The Top Tenn

The first annual TECA Top Tenn Communication Awards were presented during the 2015 TECA Annual Meeting. 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. Duck River Electric Membership Corporation, Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative and Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative each received awards in the Wild Card category, with Chickasaw Electric Cooperative and Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative also earning Honorable Mentions.

“Effective communication is a powerful tool for modern electric cooperatives,” 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.”

Best External Newsletter or Magazine Section

Duck River Electric Membership Corporation
Monthly sections in The Tennessee Magazine

“Content in these sections is varied enough that any reader can find articles of interest,”the judge claimed in describing the writing as “excellent” and praising General Manager Michael Watson’s monthly columns: “Whether he’s telling Duck River Electric Membership Corporation members about the prospects of their co-op merging with a neighboring system, getting them fired up about a monstrous tractor pull, or detailing the challenges of dealing with two huge ice storms in the same week, General Manager Michael Watson knows how to put things in perspective for members. His messages to the membership are simple, friendly, and to the point.”

Best Internal Newsletter

Appalachian Electric Cooperative
The Hotline employee newsletter

Our judge noted the heavy emphasis on co-op news, one particular article he noted as “masterfully done.” “Diversity of content in this newsletter should attract an array of readers,” he said citing “light, friendly offerings” and writing that’s “outstanding — clever, crisp, creative.”

Best Website

Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation

Our judge noted, “Articles are timely, up-to-date, and easy to read in proper journalistic style;” “Menus are easy to find and comprehend;” “The home page, especially, is clean, well-organized, and easy to distinguish what is most important and most relevant;” and “Articles are timely and updated.”

Best Use of Social Media

Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative

In analyzing Sequachee Valley EC’s social media posts, our judge said, “SVEC is getting incredible engagement on their posts as measured in retweets, shares, likes, and comments,” interaction the judge called “refreshing.” As for writing quality, it was noted as “appropriately varied according to the type of post: informative when there’s a power outage, lively when there is some interaction required, reverent when there is something serious or inspirational to say.”

Wild Cards

Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative
“Celebrating 75 Years of Light” campaign: Video, “A Place at the Table” cookbook, 75th anniversary quilt

We bundled together for consideration three related entries. “A Place at the Table — Celebrating 75 Years of Light” is a cookbook our judge called “a masterful, meaningful project dedicated to member-owners of Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative.” The cooperative’s annual meeting video, also titled “Celebrating 75 Years of Light,” is, our judge said, “A wonderful 12-minute video for which Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative staffers created the script and story board was perhaps the crown jewel in the organization’s celebration of its Diamond Anniversary — the 75th — in 2014.” And he called MLEC’s 75th Birthday Quilt “a great job all around!” “After being unveiled at MLEC’s 2014 Membership Meetings, the masterpiece made its way to each of the counties the cooperative serves. Those gatherings attracted some 1,200 members! That the quilt project was a modern-day version of quilting bees of the past made it even more appropriate for a 75th anniversary observance.”

Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative
“Energizing Our Communities for 75 Years” campaign: Cookbook and 75th anniversary commemorative book

This is another bundled set of submissions. “Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative Celebrates 75 Years,” our judge wrote, “is compact enough that it doesn’t take up much space on a shelf or in a drawer, and its type is easy to read. It should be a treasured keepsake for many members.” He also added extra praise for the book’s details: “What impressed me about (the cover) picture was that each of the 50 people shown was identified! An editor after my own heart!” Meanwhile, commemorative publication “Energizing Our Communities for 75 Years” is praised as “a marvelous 65-page book chronicling the 75-year history of Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative. A masterpiece chunk full of facts, features, and touching testimonials from some of the pioneers who helped bring electricity to the scenic Sequatchie Valley, this volume is a true keepsake for SVEC employees and members.”

Duck River Electric Membership Corporation
“Co-op Connections Business Directory”

“Somebody has put a lot of work into compiling and maintaining this comprehensive directory of local businesses that offer discounts and specials to participating Duck River Electric Membership Corporation members,” our judge commented. “All in all, Coop Connections is quite an undertaking, and the top-quality directory compiled and maintained by DREMC obviously plays a major part in its success.”

Honorable mentions

Chickasaw Electric Cooperative
“Third Annual Deck the Halls at Chickasaw”

“What a clever and creative Christmas promotion!” praised our judge, showing that a large budget isn’t necessary for strong communications initiatives, including those aimed at employee engagement. “I’m sure it’s something Chickasaw employees look forward to every year, and from the photos submitted with the entry, it’s evident that lots of creativity and effort go into the joyful project. Visitors are bound to be impressed – and inspired! Based on the photos, my favorite is the tree on which the Christmas-red “‘Caution: buried electric line below”’ tape and other electric utility trinkets are used as
decorations.”

Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative
“45 Years of WYT”

“Though I wish this video had narration, I understand why that wasn’t feasible,” begins the judge. “The producer did the next best thing, though, by providing text that tells who’s who, which year is which, and something about what’s going on. It’s a long video at just over 24 minutes, but considering the time span it covers and the number of young people it features, it’s worth every minute! I can’t imagine how long it took to gather all the information on Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative’s Youth Tour delegates, round up photos, and then write copy for this project.”

The Top Tenn

The first annual TECA Top Tenn Communication Awards were presented during the 2015 TECA Annual Meeting. 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. Duck River Electric Membership Corporation, Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative and Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative each received awards in the Wild Card category, with Chickasaw Electric Cooperative and Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative also earning Honorable Mentions.

“Effective communication is a powerful tool for modern electric cooperatives,” 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.”

Best External Newsletter or Magazine Section

Duck River Electric Membership Corporation
Monthly sections in The Tennessee Magazine

“Content in these sections is varied enough that any reader can find articles of interest,”the judge claimed in describing the writing as “excellent” and praising General Manager Michael Watson’s monthly columns: “Whether he’s telling Duck River Electric Membership Corporation members about the prospects of their co-op merging with a neighboring system, getting them fired up about a monstrous tractor pull, or detailing the challenges of dealing with two huge ice storms in the same week, General Manager Michael Watson knows how to put things in perspective for members. His messages to the membership are simple, friendly, and to the point.”

Best Internal Newsletter

Appalachian Electric Cooperative
The Hotline employee newsletter

Our judge noted the heavy emphasis on co-op news, one particular article he noted as “masterfully done.” “Diversity of content in this newsletter should attract an array of readers,” he said citing “light, friendly offerings” and writing that’s “outstanding — clever, crisp, creative.”

Best Website

Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation

Our judge noted, “Articles are timely, up-to-date, and easy to read in proper journalistic style;” “Menus are easy to find and comprehend;” “The home page, especially, is clean, well-organized, and easy to distinguish what is most important and most relevant;” and “Articles are timely and updated.”

Best Use of Social Media

Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative

In analyzing Sequachee Valley EC’s social media posts, our judge said, “SVEC is getting incredible engagement on their posts as measured in retweets, shares, likes, and comments,” interaction the judge called “refreshing.” As for writing quality, it was noted as “appropriately varied according to the type of post: informative when there’s a power outage, lively when there is some interaction required, reverent when there is something serious or inspirational to say.”

Wild Cards

Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative
“Celebrating 75 Years of Light” campaign: Video, “A Place at the Table” cookbook, 75th anniversary quilt

We bundled together for consideration three related entries. “A Place at the Table — Celebrating 75 Years of Light” is a cookbook our judge called “a masterful, meaningful project dedicated to member-owners of Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative.” The cooperative’s annual meeting video, also titled “Celebrating 75 Years of Light,” is, our judge said, “A wonderful 12-minute video for which Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative staffers created the script and story board was perhaps the crown jewel in the organization’s celebration of its Diamond Anniversary — the 75th — in 2014.” And he called MLEC’s 75th Birthday Quilt “a great job all around!” “After being unveiled at MLEC’s 2014 Membership Meetings, the masterpiece made its way to each of the counties the cooperative serves. Those gatherings attracted some 1,200 members! That the quilt project was a modern-day version of quilting bees of the past made it even more appropriate for a 75th anniversary observance.”

Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative
“Energizing Our Communities for 75 Years” campaign: Cookbook and 75th anniversary commemorative book

This is another bundled set of submissions. “Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative Celebrates 75 Years,” our judge wrote, “is compact enough that it doesn’t take up much space on a shelf or in a drawer, and its type is easy to read. It should be a treasured keepsake for many members.” He also added extra praise for the book’s details: “What impressed me about (the cover) picture was that each of the 50 people shown was identified! An editor after my own heart!” Meanwhile, commemorative publication “Energizing Our Communities for 75 Years” is praised as “a marvelous 65-page book chronicling the 75-year history of Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative. A masterpiece chunk full of facts, features, and touching testimonials from some of the pioneers who helped bring electricity to the scenic Sequatchie Valley, this volume is a true keepsake for SVEC employees and members.”

Duck River Electric Membership Corporation
“Co-op Connections Business Directory”

“Somebody has put a lot of work into compiling and maintaining this comprehensive directory of local businesses that offer discounts and specials to participating Duck River Electric Membership Corporation members,” our judge commented. “All in all, Coop Connections is quite an undertaking, and the top-quality directory compiled and maintained by DREMC obviously plays a major part in its success.”

Honorable mentions

Chickasaw Electric Cooperative
“Third Annual Deck the Halls at Chickasaw”

“What a clever and creative Christmas promotion!” praised our judge, showing that a large budget isn’t necessary for strong communications initiatives, including those aimed at employee engagement. “I’m sure it’s something Chickasaw employees look forward to every year, and from the photos submitted with the entry, it’s evident that lots of creativity and effort go into the joyful project. Visitors are bound to be impressed – and inspired! Based on the photos, my favorite is the tree on which the Christmas-red “‘Caution: buried electric line below”’ tape and other electric utility trinkets are used as
decorations.”

Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative
“45 Years of WYT”

“Though I wish this video had narration, I understand why that wasn’t feasible,” begins the judge. “The producer did the next best thing, though, by providing text that tells who’s who, which year is which, and something about what’s going on. It’s a long video at just over 24 minutes, but considering the time span it covers and the number of young people it features, it’s worth every minute! I can’t imagine how long it took to gather all the information on Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative’s Youth Tour delegates, round up photos, and then write copy for this project.”

Small Towns, Big Ideas

NASHVILLE – “Small Towns, Big Ideas” was the theme of the 74th annual meeting of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, held Sunday, Nov. 22, through Tuesday, Nov. 24, in Nashville. More than 350 electric cooperative leaders from across the state attending the event were encouraged to be advocates for the communities they serve.

“Whether it be broadband expansion, political affairs or economic development, co-ops have unique opportunities to foster development in our service areas,” says David Callis, TECA executive vice president and general manager. “Concern for community is one of our guiding principles. The focus of this event – and the coming year – is to explore the real ways co-ops can demonstrate our commitment to rural and suburban Tennessee.”

During the meeting, elections were held for positions on the association’s board of trustees. Jeff Newman, general manager of Forked Deer Electric Cooperative in Halls; Dan Smith, a director from Middle Tennessee Electric Cooperative in Murfreesboro; and Jarrod Brackett, manager of Fort Loudoun Electric Cooperative in Madisonville, were elected to four-year terms.

Jim Coode, general manager of Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation in Clarksville, was named president of the board of trustees. John Collins, general manager of Chickasaw Electric Cooperative in Somerville, was named vice president; and Johnnie Ruth Elrod, a director with Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative in Centerville, was named secretary-treasurer.

Delegates also elected Tom Purkey, a director with Middle Tennessee Electric, to represent Tennessee on the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association board.

“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 first annual TECA Top Tenn Communication 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. Duck River Electric Membership Corporation, Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative and Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative each received awards in the Wild Card category, with Chickasaw Electric Cooperative and Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative also earning Honorable Mentions.

“Effective communication is a powerful tool for modern electric cooperatives,” 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 represents Tennessee’s 24 electric cooperatives and the 2.1 million members they serve across rural and suburban Tennessee.

For more information
Trent Scott, Director of Corporate Strategy
Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association
615.515.5534 | tscott@tnelectric.org

 

There is a Cooperative Difference

While all electric utilities offer the same product, where it comes from makes a difference.

In the U.S., the vast majority of people receive their electricity from one of three types of utilities; investor-owned, municipal-owned or through their electric cooperative, which is owned and controlled by the people who use it. Let’s take a closer look at these three types of ownership models and see why it matters to you.

In the investor-owned model, the corporation is owned by a great number of stockholders who may or may not be real customers of the utility. Investor-owned utilities tend to be very large corporations such as Entergy, Con Edison or Excel. They serve large cities, suburban areas and some rural areas, too.

In most cases, investor-owned utilities (IOUs) have few employees in the communities where they operate. This, combined with the fact that they have outside investors whose sole motive is to make a profit on their investment, generally tends to lead to less personalized service. Consumer surveys confirm that IOUs have the lowest customer satisfaction ratings. About 72 percent of the U.S. population is served by investor-owned utilities.

Municipal electric systems, as the name implies, are government owned. They can serve large cities, like Los Angeles, Austin or Orlando, or smaller areas, like Jackson, Knoxville or Chattanooga.  In municipal systems, the city runs the utility with little to no meaningful oversight from the citizens. About 16 percent of the market is served by municipal utilities.

Rural electric cooperatives serve the smallest number of consumers, about 12 percent of the market, which equals 42 million people. There are more than 800 other electric co-ops in 47 states in addition to the 23 in Tennessee. While co-ops serve the fewest number of people, our electric lines cover more than 75 percent of the U.S. landmass. This is because we provide power where others once refused to go because of the low population density. Electric co-ops rank highest in member satisfaction among the three types of utilities. We believe this is because we serve member-owners, not customers.

As the electric utility business continues to evolve, we are committed to being there for you, our member, to provide for your electric energy needs. Unlike large investor-owned utilities, we are rooted right here in Tennessee. Over the years, we have answered the call to provide additional benefits and services because it is extremely important to us that our community thrives and prospers.  This is why Tennessee co-ops are active in economic development and energy efficiency and help to prepare young leaders for the challenges of tomorrow.

There is a cooperative difference. You own us, and we are here to serve you.

Adam Schwartz is the founder of The Cooperative Way a consulting firm that helps co-ops succeed.  He is an author, speaker and member-owner of the CDS Consulting Co-op.  You can follow him on Twitter @adamcooperative or email him at aschwartz@thecooperativeway.coop

Why electric co-ops replace utility poles

You probably don’t pay much attention to the utility poles in your neighborhood, but did you know these tall structures are the backbone of Tennessee’s distribution network?

Strong, sturdy utility poles ensure a reliable electric system, which is why co-ops routinely inspect the thousands of poles found on our lines. Throughout the year, crews check poles for decay caused by exposure to the elements. They know which poles are oldest and conduct inspections through a rotational process. Typically, a standard wooden distribution pole is expected to last more than 50 years.

Occasionally, poles need to be replaced for other reasons besides decay and old age. Weather disasters, power line relocation and car crashes are potential causes for immediate replacement. When possible, co-ops communicate when and where pole replacements will take place so that you stay informed of where crews will be working.

Here is a quick breakdown of how crews replace a utility pole:

When a pole needs to be replaced, crews will start the process by digging a hole, typically next to the pole being replaced. The depth of the hole must be 15 percent of the new pole’s height. Next, the new pole must be fitted with bolts, cross arms, insulators, ground wires and arm braces – all of the necessary parts for delivering safe and reliable electricity. Then, crews safely detach the power lines from the old pole. The new pole is then raised and guided carefully into position, and the lines are attached, leaving the new pole to do its job.

So, the next time you come across a co-op crew replacing a pole, use caution and know that this process ensures a more reliable electric system for you, our members.

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.

Three keys to understanding the EPA plan on climate change

The U.S. is in the process of taking a giant step in the noisy process of changing how we generate and use electricity now that the Environmental Protection Agency has released the final version of its Clean Power Plan.

That contentious process will continue for years, or even decades, as advocates warn of nothing less than destruction of the economy on the one side and the destruction of the planet on the other.

This current energy focus is the result of President Obama’s August 3 announcement of what he called, “A plan two years in the making, and the single most important step America has ever taken in the fight against global climate change.”

Two days after that announcement, 16 states asked the EPA to put a hold on the plan, calling it illegal and saying it would raise utility bills.

The plan would reduce the burning of coal to produce electricity, which now generates more than one-third of our electric power, and increase the use of renewable energy sources like solar and wind. The huge effects of those changes, and the complex and controversial ways they would happen, guarantee that the Clean Power Plan will be setting the nation’s energy discussion for the foreseeable future.

Here are the key things to know about the EPA Clean Power Plan:

Over the next 15 years, the plan would change the U.S. energy economy

The Clean Power Plan targets the 1,000 fossil fuel-burning electric power plants in the U.S., aiming to cut carbon dioxide emissions by one-third.

The Plan also sets out a way for that to happen. It calls for states to work with the power industry and submit a carbon dioxide emission reduction plan to the federal government by September, 2016. A two-year extension can be requested. Reductions would begin in 2022 and would be completed by 2030.

To replace fossil fuels, the Clean Power Plan encourages renewable energy.

Opposition could delay the plan

The 16-state request for a delay actually seeks to kill the Clean Power Plan. The request, in the form of an August 5 letter to the EPA, says that the agency should hold off on implementing the plan because of the states’ intention to sue the EPA.

The planned lawsuit would claim that the law the EPA is using as a basis for the Clean Power Plan, the Clean Air Act, does not allow the EPA to require states to make such large-scale changes to their energy economies.

The EPA says the Clean Power Plan has been carefully written to comply with the law. The August 5 letter cites other objections to the Clean Power Plan, including that it would “coerce states to expend enormous public resources and to … prepare State Plans of unprecedented scope and complexity. In addition, the State’s citizens will be forced to pay higher energy bills as power plants shut down.”

Additional lawsuits are expected from other opponents.

There is also strong political opposition. Elected officials in Congress as well as state governments have called on states to refuse to submit carbon reduction plans.

Electric co-ops say plan would raise electric bills, hurt rural economy

Electric co-ops cite special concerns about the effects of the Clean Power Plan because of their higher share of low-income members and often already-fragile rural economies.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association warned of the expected increase in electric bills as a result of power-plant closures.

“Any increase in the cost of electricity most dramatically impact those who can least afford it,” said NRECA. “The fallout from EPA’s rule will cascade across the nation for years to come.”

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

Why co-ops plan outages

Have you ever received a notification from the folks here at your local electric cooperative informing you of a “planned outage?” You may have wondered, “what is a planned outage?” and “why does my electric utility need to perform one?” Occasionally, the equipment we use to bring power to your home needs to be replaced, repaired or updated. When this happens, as a way to keep our crews and you safe, we plan an interruption to electric service.

We do our best to plan these outages during times when you will be least inconvenienced, so we often perform planned outages during school and business hours. We also try to avoid planning these outages during winter or summer months. We understand these are peak times of the year when you depend on running your heating and cooling units the most.

While they may sound slightly inconvenient, planned outages are actually beneficial to you, our members. Regular system upgrades are necessary for optimal performance, and they increase reliability. Repairing and upgrading our equipment is also critical to maintaining public safety. If older lines need to be replaced, we plan for it, repair or replace it, and that keeps everyone safe.

Planned outages also allow us to keep you informed of when and how long you will be without power. We can notify you long before an outage, so you can be prepared. We also keep you aware of when line crews will be working in your area.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives want to make sure we are doing everything we can to keep you safe and to keep our systems running smoothly. So, the next time you hear about a planned outage, know that it is one of the best ways we can provide you with quality electric service.

Meghaan Evans 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.

Appalachian EC announces community solar project

Appalachian Electric Cooperative is proud to be leading the effort to help folks take advantage of the benefits of solar power and join with others who are supporters of clean, renewable energy.

Community-based solar power is an idea whose time has come, according to AEC General Manager Greg Williams: “It’s all about leveraging the economies of scale to improve affordability. Our ‘Co-op Community Solar’ program will make it possible for our residential and commercial members to reap all the benefits of solar generation—including both cost-effectiveness and environmental sustainability—without having to hassle with the challenges involved with installing photovoltaic panels and the ongoing maintenance costs required to keep them performing at maximum capacity. It’s also a powerful feeling to be a part of something with positive environmental impacts that extend much farther than those of any single individual.”

Construction work will begin this fall on a 1.373-megawatt community solar facility to be located on a seven-acre site adjacent to AEC’s New Market Substation, just off of Highway 11E. It will feature a total of 9,468 photovoltaic panels, each of which will be rated at 145 watts. The project is scheduled for completion in late 2016 and the facility is expected to generate 1,804,000 kilowatt-hours in the first year of operation. Based on average residential kWh use by members throughout AEC’s service area, Co-op Community Solar will produce enough clean, renewable energy to supply all the power needs of approximately 115 homes for an entire year.

The new initiative is made possible in part through a grant provided by the Tennessee Valley Authority, and is one of only two pilot programs to receive this funding in the entire Valley region. The Cooperative will be relying on Knoxville-based contractor ARiES Energy for project construction and will turn to the National Renewable Cooperative Organization to assist with project management.

Project costs will be fully funded through revenue generated via a purchased power agreement with TVA. There will be no impact to AEC’s retail rates as a result of Co-op Community Solar.

“This is one of those concepts that just makes so much sense on many different levels,” says Williams. “By coming together as a community of co-op members to support solar generation, cost per watt will be less than for an individual installation and energy output is maximized. Plus, the benefits of community solar are available to those who rent or homeowners whose properties are shaded or whose roofs are not well-suited for the installation of solar panels. Here at the co-op, we are really eager to bring this resource to these folks.”

During the first quarter of 2016, AEC will begin rolling out a marketing plan that will address participation costs and other specifics of how members will be able to take advantage of Co-op Community Solar. At that time, details will be provided so that interested members learn what’s involved in subscribing and how they can benefit.

TVA’s Renewable Energy Solutions Senior Manager Neil Placer said his team will be working with AEC to structure Co-op Community Solar in such a way as to engage AEC members: “Our goal is to support the kind of innovative approach to community solar generation that gives local people multiple ways to participate.”

An additional goal for the program—and it’s a very important one, according to Williams—is member education. “An area at the site will be dedicated to helping folks understand how solar power works and why renewable energy in general is such an important future generating source,” he says. “We’ll be partnering with local schools to develop a space that can be used to help educate the next generation of co-op members.”

Williams notes the significance of announcing the initiative at the co-op’s 75th annual meeting: “A milestone anniversary is naturally a time when you stop to reflect on the accomplishments of the past, and we certainly enjoyed celebrating AEC’s rich heritage. But there was something very special about being able to share this exciting news with our members. They’ve turned to us for safe, affordable, reliable electric power for three-quarters of a century. As we head toward the 100-year-mark, we’re fully committed to finding new ways to continue to add value to their lives.”

America rediscovers the cooperative difference

Your alarm goes off and you get out of bed. You go outside and grab the morning paper. You sit down at the kitchen table to read your paper while enjoying a glass of juice and some toast. After breakfast you head down to the local hardware store to pick up supplies to tackle your weekend to-do list.

For many Americans, that simple morning routine would bring them in contact with at least five different cooperatives.

That alarm could be powered by electricity from one of Tennessee’s 23 electric co-ops. The paper is likely filled with stories from the Associated Press. The juice might be Sunkist, Ocean Spray or Florida’s Natural. The butter on your toast could have been processed by one of several dairy co-ops, including Dairy Farmers of America or Land-O-Lakes. If the local hardware store is a True Value, Ace or Do-It-Best, then it’s part of a co-op, too.

If you’ve been a co-op member for long, you’ve probably heard these examples before. What you might not realize is that this time-tested business model has been rediscovered by a new generation of Americans who appreciate doing business with locally based organizations that put people ahead of profits.

Co-ops are experiencing a surge in popularity. Today, it is estimated that one in three Americans is a member of at least one cooperative. America’s electric cooperative network now serves 42 million Americans. In 2014, America’s credit unions surpassed 100 million members.

In addition to the growth of true cooperative organizations, there has been a surge in the popularity of other funding and business models that feature many of the same traits as cooperatives.

Websites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe allow large groups of people to pool small contributions to achieve a larger goal. Though groups raising money through these sites aren’t cooperatives, it’s clear that an increasing number of people are seeing the value of working together and pooling resources to improve their communities.

The benefits of being a member of your electric co-op go far beyond the warm fuzzy feeling we get from supporting a local business and keeping our dollars in our communities.

As a not-for-profit cooperative, our sole mission is to ensure you have safe, reliable and affordable electricity when you need it. We aren’t in business to make a profit, we aren’t trying to get elected to public office and we don’t have a hidden agenda. Our job is to look out for you and your fellow co-op members.

That’s important to keep in mind in as we go through an unprecedented period of transition in the energy industry.

The coming years are likely to bring many changes to the way our nation generates, delivers, stores, consumes and regulates energy.

When an industry goes through a change of this magnitude, there will be many interest groups vying to influence policy and advance their agendas. As that process unfolds, there will only be one group that’s truly acting as the voice of energy consumers, and that’s America’s electric cooperatives.

We don’t know exactly what the future holds, but you can rest assured knowing that your electric co-op – and more than 900 other not-for-profit electric cooperatives across the U.S. – will be working hard to ensure your voice is part of the conversation. And that’s the cooperative difference.

Tennessee's electric cooperatives celebrate National Co-op Month

October is National Cooperative Month, and Tennessee’s electric cooperatives – and all co-ops across the U.S. – are celebrating the benefits and values that cooperatives bring to their members and communities.

While co-ops operate in many industries and sectors of the economy, seven cooperative principles set us apart from other businesses: voluntary and open membership; democratic member control; member’s economic participation; autonomy and independence; education, training and information; cooperation among cooperatives; and concern for community.

“Today, people prefer options and alternatives to ‘big box’ businesses,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “The co-op business model is unique and rooted in our local communities. Co-ops help us build a more participatory, sustainable, and resilient economy.”

America’s cooperative network includes more than 47,000 cooperative businesses, including 23 electric cooperatives here in Tennessee. Electric co-ops provide power for many more than 1.2 million homes, farms and businesses across rural and suburban Tennessee. Nationally, electric cooperatives serve 42 million people in 47 states.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam recently signed a proclamation naming October Cooperative Month. The proclamation reads in part, “Tennesseans are currently served by some 200 cooperatives through 6,000 employees working together to impact our state’s economy by more than $1 billion, supporting schools and local infrastructure through tax contributions, enhancing our commitment to and focus on rural economies, shaping and empowering our state’s future.”

 

proclamation