Co-ops weigh in at Senate clean energy panel

Eric Olsen, Great River Energy’s vice president and general counsel, was invited to Capitol Hill by the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis to participate in a meeting with other electric utility leaders to discuss the challenges they face in transitioning toward cleaner energy resources.

Eric Olsen

The meeting, chaired by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), served as the committee’s first in a series of meetings with stakeholders. The meeting centered on each utility’s work in making the clean energy transition, the regional differences among utilities, and challenges such as reliability and cost that could affect electric consumers. The committee will also meet with mayors, labor unions, and environmental and consumer advocacy groups.

“It was the least political discussion about climate that I’ve had in a very long time,” Schatz told E&E News after the meeting.

Schatz noted that it’s useful to think through the challenges faced by utilities to incorporate more renewable energy resources that are sometimes looked over by the environmental community, such as reliability challenges.

Olsen, who spoke to Great River Energy’s goal of 50 percent renewables by 2030, also told the lawmakers that “grid reliability is not political. It is a ‘must-do’ for all of us.”

“Attending the meeting as the only cooperative representative served as a great opportunity to talk to the senators about the unique concerns of co-ops,” Olsen said. “I was also able to ask them as policymakers to facilitate the transition to clean energy, but not to mandate how utilities go about getting the job done.”