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.

 

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

TECA brings young leaders to Nashville

Forty-six high school juniors from across Tennessee attended the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association’s 2014 Youth Leadership Summit March 24-26 in downtown Nashville. Two students from each of the state’s 23 electric cooperatives attended the annual event.

“The Youth Leadership Summit teaches these exceptional students how important electric cooperatives are to Tennessee’s communities and provides them an opportunity to see the legislative process in the Capitol,” said Todd Blocker, TECA director of member relations. “Local electric co-ops, school officials and guidance counselors chose these deserving students to attend the summit based on their interests in government and strong leadership abilities.”

The summit began Monday evening, March 24, with dinner at the group’s hotel, the Millennium Maxwell House. Get-acquainted activities and an introduction to cooperatives followed, led by electric co-op leaders, and the night ended with a leadership development presentation by Amy Gallimore of TRI Leadership Resources LLC.

Students rose early on Tuesday, March 25, for breakfast and preparations for a visit to Legislative Plaza. TECA Director of Government Affairs Mike Knotts introduced Sen. Mike Bell of Riceville and Rep. Cameron Sexton of Crossville, who welcomed the students to Nashville and answered their questions about legislative issues. The 11th-graders then toured the Capitol and saw state government in action at Senate and House committee meetings before posing for photos in front of the historic building.

Following the visit to Capitol Hill, the group enjoyed lunch and leadership activities at a Nashville-area YMCA camp, where the students were also treated to a hot-line trailer demonstration by Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative and Sunbelt Rentals. SVEC employees showed that electric power does a tremendous amount of work for us, but because it is such a powerful force, we must be careful around it and always exercise safety around power lines. The fun continued with dinner and games at Dave & Buster’s, and the busy day was capped off by special guest speakers Miss Tennessee Shelby Thompson and Tennessee Titans cheerleader Anne Peterson.

Wednesday morning, the students were divided into teams and formed their own co-ops and worked together to “buy” and “sell” power distribution supplies and resolve day-to-day issues local electric co-ops face like power outages and rights-of-way conflicts. Then they got an overview of the history of electric cooperatives and answered trivia questions about electric co-ops and the state in the “Energy Battle” competition.

“These students will soon be our community leaders — and electric cooperative member-owners,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “We want them to see what makes their electric cooperative special, appreciate all their co-op provides for their communities and understand why it was so important to form electric co-ops in the first place.”

TECA receives Paul Revere award

(NASHVILLE, TENN.) — The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) today awarded the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association (TECA) its Paul Revere Award. NRECA recognized the association for its ability to mobilize cooperative consumer-members on behalf of the electric cooperative industry.

Tennessee electric cooperatives faced an expensive and difficult fight with the cable industry in 2013 over the issue of pole attachments. The cable industry spent hundreds of thousands of dollars pushing legislation that would have created a $13 million subsidy paid by co-ops to the cable companies and stripped local co-op boards of control.

Cable’s attacks were countered in typical co-op style. TECA’s Government Affairs Director Mike Knotts deployed a grassroots strategy to activate advocates across the state, urging them to contact state legislators, share information on social media channels and write letters to local papers in support of more reasonable legislation. Ultimately neither party prevailed, which amounted to a win for co-ops and a setback for the cable industry.

“The power of a well-implemented grassroots campaign cannot be overstated, and TECA demonstrated that in spades. Against a well-funded opponent, they thoughtfully and effectively tackled the issue legislator by legislator,” said Jo Ann Emerson, CEO of NRECA. “TECA’s approach provides a road map for co-ops across the country on how to organize, educate and execute a plan for a victory.”

“We are honored to receive the award,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of TECA. “Protecting the pocketbooks of our members is our most important mission. We share this award with the co-op members across the state who picked up the phone, sent letters and emails, or otherwise took action to defend their co-op when it was threatened.”

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association is a trade group representing the interests of 23 electric distribution cooperatives and the 1.1 million members they serve across rural and suburban Tennessee.

More than 8,500 representatives from cooperative electric utilities across the nation are attending the NRECA Annual Meeting March 2-5, during which they will set NRECA’s legislative and organizational agenda for 2014. In addition to considering and acting upon policy resolutions, delegates receive reports from NRECA officials, hear addresses by key public figures and business experts, and attend educational forums on major issues affecting electric cooperatives and their consumer-owners.