TECA receives National Governors’ Association grant

TDEC and Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association Announce Technical Assistance Opportunity with National Governors Association Center for Best Practices

Project Will Focus on Energy Efficiency Opportunities for Rural Electric Cooperatives

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) Commissioner Bob Martineau and Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association (TECA) Executive Vice President and General Manager David Callis announce that Tennessee has been selected as one of six states to participate in the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices’ State Policy Retreats on Innovations in Energy Efficiency that aim to reduce energy consumption, stimulate economic demand for local energy-related jobs and services, and lower emissions associated with the generation of electricity in Tennessee.

Under the technical assistance opportunity, TDEC’s Office of Energy Programs and TECA will host an energy efficiency workshop for several of TECA’s members and other State stakeholders to discuss potential financing structures under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program (EECLP). EECLP currently provides funding to rural electric cooperatives and utilities for the purpose of re-lending to businesses and homeowners for energy efficiency activities such as building weatherization, HVAC upgrades, ground source heat pumps, lighting, small scale renewable generation, consumer education and outreach, and energy audits.  The workshop will address Tennessee-specific challenges to advance energy efficiency programs in rural cooperatives and will develop tools and strategies for designing and deploying successful energy efficiency financing programs to members.

“Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are committed to improving the lives of their members and the communities they serve. We are privileged to be working with TECA to identify ways to access capital for energy efficiency improvements in Tennessee’s rural communities,” said TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau. “Energy efficiency improvements result in reduced energy demand and consumption, thereby lowering energy costs for consumers.”

“We’re excited about this joint effort and the agencies that are working with us. The cost of heating and cooling a home can be a burden for low-income, rural Tennesseans, so energy efficiency can do more than make homes more comfortable – it can change lives. These improvements can have long-term impacts for homeowners and the communities where they live,” said David Callis, Executive Vice President and General Manager of TECA.

The Tennessee Team will consist of representatives from the Office of Governor Haslam, TDEC, other State agencies, TECA, the USDA Rural Utility Services, Tennessee Valley Authority, Appalachian Voices, and Pathway Lending, a community development financial institution.

###

About Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation

Environment and Conservation is committed to protecting and improving the quality of Tennessee’s air, land and water. Department programs and initiatives protect human health and the environment and support economic development and quality of life through education, outreach and effective enforcement of state and federal environmental laws. We are also proud to manage the award-winning Tennessee State Parks system — with 54 state parks hosting more than 25 million visits each year. http://tn.gov/environment/.

About the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association represents the interests of Tennessee’s 23 electric distribution cooperatives and the 1.1 million rural and suburban consumers they serve. The association publishes The Tennessee Magazine and provides legislative and support services to Tennessee’s electric cooperatives.

About the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices

The NGA Center for Best Practices Environment, Energy & Transportation Division (EET) provides information, research, policy analysis, technical assistance and resource development for governors and their staff in the areas of energy, environment and transportation sectors. The division focuses on several issues, including improving energy efficiency, enhancing the use of both traditional and alternative fuels for electricity and transportation, developing a modern electricity grid, expanding economic development opportunities in the energy sector, protecting and cleaning up the environment, exploring innovative financing mechanisms for energy and infrastructure and developing a transportation system that safely and efficiently moves people and goods. www.nga.org/cms/center/eet.

Study Rejects Sale of Tennessee Valley Authority

An Obama administration proposal to sell the Tennessee Valley Authority would be a bad business deal that could bump up electricity rates by 13 percent, according to a review by a global financial analyst.

Lazard Frères & Co. declared TVA financially sound, saying there is no reason to privatize it, or turn it into a regional cooperative or state-owned agency.

“TVA’s current strong financial position, ability to self-fund its construction program and anticipated improvements in cost structure, environmental profile and asset mix as a result of long-term initiatives suggest there is no impetus for the federal government to change course,” Lazard said in an analysis released June 4.

Officials at TVA, which supplies power to 155 electric cooperatives and municipal systems, were delighted at the findings and hoped it would end a 15-month dustup about the fate of the nation’s largest public power provider.

“TVA’s healthy financial profile and ongoing efficiency initiatives are expected to generate benefits for TVA’s stakeholders, and Lazard’s summary observation is that there currently is no apparent detriment to ongoing federal ownership at this time,” the authority said in a statement.

Following a suggestion in the administration’s fiscal 2014 budget that it might put TVA on the block, the authority brought in Lazard to go through its financial records for federal budget makers.

The fiscal 2015 budget released earlier this year didn’t include a direct sale provision. But it reiterated that the administration was open to reducing or ending the federal role agency by transferring ownership to state or local stakeholders.

However, Lazard said spinning off the 81-year-old agency wouldn’t reduce the federal budget deficit, because it receives no current appropriations.

In fact, TVA is on track to pay down its debt to $20.8 billion by 2023, which might actually help the federal budget, Lazard said.

Also, TVA’s customers would have to pay for any change in status, Lazard said. That would mean a jump in retail rates of as much as 13 percent from the current 8.7 cents per kilowatt-hour.

“The Federal Government appears likely to realize minimal, if any, value in a divestiture without a significant value transfer from ratepayers in the form of higher rates,” the adviser said.

By Steven Johnson | ECT Staff Writer

Tennessee among states hardest hit by EPA regulations

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives call for consumers to take action.

NASHVILLE – Tennessee’s electric cooperatives express concern following the release of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed guidelines that will limit emissions from thousands of existing power plants, including 11 coal plants operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

“Estimates indicate that Tennessee will be among the hardest hit by the state requirements, calling for a 38 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “These regulations will hurt Tennessee families, and we are just beginning to understand how severe the impacts will be.”

Tennessee has already taken significant steps to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. “The average monthly residential energy use in Tennessee has fallen 16 percent since 2010, and TVA has reduced its carbon emissions by 30 percent since 2005,” says Callis.

“It is important that we make our voices heard. Affordable energy and a strong Tennessee economy depend on an all-of-the-above approach to energy generation.”

The EPA will hold a 120-day public comment period, and you can submit your comments to the EPA by visiting takeactionTN.com.

“The economic challenges faced by many cooperative members make it critical that EPA regulatory programs be cost effective and provide environmental benefits that exceed the implementation and compliance costs,” says Callis.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association is a trade group representing the interests of Tennessee’s 23 electric distribution cooperatives and the 1.1 million rural and suburban consumers they serve. The association publishes The Tennessee Magazine and provides legislative and support services to Tennessee’s electric cooperatives. Learn more at tnelectric.org.

 

Contact:
Trent Scott | tscott@tnelectric.org | 731.608.1519

ACSI scores put Tennessee co-ops among nation’s top

When it comes to customer satisfaction, Tennessee’s electric cooperatives outperform other utilities, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). Based on 2013 ACSI benchmark findings, Tennessee’s electric co-ops’ satisfaction rating of 82 on a 100 point scale is significantly better than the energy utilities national average of 76. Tennessee cooperatives are even further ahead when compared with investor-owned and municipal utilities, whose customer satisfaction scores were 75 and 76 respectively.

More than 1,000 co-op members from 15 co-ops across the state were interviewed as a part of a regional member satisfaction research project conducted by the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association in 2013. The ACSI reviewed the research findings and assigned the score earlier this year.

“This research helps us understand the needs of our members and identify areas where we are can improve,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “The opinions of our members are important. As member-owned cooperatives, there is no greater measure of our success than our owners satisfaction.”

The Tennessee findings are in line with national trends, with electric co-ops averaging an ACSI of 81. “These scores validate the cooperative difference,” said National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jo Ann Emerson. “Member-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives put members first and these numbers show why this business model has succeeded and why cooperatives continue to thrive even in uncertain economic times,” Emerson said.

The ACSI reaches across industries, allowing Tennessee cooperatives to make comparisons to other home service providers. The co-op group’s 82 ACSI score is significantly higher than Time Warner Cable’s 60, Comcast’s 63, Charter Communication’s 64 and AT&T’s 71.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index is a national economic indicator of customer evaluations of the quality of products and services available to household consumers in the United States. The overall ACSI score factors in scores from more than 225 companies in 47 industries and from government agencies over the previous four quarters. The Index was founded at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and is produced by ACSI LLC. ACSI can be found on the Web at www.theacsi.org.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association is a trade group representing the interests of Tennessee’s 23 electric distribution cooperatives and the 1.1 million consumers they serve. The association publishes The Tennessee Magazine and provides legislative and support services to Tennessee’s electric cooperatives.

Taking the co-op message to DC

More than 100 Tennesseans joined more than 2,500 co-op leaders from across the nation to participate in the NRECA Legislative Conference on May 4-6 in Washington, D.C. The conference provided CEOs, directors and co-op staffers with insights from Washington insiders and briefings from NRECA lobbyists to use during meetings with lawmakers.

Tennessee co-op leaders met with Senators Alexander and Corker as well as Representatives Black, Blackburn, DesJarlais, Duncan, Fincher, Fleischmann and Roe.

A number of issues important to electric co-ops were discussed during the legislative visits, including

“People will know that Co-op Nation is here,” NRECA CEO Jo Ann Emerson said at the first conference session May 5 at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill. “You do this because you know how important relationships are with your legislators and with your regulatory officials.”

View photos from the legislative conference here.

Practical Pointers for National Electrical Safety Month

May is National Electrical Safety Month, and Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are joining with the Electrical Safety Foundation International to raise awareness about potential home electrical hazards and the importance of electrical safety. This year’s campaign, “Back to the Basics,” challenges consumers to make home electrical safety assessments a priority.

According to the Consumer Electronics Association, the average home today has a minimum of three televisions, two DVD players, at least one digital camera, one desktop computer, and two cell phones.

“Modern homes run on electricity, but if you don’t properly maintain your electrical products they can create hazards,” warns Trent Scott, director of corporate strategy with the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “The good news is that eliminating electrical hazards from your home doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive.”

Many homes and their electrical systems were built before most modern-day home electronics and appliances were even invented. Today’s increased demand for energy can overburden an older home’s electrical system.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives offer the following tips to help identify and eliminate electrical hazards to protect yourself, your family, and your home:

  • Make sure entertainment centers and computer equipment have plenty of space around them for ventilation.
  • Use extension cords as a temporary solution, and never as a permanent power supply.
  • Do not place extension cords in high traffic areas, under carpets, or across walkways, where they pose a potential tripping hazard.
  • Use a surge protector to protect your computer and other electronic equipment from damage caused by voltage changes.
  • Heavy reliance on power strips is an indication that you have too few outlets to address your needs. Have additional outlets installed by a qualified, licensed electrician.
  • Keep liquids, including drinks, away from electrical items such as televisions and computers.

Electrical safety awareness and education among consumers, families, employees, and communities will prevent electrical fires, injuries, and fatalities.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) sponsors National Electrical Safety Month each May to increase public awareness of the electrical hazards around us at home, work, school, and play. ESFI is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety. For more information about ESFI and electrical safety, visit www.electrical-safety.org.

Storms leave damage, fatalities [VIDEO]

Severe storms and tornadoes moved through Tennessee overnight Monday, leaving more than 33,000 without power.

Crews worked through the night and into the day on Tuesday, restoring service to all but 1,600. Co-ops in Southeast Tennessee experienced the most severe damage, including the areas of Fayetteville and Chattanooga.

Tennessee is currently using in-state personnel to complete the restoration, and co-ops hope to be in a position later today to assist neighboring states with their restoration efforts.

The video below shows significant flooding in Hickman County near Coble. Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative experienced a few outages as a result, and one co-op employee, Chad Blackwell, used his fishing boat to cut a tree off a line to restore power.

National Lineman Appreciation Day

NASHVILLE – The electric cooperatives of Tennessee are recognizing Friday, April 18, 2014, as National Lineman Appreciation Day to honor the hardworking men and women who keep the power on and protect the public’s safety. There are more than 700 electric co-op linemen in Tennessee.

“Today we honor the dedicated service of these courageous workers and recognize the critical role they play in keeping the lights on,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Our communities depend on reliable energy, and our linemen place themselves in harm’s way every day to see that power is delivered to our homes, businesses, factories, schools and hospitals.”

“When disaster strikes, they work quickly to restore power to their communities,” says Callis. “They go above and beyond, working around the clock in hazardous conditions.”

“Linemen represent the Volunteer State well, helping others during their times of need,” Callis adds, noting that Tennessee’s electric co-ops have assisted utilities in other states following ice storms, tornados and hurricanes, with some crews traveling as far as New York following Hurricane Sandy in 2013.

You can help Tennessee’s electric cooperatives honor lineman by using #ThankaLineman on Twitter.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association is a trade group representing the interests of Tennessee’s 23 electric distribution cooperatives and the 1.1 million consumers they serve. The association publishes The Tennessee Magazine and provides legislative and support services to Tennessee’s electric cooperatives.

Pickwick EC awarded $1 million development loan

SELMER – USDA Rural Development State Director Bobby Goode today joined Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Pickwick Electric Cooperative President Karl Dudley and other local leaders to announce funding for jobs in McNairy County. The announcement was made at the McNairy County Industrial Park.

“In McNairy County and across the country, the best stimulus program is a job. For almost 30 years, Monogram Refrigeration has manufactured jobs and boosted the local economy in Selmer and beyond,” said Blackburn. “Today’s expansion announcement will provide more high quality jobs and strengthen Monogram’s footprint in West Tennessee.”

Pickwick Electric Cooperative (PEC) has partnered with the Selmer/McNairy County Industrial Development Board (IDB) and USDA Rural Development (RD) to purchase an existing industrial building in Selmer. The 125,000 square foot facility will make it possible for Monogram Refrigeration, a subsidiary of General Electric to add a new production line creating up to 40 jobs and keep the company from needing to relocate 160 existing jobs to another location.

According to Plant Manager Ray Deming, “Monogram has been manufacturing high quality household refrigeration equipment in McNairy County for almost 30 years.” The company plans to introduce a new line that is expected to go into production in 2015.

“Working together Pickwick Electric, Selmer/McNairy Industrial Development Board and USDA help leverage the region’s existing strengths and assets,” said Goode. “Helping businesses, like Monogram, that are already here to grow means the good jobs created by expansion are a natural fit and pay dividends for the workers, their families and the entire community.”

The industrial building purchase is financed with a $1 million zero-interest loan from USDA to PEC that will be passed-through to the Industrial Board for the purchase of an existing industrial building. Monogram will lease the building from the IDB. The building was formerly home to Midwest Woodworking.

Others participating in the event included Sen. Lamar Alexander’s Representative Matt Varino, TN Dept. Of Agriculture Deputy Commissioner Jai Templeton, Selmer Mayor John Smith, McNairy County Mayor Ronnie Brooks, McNairy Regional Alliance Executive Director Ted Moore, Southwest TN Human Resource Agency Exec. Director Mike Smith and RD Area Director Arlisa Armstrong and Specialist Joel Howard.

“This kind of public/private partnership is key to USDA’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative to grow rural economies, increase investments and create opportunities in communities that are often held back by high poverty, geography or other barriers,” said Goode.

While poverty is a challenge in bigger cities as well, the reality is that nearly 85 percent of America’s persistent poverty counties are in rural areas. StrikeForce provides additional hands-on technical assistance from USDA local field staff because, Goode said, “Not every community is equipped to research, apply for or manage federal, state or non-profit resources that could help.”

During the last four years USDA Rural Development has assisted more than 1.5 million Tennessee families and businesses in 158 communities, investing more than $3.7 Billion into local economies through affordable loans, loan guarantees and grants for jobs, homes, infrastructure and community development.

For more information on the meeting or USDA Rural Development programs available in southwest Tennessee contact the Jackson Area Office at 731-668-2091 x2, or 800-342-3149 x1495. Visit us online at www.rurdev.usda.gov/TN.

Co-op members targeted in scam

NASHVILLE – Tennessee’s electric cooperatives remind Tennessee residents to be on alert for a telephone scam that continues to plague utility consumers.

Scam artists call a home or business posing as a co-op or utility employee and threaten to shut off service unless the consumer provides immediate payment using a reloadable debit card, prepaid gift card or online payment service like PayPal.

“The calls sound official, and the caller ID may even display the utility name,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “This is particularly harmful to consumers because there is no way to track or recover the money.”

Officials stress that your local electric co-op will:

  • NEVER call members to request credit card, banking or other financial information over the telephone.
  • NEVER call members threatening immediate disconnection unless a payment is made. Some co-ops do give members with a delinquent account a courtesy call prior to disconnection, but this only occurs after multiple notices have been sent to the member.
  • NEVER ask to enter your home unless you initiate the request for co-op personnel to perform a specific service. Co-ops do this only by appointment and with a member’s prior knowledge.

“We are asking co-op members to be wary of any phone calls,” Callis says. “If in doubt, hang up immediately and look up your electric cooperative’s phone number. Call it directly to be certain you are dealing with an official representative of the cooperative.”

Law enforcement officials are looking into reported fraud cases, but consumers are encouraged to protect themselves by being alert and aware. “It’s important for Tennesseans to be cautious and vigilant,” Says Steve Majchrzak, Deputy Commissioner and Acting Consumer Affairs Director for the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. “Scam artists can find their way into your home and pocketbook through the phone. The best defense against this type of theft is to take a guarded approach to any unknown caller and always do your research to ensure the caller’s authenticity.”

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association is a trade group representing the interests of Tennessee’s 23 electric distribution cooperatives and the 1.1 million consumers they serve. The association publishes The Tennessee Magazine and provides legislative and support services to Tennessee’s electric cooperatives. Learn more at tnelectric.org.

 

#   #   #

Media Contact:
Trent Scott | tscott@tnelectric.org | 731.608.1519