Alliance gives HEA more power to deal with national issues

Posted: Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Homer Electric Association has joined forces with nearly 600 electricity cooperatives around the country to bolster its voice in the utility industry, officials said.

The electric cooperative has joined the ranks of consumer-owned electric utilities across the country as a Touchstone Energy cooperative. Touchstone is an alliance started in 1998 that is made up of more than 600 cooperatives in 44 states that collectively deliver power and energy solutions to more than 17 million customers every day.

Spokesperson Joe Gallagher said the decision was made at the early part of the year to join the alliance and use the combined size of the organization to address national agendas affecting electric cooperatives.

"Cooperatives are different," Gallagher said. "They are locally owned, but as single organizations outside of their own area, they don't really have a voice.

"Homer Electric as one cooperative can speak, but joining with other cooperatives, the message can be brought to a national level and a better message can be delivered locally."

Gallagher said one issue that would help for Homer Electric to have a strong voice on is the national energy bill currently being addressed in Congress.

HEA board member Dave Carey said the cooperative stands to gain from the wealth of knowledge and experience of the many different cooperatives bring together under Touchstone's umbrella. He said being a member is indicative of cooperatives that are on the forefront of the industry.

"It's a group of movers and shakers," Carey said. "If you're going to be in the industry, you want to be a part of Touchstone. It provides a vehicle through which ideas are shared."

Separate from the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association, which all cooperatives are members of and which is a source for electricity training and education, Touchstone provides advertising and education about cooperatives. The organization produces an array of television, print and radio ads that Gallagher said will reflect local cooperatives and be used "to deliver the message to our consumers about the cooperative."

Gallagher said HEA has budgeted $20,000 per year to pay to associate with the alliance.

"It helped develop media advertising, something we could not do ourselves," he said.

"When people understand what a cooperative is and how it works, the end result is a stronger cooperative that encourages participation and loyalty."

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