State of the State address highlights role co-ops play in rural broadband

NASHVILLE – Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives listened to the Governor’s State of the State address on Monday, Jan. 30, with interest as he outlined the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act. 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 that 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. “This proposal would create new opportunities for education, healthcare and commerce in our communities. We look forward to working with the Governor and the General Assembly to increase connectivity across rural and suburban Tennessee.”

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.

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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Photo via Gov. Haslam Flickr

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

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.

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.

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.

TECA celebrates 75th anniversary at annual meeting in Nashville

Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association celebrates 75th anniversary at annual meeting in Nashville

NASHVILLE – “Unified” was the theme of the 75th annual meeting of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, held Sunday, Nov. 20, through Tuesday, Nov. 22, in Nashville. More than 350 electric cooperative leaders from across the state attended the event, and were reminded that they best serve consumer-owners when co-ops work together for a common purpose.

“Anniversaries present the unique opportunity to examine our past,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “The leaders who formed our co-ops and this association were visionaries, and their accomplishments merit our gratitude and celebration. TECA is using this occasion as an opportunity to refine our focus and prepare the association to meet the challenges of the next 75 years through the leadership, advocacy and support we provide.”

The first Dr. K. T. Hutchinson award was presented to Sen. Ken Yager in honor of his courageous support of electric cooperatives and rural Tennessee. Dr. Hutchinson was instrumental in the formation of electric co-ops in Tennessee in the 1940s and served as the first president of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.

“Tennessee’s electric cooperatives have no better friend than Sen. Yager,” says Mike Knotts, vice president of government affairs for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “He is an enthusiastic supporter of rural Tennessee.”

During the meeting, elections were held for positions on the association’s board of trustees. Michael Watson, general manager of Duck River Electric Membership Corporation in Shelbyville; Larry Storie, a director for Volunteer Energy Cooperative in Decatur; and Steve Sanders, a director for Gibson Electric Membership Corporation in Trenton, were elected to four-year terms.

“Congratulations to those honored with leadership positions,” says Callis. “Their talents and ideas will be valuable as we continue our mission to serve Tennessee’s electric cooperatives and their members.”

The second annual TECA Top Tenn Communications Awards were presented during the event. Duck River Electric Membership Corporation received an award for Best External Newsletter or Magazine Section; Appalachian Electric Cooperative, Best Internal Newsletter; Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation, Best Website; and Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative, Best Use of Social Media. Gibson Electric Membership Corporation and Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation each received Awards of Excellence in the Wild Card category, with Duck River Electric Membership Corporation, Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative and Appalachian Electric Cooperative earning Wild Card Awards of Merit.

“It is important for electric cooperative consumer-owners to be educated and informed,” says Robin Conover, TECA’s vice president of communications and editor of The Tennessee Magazine. “We honor these winners for telling the electric cooperative story in a professional way across multiple platforms.”

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.

Tennessee crews to assist with Matthew restoration

Volunteer lineworkers from eight electric cooperatives to participate in restoration effort following massive hurricane

NASHVILLE – More than 80 electric cooperative lineworkers from Tennessee are heading to South Carolina and Florida to restore power to those affected by Hurricane Matthew.

“Eight electric cooperatives in Tennessee are sending personnel and equipment to Florida and South Carolina to assist electric cooperatives impacted by this massive storm,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “We are proud of these volunteers who are leaving their families to help others in need. This will be hard, dangerous work in difficult conditions.”

Electric cooperative organizations across the Southeast began developing response plans earlier this week, and details have been adjusted as the exact path of the storm and the extent of the damage became more certain. This cooperation is enabled through mutual-aid agreements among electric cooperatives.

Crews will be assisting Berkley Electric Cooperative near Charleston, South Carolina, and Clay Electric Cooperative in Keystone Heights, Florida.

“One day, we will need help,” says Callis, “and when that tornado or ice storm arrives, we know that this assistance will be repaid. Cooperation is one of the founding principles of electric cooperatives. It is what makes us different from other utilities.”

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.

 

Assisting Clay Electric Cooperative in Keystone Heights, Florida:

  • 11 lineworkers from Appalachian Electric Cooperative, New Market
  • 12 lineworkers from Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation, Clarksville
  • eight lineworkers from Duck River Electric Membership Corporation, Shelbyville
  • eight lineworkers from Fayetteville Public Utilities, Fayetteville
  • 12 lineworkers from Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation, Murfreesboro
  • 15 lineworkers from Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation, Carthage

 

Assisting Berkley Electric Cooperative near Charleston, South Carolina:

  • 10 lineworkers from Plateau Electric Cooperative, Onieda
  • 11 lineworkers from Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative, South Pittsburg

 

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives celebrate National Co-op Month

Being part of a cooperative means being part of something special. Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are celebrating National Cooperative Month in October, along with 40,000 other cooperative businesses serving more than 120 million people nationwide.

“Cooperatives Build” is the theme of this year’s National Cooperative Month. “There are so many ways that cooperatives help to build a stronger rural America,” says Trent Scott, vice president of corporate strategy for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Tennessee’s electric co-ops have a significant impact on the communities we serve in ways that go far beyond the delivery of energy.”

Consider these ways that co-ops build:

Cooperatives Build Trust

Most co-ops strive to adhere to seven key cooperative principles, which combine to help build trust between the co-op, its members and the community. For example, the first principle is Voluntary and Open Membership, which means that we are a voluntary organization open to all people to use our services and willing to accept the responsibility of membership. The second principle, Democratic Member Control, gives members a voice in the cooperative’s policies and decisions. Through the fifth principle, Education, Training and Information, co-ops enable members to contribute to the development of our cooperative.

Cooperatives Build Community

The seventh cooperative principle is Concern for Community. Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through employee involvement in local organizations, through charitable contributions to community efforts and through support for schools.

Cooperatives Build Jobs

Cooperatives generate jobs in their communities, keep profits local and pay local taxes to help support community services. Cooperatives often take part in community improvement programs, ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to benefit from the cooperative experience. Tennessee co-ops employee more than 2,600 employees across the state, creating many technical and professional career opportunities otherwise unavailable in rural communities.

For more information, visit www.coopmonth.coop.

Why we celebrate cooperatives

By Adam Schwartz

Every October, cooperatives from all sectors across the country celebrate National Cooperative Month. The purpose of this annual celebration is to recognize the cooperative difference and remind co-op members of the purpose and impact of the nation’s electric co-ops.

I must admit that occasionally, I too have been somewhat cynical of the many different “days” and “months” that are celebrated, but National Cooperative Month is truly an opportunity to celebrate.

Celebrating National Cooperative Month informs others about our unique business model, which is based on the Seven Cooperative Principles: Voluntary and Open Membership; Democratic Member Control; Members’ Economic Participation; Autonomy and Independence; Education, Training and Information; Cooperation Among Cooperatives; and Concern for Community.

For co-op employees and members that are familiar with the principles, the month of October is a great opportunity to renew our connection to each other and the purpose of our co-op. In the U.S., there are more than 29,000 co-ops serving in every single industry. Many co-ops from different sectors join together during the month of October to educate members in the community about cooperatives.

There are more co-ops in our local community than most people realize. Ace Hardware, True Value, Do It Best Hardware and credit unions are all co-ops. Co-ops are even represented on the shelves at our local grocery stores, such as Land O’Lakes, Welch’s, Organic Valley, Cabot Cheese, Sunkist, Ocean Spray and more.

According to the latest data, more than 130 million people belong to a co-op in the U.S. alone, and co-ops employ more than 2 million Americans.

This speaks to the heart of why we must take every opportunity to celebrate and teach others about the cooperative business model. So, plan your own co-op celebration by purchasing co-op products, look to do business with co-ops right here in our local community and be an active member of your local electric co-op.

From the front lines to power lines

Electric co-ops care about veterans

By Anne Prince

Electric co-ops have long had a special affinity for veterans. Perhaps because they are both so closely aligned in outlook, focusing on service, mission and country. Maybe it’s because a disproportionate number of veterans come from rural communities and return to their hometowns following active duty. Or, maybe it’s due to the shared work ethic of teamwork, cooperation and a “get it done” attitude. Most likely, it is all of the above.

Network of caring

Tennessee’s 24 electric co-ops are among the more than 900 electric co-ops across the country to support and honor our nation’s veterans of all generations. We are grateful to have veterans within our ranks, and we are proud to serve veterans and their families within our local community. In addition to providing safe, reliable and affordable electricity, we care for the veteran community in a variety of ways.

We are not alone in our efforts to honor and serve veterans. As part of our national network of electric cooperatives, spanning 47 states and covering 75 percent of the nation’s landmass, there are countless programs that our family of co-ops has initiated. At the national level, we support the “Serve our Co-ops; Serve Our Country” program, a nationwide initiative aimed at employing and honoring veterans, military service members and their spouses. This program came with a great vision of forming a national coalition with the shared goal of hiring veterans into co-op jobs across rural and suburban America and setting them up for success in their local communities.

As part of a co-op veteran outreach effort, America’s electric cooperatives are working closely with federal partners, including the Department of Energy, Department of Labor, Department of Defense, Veterans Administration, labor unions and other trade associations on an industry-wide veteran hiring initiative, The Utility Workforce Initiative. Together, these groups are establishing a national employee resource group, Veterans in Energy, which will launch later this year to provide transition, retention and professional development support to military veterans working in the energy industry.

Many programs, one purpose

At the local level, electric co-ops across America have created their own programs tailored to the unique needs of their community. One of our neighbors to the north, Pennyrile Electric Cooperative in Kentucky printed more than 10,000 “thank you” cards that members signed and were later delivered to troops on active duty in nearby Ft. Campbell.

Many electric co-ops sponsor “Honor Flights,” enabling veterans from the Korean conflict and WWII to visit war memorials in Washington, D.C. at no charge. In the small town of Fort Dodge, Kansas, Victory Electric Cooperative partnered with the local VFW to create the “Vittles for Vets” program aimed at stocking the food pantry at the Fort Dodge Soldiers Home. Many of the veterans living there and in surrounding communities are on limited incomes, and the food pantry helps the veterans meet basic needs.

Other co-ops forge strong partnerships with the military bases in their service territories. In Wyoming and North Dakota, co-op leaders and staff serve on military-civilian boards and committees that support activities initiated by their respective bases.

While the activities may differ, a commitment to supporting and caring for veterans is apparent at every electric co-op across this great nation. Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are proud to be a part of the cooperative network that honors and supports veterans of all ages, ranks and branches of the military.