Rural co-ops must change

  Under a draft proposal by the Western Area Power Administration, over 600 publically owned utilities and rural electric associations must add renewable resources and energy efficiency to their planning procedures or forfeit their right to buy cheap federal hydropower. WAPA's Draft Energy Planning and Marketing EIS, released March 25, would require all utilities that buy subsidized power from the West's vast network of 50 federal hydroelectric dams to switch to Integrated Resource Planning. The proposal is required by the 1992 Energy Policy Act and represents a fundamental shift in managment for many rural co-ops and municipal utilities. Under Integrated Resource Planning, utilities must open their planning procedures to broad public involvement; compare traditional power sources such as coal-fired power plants to alternative sources such as wind, solar, cogeneration and energy efficiency; use those alternatives with the least economic and environmental costs; and monitor both economic and environmental performance. The draft EIS lists 12 alternatives, which include exemptions for smaller utilities. WAPA will hold public hearings on the proposal April 12 through May 3 in seven Western states. For more information about meetings, copies of the 230-page draft EIS or a 16-page summary, contact Bob Fullerton, WAPA, P.O. Box 3402, Golden, CO 80401 (303/275-1610).