A major conference for rural electric co-operatives in the United States is set to tackle the sector's future today.
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association conference in San Diego will focus on themes around how co-operatives can build a better world.
Opening the event will be Dame Pauline Green, President of the International Co-operative Alliance, who will talk about the International Year of Co-operatives to the 6,000-strong crowd comprising of 900 electric co-ops. A livestream of the event will take place online at www.nreca.coop at 9:05 am (Pacific Time)/12:05 pm (Eastern Standard Time)/5.05 pm (GMT).
Dame Pauline will also be taking part in a discussion on Monday afternoon to look at how co-operatives build a better world. Along with Mary McLaury, Vice President, NRECA, Dame Pauline will discuss how the International Year is the perfect time to evaluate the effectiveness and future of co-operative businesses. As well as analysing how to raise public awareness of co-operatives and if the sector can take advantage of the public backlash against Wall Street.
One of the major topics for discussion will be the future of fuel. Natural gas has become the fuel of choice for many co-operatives, and the entire industry. Currently gas is plentiful, and not too costly, principally due to the development of gas from shale. Delegates will discuss the scale of this new resource and how much can be produced. The future around coal and nuclear energy will also be debated.
Roy Spence, Chief Executive of advertising agency GSD&M Idea City, Texas, will also be looking at the future marketing potential of electric co-operatives, which have been running power across America for more than 75 years.
The conference will also focus on culture in the boardroom and how to create an environment in which the board can discuss difficult issues, weigh options and make sound business decisions.
Glenn English, Chief Executive Officer of NRECA, said: "This 2012 NRECA Annual Meeting will be unlike any before it. In fact, this is one of the most special years I can remember.
"Throughout the world, co-operatives are receiving more attention than ever before. That is because the United Nations has designated 2012 as the International Year of Co-operatives. People all over the globe are taking a new look at how our way of business serves people in enterprises as simple as community gardens to those as complex as rural electrification.
"Here in San Diego, we have an opportunity to assert and celebrate ourselves as providers of electricity to 42 million Americans and as examples of what grassroots democracy can achieve for people. We can showcase our success story of how working cooperatively has made us technological leaders and carriers of the independent spirit that still shines as bright as the lights we first turned on more than 75 years ago."
NRECA is the national service organisation for more than 900 not-for-profit rural electric co-operatives and public power districts providing retail electric service to more than 42 million consumers in 47 states and whose retail sales account for approximately 12 percent of total electricity sales in the United States.
• For more information, see the full programme below.