Study projects $10 billion loss for nation’s rural electric coops

The nation’s electric co-ops, and that includes those across Oklahoma which often must maintain miles of powerlines to support small numbers of customers, say they have been slammed by the decline in electricity consumption due to the drop in economic activity during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A study released Wednesday by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, a trade association, said co-ops anticipated a 5 percent decline in power consumption which, along with unpaid bills, could amount to $10 billion in losses though 2022.

According to new research by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, electric co-op operating revenues are expected to decline by $7.4 billion as electricity sales fall by 5% through 2022 due to lower U.S. economic output.

A surge in unemployment coupled with mandatory or voluntary moratoriums on service disconnections in 46 states is also expected to increase the balance of unpaid electric bills to $2.6 billion through 2022.

“The economic health of electric co-ops is directly tied to the wellbeing of their local communities,” said Jim Matheson, NRECA CEO. “As the economic impact of this pandemic spreads, electric co-ops will be increasingly challenged as they work to keep the lights on for hospitals, grocery stores and millions of new home offices. Policymakers should be mindful of the economic threat facing rural communities and their electric cooperatives by taking steps to prevent the possibility of significant disruptions.”

“Electricity powers the American economy and a stalled economy uses less energy,” said Russell Tucker, NRECA’s chief economist. “As GDP growth falls in the wake of COVID-19, co-op electricity sales are projected to decline. We expect reductions in electric co-op sales of 6.1% in 2020, 6% in 2021, and 3% in 2022, for an overall drop in sales of 5% over the period when compared to pre-COVID-19 projections.”