NRECA President Chris Christensen: ‘Collaboration Must Remain a Hallmark’ of Co-ops

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Continued collaboration among electric cooperatives will help all co-ops face the challenges of an uncertain future, NRECA President Chris Christensen told co-op leaders Tuesday at NRECA’s PowerXchange.

“It’s that diversity of experience that allows us to work together to tackle common challenges,” the Montana rancher and former teacher said. “Some are specific to the electric cooperative network. Others are consistent across the entire electric sector, and we can share common solutions just as broadly.”

That doesn’t mean there’s a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to co-ops, said Christensen, who serves as a director at NorVal Electric Cooperative in Glasgow, Montana.

“Our friends at Pedernales in Texas and their 872 employees are going to approach a common issue like a rate change differently than our newest NRECA member, Isle au Haut in Maine, which has one full-time employee,” he said.

“Nonetheless, we can and should continue to collaborate as much as possible—here in Nashville and after we’ve returned home. There are always experiences to learn from, and our commitment to collaboration must remain a hallmark of electric cooperatives.”

As NRECA’s president, Christensen has visited co-ops throughout the country and seen firsthand how they build on shared ideas. One example came when he told colleagues from other co-ops about NorVal’s requirement for directors to earn certain NRECA leadership credentials.

“In the weeks after I shared that experience, several colleagues shared with me that they not only put that idea into practice, but they built on it,” he said. “And some adjusted it to suit their specific needs, adding additional local learning opportunities or tying learning to rewards. Sharing our experiences and learning from each other, that’s the cooperative spirit that helps us face an uncertain future together.”

Attending PowerXchange and learning from one another is a way that leaders are “taking a proactive step for our co-ops.”

“Apply what you’ve learned here,” Christensen said. “Take ideas you get today back to your co-op and put them to good use. Continue to educate yourself and share your experiences with your fellow leaders back home.” 

Cooperation among co-ops is key to ensuring that leaders are taking action “to be successful for future generations for our members,” he said. 

“I say bring it on. Our co-ops are smart, capable and stronger when we work together.”

Author: Erin Kelly