energy markets, to name a few. Electric co-ops will face more challenges to their core mission of providing affordable and reliable power in the next 10 years than they have faced since they were formed in the 1930s and 1940s.
At CREA, we saw the energy transition coming many years ago. We initiated the Energy Innovations Summit as one more tool to help our members prepare for a new world of providing electricity. Some of our members have taken information learned at the Summit and implemented it into their business plan. A panel at one of our Summits several years ago sparked United Power’s interest in battery storage, leading to its investment in one of the largest co-op-owned storage projects in the country.
At this year’s Summit, we will continue to explore new developments in the electric industry including the latest in long-duration energy storage, the prospects for using hydrogen in energy production, updates on electric cars and trucks, how beneficial electrification can help both co-ops and their consumer-members and many more topics. We will once again bring in experts from across the country to talk about these issues and be available for continued discussions after their formal presentations.
The Summit is also a great opportunity for Colorado’s electric co-ops to interact with other stakeholders and demonstrate that co-ops are on the leading edge of the energy transition. Many of the panel presentations offered during the Summit will include CEOs of various electric co-ops talking about how their systems are involved in innovative projects and working to implement new business models to better serve their consumer-members. Every year, we look forward to the many conversations that take place, not only among electric co-ops folks, but also between co-op folks and others who have a stake in our industry.
We’re also excited about getting back together for an in-person conference this year. Although attendees will be able to participate via webcast if they prefer, we believe we can safely meet in person. The remote Summit we hosted last year was great, but there’s no replacement for live, in-person interaction.
Colorado’s electric co-ops have a bright future given their close relationship with their consumer-members and their commitment to keeping the lights on in an affordable and responsible manner. The Energy Innovations Summit will once again show the Colorado energy world that electric co-ops are ready, willing and able to meet the challenges of a changing industry. Hope to see you there!
Kent Singer is the executive director of CREA and offers a statewide perspective on issues affecting electric cooperatives. CREA is the trade association for your electric co-op, the 21 other electric co-ops in Colorado and its power supply co-op.