Governor: October is Co-op Month

Governor lauds Tennessee’s member-owned organizations during Co-op Month in October

The proclamation, also signed by Secretary of State Tre Hargett, reads, in part: “Tennessee cooperatives improve the well-being of rural residents and communities across our state by providing electric, internet, and telephone services to homes, farms, and rural businesses; financing for land, assets, and inputs; products and services, including genetics and seed, nutrients and feed, crop protection and health, equipment and fuel for growing and marketing crops and livestock; and insurance for individuals and family businesses, resulting in employment for thousands of Tennesseans.”

Haslam also stressed that rural cooperatives are important partners with today’s farmers “as they work diligently to produce safe, abundant, dependable, and affordable food and fiber for both a rapidly growing world population and an increasingly interconnected and proactively health-conscious local consumer.”

What sets cooperatives apart from other types of businesses is that they are owned and controlled by the people who use their products and services, so members have a chance to share in their successes and have a voice in their operation. Cooperatives are led by their membership through an elected board of directors and share profits with members by reducing costs of their products or services or by providing patronage refunds.

“Governor Haslam recognizes the importance of cooperatives, particularly to our rural communities,” Tennessee Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson said. “Cooperatives illustrate the very best of the American Way through members who participate in local, community ownership, and where shared responsibility not only helps reduce the cost of products and services but provides economic opportunity.”

Haslam also had good things to say about the Tennessee Council of Cooperatives (TCC), calling it “the state’s flagship organization for coordinating, promoting, educating, and extending cooperative development in Tennessee.”

“It often serves as a clearinghouse for the open exchange of information and experiences among cooperative businesses, a sounding board for new ideas, and a forum for discovery, discussion, and dissemination,” he said.

Tennessee Farmers Cooperative Marketing Manager Keith Harrison, current president of TCC, said, “Our board of directors is committed to promoting the cooperative way of doing business.  That’s evident in many of our current programs.  The council sponsors scholarships for agricultural students at each of Tennessee’s four-year agricultural colleges, hosts an annual leadership conference for more than 400 young leaders from across the state, sponsors an annual education workshop for more than 50 employees of cooperatives in addition to providing leadership, cooperation, and support to various other programs.  We truly believe the cooperative business model will continue to play a vital role in strengthening our state’s rural economy in the future.”

Nationwide this year, more than 29,000 cooperatives will celebrate October Co-op Month, promoting the advantages of cooperative membership and recognizing the benefits and value co-ops bring to their communities. The observance has been celebrated annually for the past 84 years. This year’s theme —“The Co-op Connection”— celebrates the ways co-ops connect with each other, their communities, and their world.

Visit tennesseecouncilofcoops.org for more information about Tennessee cooperatives or the TCC and its programs. Visit ncba.coop/coop-month for more information about the national Co-op Month celebration.

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Photo caption: Gov. Bill Haslam, front center, presents a proclamation to the Tennessee Council of Cooperatives board of directors proclaiming October as “Cooperative Month” in Tennessee.  Pictured with the governor are, front from left, Greg Anderson, Bledsoe Telephone Cooperative, and Keith Harrison, Tennessee Farmers Cooperative. In back are Todd Blocker, Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association;  Scott Lewis, Farm Credit Mid-America;  Dan Strasser, Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation; and Tom Womack, Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

View high-resolution photo here.

INFOGRAPHIC: Power sources

A new infographic from Tennessee’s electric cooperatives outlines the sources used to generate the power we use each day and outlines Tennessee’s commitment to renewable sources of energy. A diverse mix of generation sources is important to the reliability and affordability of energy. You can help us maintain this diversity by visiting takeactionTN.com.

 

 

 

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EPA grants comment extension

The EPA announced on Tuesday that it will grant a 45 day extension to the comment period for its climate rule on existing power plants.

The announcement of a new Dec. 1 deadline comes after more than half of the Senate asked the EPA to extend the comment period for another 60 days. Both Sens. Alexander and Corker signed the letter sent to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy last week.

“The EPA’s proposed regulation will have significant impacts on the affordability and reliability of power and poses a threat to American jobs and the economy,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “We applaud the EPA’s decision to extend the comment period, we thank Senators Alexander and Corker for their support on this issue, and we encourage all Tennesseans to visit takeactionTN.com to send your own message to the EPA.”

Learn more about this issue at tnelectric.org/takeaction.

Co-ops light midway at state fair

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Sept. 5, 2014 – Tennessee’s electric cooperatives lit the midway during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Tennessee State Fair on Friday evening. John Spence, a lineman with Gibson Electric Membership Corporation in Trenton, Tenn., threw the switch that officially started the nine-day event.

“Each day electric cooperatives deliver power and opportunity to more than two million rural Tennesseans,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “The fair is a celebration of life in rural Tennessee, and that is why we are proud to be a sponsor of tonight’s opening ceremony.”

The Tennessee State Fair presented by One Main Financial runs Sept. 5 – 14 at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds. Learn more at tnstatefair.org.

During the opening ceremony of the Tennessee State Fair, electric co-op representatives had a chance to meet Zoe, a young lady struggling with a serious medical condition. Her wish of being a princess came true as she proudly wore her tiara on stage, a moment made possible thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. You can learn more about their work at middletennessee.wish.org.

About TECA
The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association is a trade group representing the interests of Tennessee’s 23 electric distribution cooperatives and the more than two 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.

 

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

 

Download a high-resolution photo here.

Caption: John Smith, a lineman with Gibson Electric Membership Corporation in Trenton, assists Zoe from the Make a Wish Foundation to flip the switch and kick off the 2014 Tennessee State Fair.

Energy efficiency workshop

NASHVILLE, Sept. 5, 2014 – A workshop held today in Nashville explored opportunities to provide energy-efficiency assistance to Tennessee’s low-income homeowners. The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, its member cooperatives and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s Office of Energy Programs hosted the event.

Tennessee is one of six states selected 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.

The workshop focused on the development of a program to help co-op members finance energy-efficiency activities such as weatherization improvements, HVAC upgrades, ground-source heat pumps, lighting, small-scale renewable generation, consumer education and outreach and energy audits.

“Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are committed to improving the lives of their members and the communities they serve,” said Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau. “We are privileged to be working with TECA to identify ways to access capital for energy-efficiency improvements in Tennessee’s rural communities. 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,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “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.”

Representatives from the Office of Gov. Bill Haslam, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, other state agencies, the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and several member cooperatives, the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Services, the Tennessee Valley Authority, Appalachian Voices and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy participated in the workshop.

About TECA

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association is a trade group representing the interests of Tennessee’s 23 electric distribution cooperatives and the more than two 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.

 

Download high-resolution photo here.

Cutline: Frank Rapley, senior manager, energy right solutions for homes, with the Tennessee Valley Authority speaks at a workshop today in Nashville. Participants explored opportunities to provide energy-efficiency assistance to Tennessee’s low-income homeowners.

 

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

Are you grounded? GFCI outlets can help!

Did you know there are different types of electrical outlets? Each are designed for different purposes; however, there is one specific type that stands high above the rest—the ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet. GFCIs have saved thousands of lives and cut the number of electrocutions in half since the 1970s. If your home lacks GFCI outlets, don’t fret—you can learn how to “get grounded.”

GFCIs are the most efficient outlet in protecting from electrical shock. If it senses a loss of current, the outlet switches off power to that circuit. These devices can either be installed in your electrical system or built into a power cord. The third hole at the bottom of the outlet is known as the “ground” slot, and it monitors electrical currents that flow through the left “neutral” slot and the right “hot” slot on each outlet. A GFCI can react faster than a blink of an eye to any imbalance of power by immediately shutting off the electrical current. These outlets are now a requirement in all places where water could potentially come into contact with electrical products such as bathrooms, garages, outdoors and kitchens. GFCIs are not exclusive to three-prong outlets. They can be installed into standard outlets, and there are even portable devices available when installation is not practical.

GFCIs should be tested at least once a month to ensure they are working effectively. The first step you need to take is to test an item, such as a lamp, that visibly powers on when plugged in. Push the “reset” button to prepare the outlet then push the “test” button. Did your lamp turn off? If it did, the GFCI is working properly. Now, hit the “reset” button once again to power it back on. If your lamp did not power off, then you should contact a certified electrician to correct the problem.

Next time you have a free moment, take the time to look around your house. If you’re not “grounded,” consider updating your electrical outlets to GFCIs.

Sources: Electrical Safety Foundation International, Consumer Product Safety Commission

Amber Bentley writes on energy efficiency 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.

Perkerson joins TECA staff

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Aug. 26, 2014 – The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, a trade group representing the interests of electric cooperative members across the state, announced today that Alex Perkerson joins the association as government affairs specialist. In this role, Perkerson will assist with the association’s legislative and grassroots efforts.

“Tennessee’s electric cooperatives work to inform and protect their members,” says Perkerson. “It is exciting to be a part of their mission to serve the people of rural and suburban Tennessee.”

A 2011 graduate of the University of Alabama with a degree in political science, Perkerson previously worked as a legislative assistant at the Tennessee General Assembly.

“We are thrilled to add Alex to our team,” says Mike Knotts, director of government affairs for TECA. “I am confident that she will make positive contributions on behalf of our members.”

About TECA

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.

A high-resolution photo is available here.

The “Essence” of cybersecurity

The online world can be a dangerous neighborhood. News of another huge data theft or malicious computer virus seems to arrive almost weekly. One study found that 740 million online records were hacked last year. Target, the giant retailer, revealed cyber-criminals had stolen information on as many as 70 million of its customers alone.

While it hasn’t received nearly as much publicity, cooperatives and other electric utilities haven’t been immune from this assault. Craig Miller, chief scientist for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), says there are thousands of probes, big and small, into utility systems. These threats to the security and stability of the nation’s grid are only expected to grow.

But an ambitious effort by the Cooperative Research Network (CRN), the research and development arm of NRECA, and several partners is underway to make sure the systems delivering your power remain safe and secure. It’s called “Essence” and through the project, researchers are developing the next generation of automated cybersecurity for the industry.

That’s particularly important for co-op members and other consumers, who not only count on the power being there when they need it, but also on their electricity provider protecting their privacy. “The success of Essence will improve the protections around their personal information and it will improve the reliability of their power systems,” says Miller.

Miller says most of the attempts to hack into utility systems have been efforts to grab personal data or business information. Consumers obviously want to be sure bank account information, social security numbers or other personal data don’t fall into the hands of identity thieves.

But there have also been more ominous attacks that should concern any U.S. citizen. “There have been attempts on control systems. They are much rarer because they require a much higher level of expertise, and there’s no potential monetary gain,” Miller says. “But people have done it.”

The assumption, he says, is that some of these efforts are by “state actors,” other nations probing for potential weaknesses. Defense analysts also believe a cyber-attack on the nation’s power grid could be attractive to terrorists for its potential to create widespread chaos.

The essence of Essence is to protect Americans from all these threats. There are existing software programs with the same goal, but it’s how Essence safeguards utility systems that makes it a major advance in cybersecurity.

Most computer systems are protected through firewalls, special software that blocks suspicious attempts to connect or upload software. But these programs largely depend on lists of known threats that have to be constantly updated. “One of the challenges is that these security systems require expert users who are hyper-diligent about staying current,” says Miller. “They also have the potential for human error. This creates vulnerabilities.”

But Essence changes the balance of power in this constant battle. “Instead of monitoring what’s going in and out of the network, it monitors the network itself and uses advanced algorithms (procedures) to determine what is normal,” explains Maurice Martin, CRN’s project manager for cyber security. “Essence looks for anomalies – stuff that shouldn’t be happening – and then raises a red flag when it sees something that’s amiss.”

This means Essence doesn’t have to depend on lists of the latest dangers out there, or on humans keeping it up-to-date. It doesn’t need to know exactly what hackers are up to because anything that’s not right with the system will get its attention.

All this is accomplished by an unassuming device, small enough to be held in one hand, which can be added to a utility system in key spots to unobtrusively monitor what’s happening on the network.

Project managers also have taken several steps, including using storage in the cloud and open software standards, to keep costs down and make sure Essence doesn’t require extensive expertise to manage. “It’s going to bring state-of-the-art cybersecurity to co-ops of every size, from the biggest to the smallest,” says Martin. “The philosophy is no co-op left behind. Everyone will be able to use this.”

Essence is being developed through a $4 million grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy to research next-generation cybersecurity devices. CRN has partnered with Carnegie Mellon University, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the cyber security firm Cigital on the project. Several large corporations are also following the effort.

Researchers hope to have the first version of the Essence device in the field for tests early next year. If it’s as successful as expected, commercial partners will be brought in to produce the product, providing electric utilities with an affordable, automated cybersecurity system they can depend on.

That will be good news for consumers everywhere. As Martin notes, “Maintaining cybersecurity for your co-op or utility is a something that matters to anyone who’s on a power line.”

Reed Karaim writes on consumer and cooperative affairs 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.

Teach your children well about electrical safety

Electricity is a dynamic power source. We live our lives surrounded by it, but sometimes we forget just how dangerous electricity can be. Many home electrical fires, injuries and electrocutions can be prevented when we understand and practice electrical safety. This is especially true for our youngest co-op members.

Throughout the year, not just in May during National Electrical Safety Month, Tennessee’s electric cooperatives offer many value-added benefits to help teach youngsters about electricity. But as your child’s first and most important teacher, perhaps it’s time to have a talk with your sons and daughters to reinforce those lessons.

Start at an early age, teaching them about the physical dangers associated with electrical components and how to handle electrical plugs, outlets, switches and other devices. Keep in mind, talking to your children about electrical safety should also include fun activities and facts about the basics—what is electricity, the need to respect its power and how to use it efficiently as they study, work and play.

As we all know, kids will be kids. Getting them to show interest in some of these lessons won’t be easy. Just remember that what your children learn from you today can be a lifesaver later when they encounter potential hazards like downed power lines in their path, play hide-and-seek behind those big metal electrical boxes in the neighborhood or are tempted to clamber up a utility pole.

Gather your youngsters around the kitchen table or on the front porch—some of the best teachable moments about electrical safety can happen in and around your home. Look around. There are plenty of opportunities to demonstrate safety that are as close as the electrical outlet on your living room wall. For example, show young children how plugs work, and let them know that even if they are curious about the slits of an electrical outlet, nothing else should be placed inside. Each year about 2,400 children end up in the emergency room after suffering injuries caused by inserting objects—paper clips, pens, screws, nails, forks, hair pins, coins and more—into electrical receptacles. That’s about seven children a day who sustain injuries ranging from electric shock to burns.

But this isn’t the only electrical mishap that impacts youngsters. Our reliance on electronics and gadgets have left both youngsters and their parents at risk when they overcrowd electrical outlets, continue to use frayed wires, place devices near liquids or leave electronics on for long periods of time. Some of the same guidelines co-ops offer to protect adults also help protect children. We should all set good examples for our youngsters.

Supplement your lessons at home with resources galore; including those provided by your local electric co-op. The Electrical Safety Foundational International (www.esfi.org) is among the many national organizations offering free kits, videos and interactive online tools that make learning and practicing electrical safety fun for you and your children. And as they grow older, remember to keep teaching them about the power of electricity and how to use it safely.

Grain bins: harvesting safely

As rewarding as it may be, farming is an extremely difficult job—and it ranks among the top 10 most dangerous professions in the United States. For Tennessee’s electric cooperatives, safety is top priority for all—our employees and our members.

Our farmers work hard to get the job done, and sometimes it’s easy to forget all the necessary steps to take when practicing safe operations. Grain bins are siloed spaces built for storing grain and fermented feed known as silage. These bins play an integral role in the efficiency and profitability of farm and ranch operations, and safety regulations should always be considered when working around these structures.

Whether you’re purchasing new grain bins or remodeling areas that contain existing ones, proximity to overhead power lines must be a considered factor.

2014_07_DS_Safety_Grain-Bin-SafetySafe clearance

The National Electrical Safety Code requires an 18-foot minimum vertical clearance from the highest point of the filling port of the grain bin to nearby high-voltage wires and a 55-foot minimum distance from the power line to the grain bin wall. See the chart for further guidelines. Changes to landscaping and drainage work can affect clearance heights of power lines, so remember to check these measurements regularly.

Filling grain bins

High-voltage power lines are not insulated, so it’s important to remember to maintain an adequate high-wire clearance when using a portable auger, conveyor or elevator to fill your grain bin.

Moving equipment near grain bins

When moving equipment, such as a hopper or a scaffold, be aware of nearby power lines. Remember to maintain a 10-foot clearance to ensure safety.
Accidents can happen in a split-second, which is why Tennessee’s electric cooperatives remind you to always use caution when working near power lines. If you are considering a plan for a new grain bin or reconstruction of an existing bin’s site, please contact your local cooperative and let them assist you in maintaining a safe environment for you and your family.

Abby Berry writes on consumer and cooperative affairs 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.

Image from Superior Grain Storage.