Rural America faces a conundrum with the expansion of renewable energy. Many rural areas in the country are providing infrastructure for a clean energy future, but are dependent on the energy resource mix of their rural electric cooperative, or co-ops. Nationally, co-ops derive 67 percent of their energy from fossil fuels.
Rural communities, beholden to these stranded assets held by co-ops, are on the path to higher utility rates and insolvent or unstable utility organizations without a change of direction. Beyond curbing carbon emissions, the restructuring of coal debt to create conditions favorable for total co-op coal retirement would have a myriad of economic benefits. Restructuring electric co-op debt can help remove barriers and expedite this transition.
Pursuing a clean energy future would empower rural communities if current debt on existing coal plant infrastructure could be eliminated in exchange for a requirement to invest in clean energy and energy efficiency. Such a deal would incentivize the retirement of existing coal plants.
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