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Tennessee Co-ops Support Reversal of Clean Power Plan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NASHVILLE – Today the Trump administration issued an executive order instructing the Environmental Protection Agency to begin dismantling the Clean Power Plan. David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association issued this statement:

“Lifting the regulatory mandates required by the Clean Power Plan allows electric cooperatives to invest in projects that make sense for their members. Cooperatives believe that low rates and reliable power must be part of America’s clean energy future.”

“Innovation, not government regulation, provides the most direct path to reduced carbon emissions, and Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are proud of the accomplishments that have been made in our state.”

“Tennessee co-ops are leading the way in developing carbon-free energy. In recent years, co-ops have built more than 2.5 megawatts of solar generation. These community solar projects allow co-op members to purchase or subscribe to renewable generation without the significant capital investment required for rooftop installations.”

“We also applaud the Tennessee Valley Authority for their investments in clean generation. TVA is forecast to reduce its system carbon dioxide rate by 60 percent by 2020. The primary impacts of the Clean Power Plan would have been minimal for Tennessee, thanks in large part to TVA’s diverse power generation mix.”

In October of 2015, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and 39 generation and transmission cooperatives petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals to review and reject the Clean Power Plan. That effort laid the groundwork for a stay by the U.S. Supreme Court, giving the current administration time to review the rule and issue today’s executive order.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides legislative and communication support for Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives and publishes The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated periodical. Visit tnelectric.org or tnmagazine.org to learn more.

 

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FOR MORE INFORMATION

Trent Scott | Vice President of Corporate Strategy | 615.515.5534 | tscott@tnelectric.org

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Broadband Accessibility Act moves through General Assembly

The Legislature continues its work for this year’s session, and is beginning to make some headway in considering the thousands of pieces of Legislation that have been filed. Some committees are beginning the process of ending their work for the year, which typically signals the beginning of the end for the General Assembly. Over the next week or two, the number of bills will shrink considerably and the work required to develop a budget for the State will take priority. Adjournment for the year is expected at the end of April.

This year, TECA is working to influence over 60 different pieces of legislation. First among our priorities is Governor Haslam’s bill to address the lack of high-speed internet access, the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act. This legislation is the culmination of two years worth of study and consideration by the Governor, his staff, and multiple state agencies. Following the conclusions of these studies, Governor Haslam and his administration developed a piece of legislation that would do three things: allow electric cooperative to become retail providers of broadband services, provide financial incentives (through grants and tax credits) for providers to extend service into unserved areas, and improve adoption of broadband service through educational efforts. The original version of the legislation was changed slightly, through an amendment, prepared by the Governor and his staff. This amendment broadened cooperative authorization to included television and video services, and restricted the provision of co-op internet and TV to the co-op’s service territory.

Both the Senate Commerce Committee and the House Business and Utilities Committee have heard the legislation, and have both voted unanimously to pass it. In general, these are the most difficult hurdles for any piece of legislation to overcome.  In the coming weeks, the bill will be considered by both the House and Senate Finance Committees before they could be heard by the full House and Senate. It is TECA’s expectation that the bill will ultimately pass, and will become law upon the Governor’s signature. If you have not had the opportunity to communicate with your own lawmaker, please visit takeactiontn.com and send a message to let your lawmaker know your feelings.

To follow TECA’s legislative work more closely, make sure that you’ve signed up for our weekly update on politics and government – View from the Hill. To add your name to the subscription list, click here.

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Broadband Accessibility Act passes Senate Commerce and Labor Committee

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act passed the the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee today on an unanimous vote. Leader Norris and Sen. Mike Bell presented the bill on behalf of the Governor Haslam. The bill was passed with an amendment that would allow electric co-ops to provide television and phone service in addition to high-speed internet.

The bill and an identical amendment was passed by the House Business and Utilities Subcommittee on Tuesday, March 7.

The bill is scheduled to be heard in the full House Business and Utilities Committee next week.

You can learn more about the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act and encourage your legislator to support this important bill at takeactionTN.com.

 

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Co-ops applaud House Business and Utilities Subcommittee for passage of Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act

NASHVILLE – Members of the House Business and Utilities Subcommittee today passed the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act (H.B. 0529) on a unanimous vote. The legislation now moves on to the full committee for consideration on Wednesday, March 15.

“The Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act is an important step to expand access to high-speed internet in rural Tennessee,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “This legislation will not only help areas with the greatest need for high-speed internet, but it will also create jobs and improve access to education and healthcare.”

“We thank Rep. David Hawk for his sponsorship and the committee for supporting this legislation and rural Tennessee.”

The Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act removes restrictions that currently prevent electric cooperatives from providing retail internet access. More than 800,000 Tennesseans, many of which live in areas served by electric co-ops, do not have access to high-speed internet.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides legislative and communication support for Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives and publishes The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated periodical. Visit tnelectric.org or tnmagazine.org to learn more.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION
Trent Scott | Vice President of Corporate Strategy
615.515.5534 | tscott@tnelectric.org

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Co-ops Respond to Governor’s Broadband Plan

NASHVILLE – Today Governor Bill Haslam announced the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act, a part of the NextTennessee legislative agenda. The plan outlines efforts to expand broadband access in Tennessee, including lifting restrictions that currently prevent electric co-ops from providing retail broadband service.

“The Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act acknowledges the unique role electric co-ops can play in expanding access to broadband,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “We are honored that the governor recognizes the deep roots co-ops have in rural and suburban Tennessee, and we look forward to working with the members of the 110th General Assembly to expand connectivity and opportunity.”

Electric cooperatives are consumer-owned, not-for-profit energy companies. There are 23 electric co-ops in Tennessee that provide energy to 2.5 million Tennesseans across 71 percent of that state’s landmass. Co-ops serve areas with the greatest need for expanded broadband access, but legal restrictions currently prevent co-ops from providing retail broadband service.

Co-op members are encouraged to visit takeactionTN.com to sign up for updates about broadband expansion in Tennessee.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides legislative and communication support for Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives and publishes The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated periodical. Visit tnelectric.org or tnmagazine.org to learn more.

 

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Contact:
Trent Scott | Vice President of Corporate Strategy | tscott@tnelectric.org | 731.608.1519

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Co-op statement on election of Evans as TVA board chair

[NASHVILLE] –The Tennessee Valley Authority announced today that V. Lynn Evans was unanimously elected as chair of the board of directors.

“We are pleased that the TVA board elected V. Lynn Evans as chair of the agency’s board of directors,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Experienced leadership is necessary to ensure that TVA delivers low-cost, reliable energy to its utility customers and the people of our region. Tennessee’s electric cooperatives have a long partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority, and we congratulate Ms. Evans on her election.”

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides legislative and communication support for Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives and publishes The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated periodical. Visit tnelectric.org or tnmagazine.org to learn more.

 

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Trent Scott | Vice President of Corporate Strategy
Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association
tscott@tnelectric.org | 731.608.1519

 

Lynn Evans, center, addresses co-op leaders during the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association's annual meeting in Nashville on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016.

Lynn Evans, center, addresses co-op leaders during the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association’s annual meeting in Nashville on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016.

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110th Tennessee General Assembly app now available

Legislative directory app connects Tennesseans with elected officials

NASHVILLE – Tennesseans interested in government and politics have a powerful, pocket-sized tool for connecting with their elected representatives.

The 110th Tennessee General Assembly app features a continually updated, searchable database of contact, staff and committee information as well as photos, leadership roles and social media profiles for members of the Tennessee House and Senate.  The app also contains information on the governor and his cabinet and the Tennessee Congressional delegation.

Developed by the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and Bass, Berry & Sims PLC, the 99-cent app is available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices and can be found by searching for “Tennessee General Assembly” in the Apple App Store or Google PLAY Marketplace.

newphone“We have produced print directories of the General Assembly for more decades, and this is our fifth year to release an app,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “It is important for Tennesseans to be active and involved with their elected officials, and the app is a tool that makes it easy to speak up on issues that are important.”

“The app is ideal for anyone who wants to monitor the activities at the state Capitol and is designed to be the best reference possible for those who are interested in or work with Tennessee legislators,” says Dick Lodge, partner with Bass Berry & Sims PLC.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides legislative and communication support for Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives and publishes The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated periodical. Visit tnelectric.org or tnmagazine.org to learn more.

 

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Contact:
Trent Scott | Vice President of Corporate Strategy | tscott@tnelectric.org | 731.608.1519

Images:
Download high resolution graphics of the app icon and the app.

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Legislature expected to bring big changes

When the 110th General Assembly gavels into session on January 10th, a number of issues of importance to electric co-ops stand to become major points of focus for lawmakers.  After the first week’s formalities and announcements of committee assignments, there will be a two-week recess to move offices and re-organize. Then, the session will kick into high gear as Governor Haslam will deliver his State of the State address on the first day that Members return to Nashville.

Currently, the State has a budget surplus of over $1 billion. The State of the State typically focuses on the Governor’s budget priorities, and this year’s address should provide no shortage of ideas on how to budget those surplus funds. The following day, January 31, will be TECA’s annual Day on the Hill and Legislative Reception. Attendees will witness first-hand the collective reaction of lawmakers to the new spending priorities.

In addition to passage of a budget, the Governor has publicly indicated on several occasions that he intends to focus on three large issues: transportation funding, broadband and the internet sales tax. Broadband has been a hotly debated topic at the Capitol for nearly a decade; however, most of the controversy has surrounded the role(s) of municipal electric utilities and existing private sector broadband providers. No significant legislation has passed, and pressure on lawmakers continues to increase to find solutions to the lack of adequate access to broadband in rural areas.

Meanwhile, both the Department of Economic and Community Development and the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations have conducted studies to gauge the extent of the problem. ECD’s study found that 34 percent of rural Tennesseans lack access to basic broadband services, and both studies concluded that electric cooperatives are well positioned to help solve the problem but face legal restrictions from doing so.

Governor Haslam convened an inter-agency task force to discuss the topic and heard presentations from many interested parties, including electric cooperatives. While the final language is not yet available, it is expected that the Governor will propose comprehensive legislation to the General Assembly for consideration this year. We expect this legislation will include repealing laws that currently prohibit electric cooperatives from offering broadband internet service.

This would be the most significant and far-reaching legislation involving electric cooperatives in decades. Other broadband bills, in addition to the one brought by the Administration, could be introduced by other members of the Legislature.

While the legislative process is always difficult to predict, there should be a number of other bills that are of interest to co-ops. Legislation concerning net metering and third-party solar financing are anticipated to return in 2017. Representative John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge), should re-file his bill to create a Tennessee Energy Policy Council. The Tennessee Municipal Electric Power Association is expected to again pursue changes that would require a public referendum in any instance of the sale of a municipal electric plant. We will be watching for any potential state-level reaction to Nashville’s passage of a “One-Touch Make Ready” ordinance (also called “Climb Once”) regarding the process for making new pole attachments.  Increased interest in small-cell technology by the wireless phone industry could result in pole-attachment related legislation.

TECA’s Government Affairs team is prepared and looking forward to working with co-ops across the state through what could be a history-making legislative session.

Electric co-ops help offer a place and a prize for research on greenhouse gases

What if carbon dioxide from burning coal at power plants could be contained and turned into something useful?

A group of electric co-ops and other partners who want to investigate that issue recently broke ground on a research facility at the Dry Fork Station, a power plant in northeast Wyoming owned by Basin Electric Power Cooperative.

More than a dozen sites around the globe now study “carbon capture” as one possible solution to climate change, but they generally don’t offer the real-world conditions the Integrated Test Center partners say their site will offer when it’s finished next summer.

The facility will allow researchers to place equipment that can test ways to grab carbon dioxide from a working power plant and use it in ways the world might find valuable.

In addition to Basin Electric’s involvement, financial support comes from Denver-based Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. The state of Wyoming has been the main funder and organizer of the test center, and another key partner is the XPRIZE Foundation.

XPRIZE Foundation is an organization that seeks “radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity.”

In the past, it has offered cash prizes for space travel and health innovations. More recently it announced two $10 million prizes for “transformational approaches to converting (carbon dioxide) emissions into valuable products.”

The carbon XPRIZE will be awarded in 2020, but this past spring’s preliminary deadline has already produced several applicants, says Dr. Paul Bunje, principal scientist and senior director of energy and environment at XPRIZE. He says those entries have come from “big corporations, garage tinkerers, universities and small and medium-sized businesses.”

The variety of planned research includes using carbon dioxide to make fuels, ingredients in chemical processes, or thin, extremely strong “supermaterials” of the future.

XPRIZE contestants will begin moving equipment to the test center in the summer of 2018, says Dr. Marcius Extavour, XPRIZE director of technical operations. And what will that look like?

“Some of the equipment will be tall and skinny, some of it low and wide,” says Extavour. “Some of it might be in a smooth steel case, others will be exposed pipes, others will be, who knows what?”

To read more about the carbon XPRIZE, visit www.carbon.xprize.org.

Paul Wesslund writes on cooperative issues for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

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Co-ops issue statement on state broadband study

NASHVILLE, July 19, 2016 – Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are encouraged by the findings and recommendations released earlier today by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development concerning broadband availability across the state.

The report states that current regulatory barriers restrict investment and competition, specifically mentioning a law that prevents the state’s member-owned electric cooperatives from providing broadband access. Electric cooperatives serve 71 percent of the state’s landmass, including a majority of the rural and economically disadvantaged regions identified in the study as areas of greatest need.

“Limited access to broadband has serious consequences for rural Tennessee, and co-ops are uniquely positioned to provide real solutions,” says David Callis, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Co-ops have a legacy of expanding critical services beyond the city limits. A generation ago, the issue was power; today it is broadband. “

“Tennessee’s electric cooperatives appreciate Governor Haslam and Commissioner Boyd for their leadership on this important issue,“ says Callis. “This study should serve as a roadmap to the legislature to remove restrictions and foster competition. Co-ops are committed to working with the state to identify real solutions that will benefit rural and suburban Tennessee.”

A copy of the report is available here.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides legislative and communications support for Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives and publishes The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated periodical. Visit tnelectric.org or tnmagazine.org to learn more.

 

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Contact:
Trent Scott | Vice President of Corporate Strategy | tscott@tnelectric.org | 731.608.1519