From the CEO: An electric provider without a power plant

Posted on May 30 2024 in Kankakee Valley REMC
Kankakee Valley REMC CEO Scott Sears

From time to time, a Kankakee Valley REMC member will ask a question that results in a surprising answer, “Where is your power plant?” Remarkably, we don’t have one.

The electricity that flows through our wires to homes and businesses through KVREMC’s service territory originates from a long list of sources. We’re one of 23 co-ops in three states that belong to another cooperative, known as the Wabash Valley Power Alliance (WVPA). WVPA is what’s called a generation and transmission cooperative (G&T) and is a non-profit organization that obtains and delivers electricity for its member co-ops.

Back when REMCs and municipal utilities sprouted up across America, many operated their own small power plants. Those that didn’t bought excess electricity from a local utility. Then came the national power grid, which allowed electricity from one part of the U.S. to be sent to and used in another.

As America’s electric power infrastructure became more complex and competitive, KVREMC’s leaders realized one small co-op in northwest Indiana didn’t have a lot of negotiating power. By joining with other co-ops to work through WVPA, we have access to a reliable electric supply at more affordable rates than we could ever obtain on our own.

Today, WVPA supplies co-ops like ours from a mix of traditional and renewable power sources. About 42% comes from coal, another 26% from natural gas, 11% from nuclear power plants, and 21% from renewables. WVPA shares our commitment to earth-friendly power, and their use of renewables is quickly growing. For example, they are a pioneer in turning methane gas from landfills into electricity and now operate 15 of those plants. They have purchased wind power since 2006 and own eight solar arrays.

In addition to electricity, WVPA supplies expertise that’s hard to find at the local level. That includes both technical professionals and financial experts who make sure all these sources generate enough power to keep your lights on. Their energy trading specialists work closely with the folks who manage the power supply to ensure we receive all the electricity we need at the lowest possible price.

Next month, I’ll take a closer look at what electricity costs us and explain actions you can take to help us keep our costs as affordable as possible.