Recent letters and editorial guest columns have made the argument that Plant Washington is a necessary step for Cobb EMC to take in order to secure a source of affordable power in the future. Ominous headlines about energy availability and costs are cited as justification for building the plant. I disagree. While clearly it is the responsibility of management and the Board of Cobb EMC to adequately plan for future energy demand, that does not translate into the need for us to build a coal fired plant as a way to provide it.
Let's put aside for a moment all the arguments about the environmental issues of coal, the affordability and economics of building a new plant, and the Dwight Brown stain on the reputation of Cobb EMC that makes questionable the credibility of any plans made under his leadership. Let's for a moment just ask ourselves whether it makes any sense at all for us, as an electricity provider with no experience or expertise in operating a generating facility, to build Plant Washington. I think not.
If our goal is to ensure an adequate supply of affordable energy for the future then building Plant Washington is the last thing we want to undertake. Once you are the owner and operator of a generating station it is you who are obligated for all the costs associated with that plant. I spent 15 years in the commercial nuclear power industry. And though I remain an advocate and supporter of nuclear power I am also very familiar with the severe financial impact that cost overruns and operational issues can have on ratepayers and electricity customers when a utility or EMC becomes burdened with those costs. Back when the Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS) was trying to build a number of nuclear generating stations I lived in Idaho Falls where as members of the city electrical co-op (similar to an EMC) we enjoyed some of the lowest electric rates in the country thanks to our hydroelectric generating stations. Foolishly we bought into the WPPSS construction projects as partners in the hope that they would provide long term affordable power. Well, they didn't. They ran into cost overruns and other regulatory issues that ended up driving our power rates through the roof. Our focus and energy should instead be on the negotiation of contracts and long term supply agreements with power generators that give us, to the maximum extent possible, protections and contingency options to ensure Cobb EMC members are paying the lowest possible rates for electric service.
Cobb EMC is in the midst of a transformational change process focused on making it once again a member focused provider of affordable energy to the membership. That must be the focus of management and the board over the foreseeable future. We have already wasted $14 million dollars on a questionable scheme to make Cobb EMC a power generator instead of a power provider. Let's stop now.
John A. Berry
Candidate for the Cobb EMC Board of Directors from Area 5
Marietta, GA 30066