It’s funny how over time things kind of repeat themselves. We had a customer bring me the Rural Electric Nebraskan from April1972. It was fun to look back at the topics of the articles and to see what “Custer Public Power” was talking about in the insert, when I noticed an editorial page with the title of “Spirit of Nebraska.”
The editor of the magazine wanted to “get up on his soapbox.” So I continued reading wondering what was important in 1972. He, Robert Anderson, editor, was having a conversation with somebody from Omaha about public power. His friend was talking about doing away with public power and the rural electric system. The argument was that public power was being subsidized by the Government, and it should be sold to private companies who are more efficient. I’m sure there were more arguments than that in the conversation, but I’m going off his editorial and those were the ones mentioned.
Therefore, after hearing enough of his friend’s arguments, that’s when Anderson found his soap box. He listed 10 facts about rural electric systems; most of which are still applicable today. I’ll cite just a few. Rural electric systems cover over 75 percent of the land mass in the U.S. By policy, every rural power district must serve its entire rural area – everyone.
The average rural residential customer now uses about 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month compared to 695 kilowatt-hours in 1972 and 357 kilowatt-hours in 1960.
As I ponder public power existence, I also have to throw into the mix that our governing boards are elected locally. We are in business to reliably serve our customers and any margins (dollars) we have go back in to upkeep and building the electric system to serve those customers, not to shareholders. We are required by state statute to serve our customers reliably and at the lowest cost possible.
I feel compelled to end with the editor’s closing paragraph: “Undoubtedly, you also have run into these ‘types’ of zealous friends. Take a tip from me – don’t lose your soap box. Take it along and tell it like it is. Nebraska’s rural electric systems don’t need any apologies. They are the best approach yet to bringing the lowest possible priced electrical power to Nebraska’s rural areas, utilizing sound business principles.”
Just like it was some 40 years ago, there are people who think that public power is not efficient or stands in the way of progress. This is absolutely not the case. I say good for you Robert for standing up for public power. Now you’re going to see me stand up on my soapbox a little more often as well.