Electric co-ops effectively respond to disasters

In the summer of 2012, the derecho that swept hurricane-force winds from the Great Plains to the Atlantic seaboard knocked out power to more than four million people. The damage caused by this devastating storm cost the nation $2.9 billion.

Disasters, whether caused by nature, accidents or hostile acts, exact an enormous cost, both in economic and human terms. Electric cooperatives have a unique and effective approach to emergency management and disaster recovery: mutual assistance. Following a disaster, co-ops will rapidly deploy support staff and equipment to emergency and recovery zones to assist sister co-ops.

Because the national network of transmission and distribution infrastructure owned by electric cooperatives has been built to federal standards, line crews from any co-op in America can arrive on the scene ready to provide emergency support, secure in their knowledge of the system’s engineering.

We work closely with other first responders, state and local government and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to ensure an effective and coordinated response in the event of an emergency.

Since cooperatives are not-for-profit organizations, we are eligible for financial assistance from FEMA, which can fund a major portion of the cost of emergency work to restore power and the cost of repairing, restoring, rebuilding or replacing damaged facilities. This system gives electric cooperatives the ability to respond effectively and quickly in times of crisis and protects the financial interests of the cooperative members as the same time.

Unfortunately, with tighter budgets, securing FEMA reimbursements after a disaster has become more difficult. Following Superstorm Sandy, Congress changed the rules: FEMA now allocates funds for rebuilding based on an estimate of costs, not on the actual cost. If the estimate is higher than the actual cost, the excess funds must be used for FEMA-approved projects. But if the estimate is low, the co-op must pay the difference.

Electric cooperatives across the country learn from disasters. We learn how to protect our systems better, and we learn how to become more resilient. When it comes to resiliency, we have a good story to tell. We serve our member-consumers in the most rugged, remote terrain in the country. And we have learned how to restore power in extremely difficult circumstances.

The power of policy impacts our members

It seems you can’t turn on a TV, listen to the radio or pick up a newspaper without hearing about ineffectiveness in government. It often seems that no matter what we do or who we vote for, we don’t feel truly represented in either our state or national governments.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives understand how that feels, and we have been there ourselves. That feeling, along with a strong desire to take action, is the reason why we have dedicated staff that works to ensure our members’ interests are represented, and heard, by elected officials.

Members of our government relations and policy teams work tirelessly to tackle complicated regulatory and policy issues. They apply these issues to the ever-changing energy market and then evaluate how those issues impact our communities. They have a deep understanding of the needs of the communities we serve, and they use that knowledge to ensure that your needs are represented in major legislative decision-making.

The ability to impact change is a huge part of being a member of an electric co-op. We don’t lobby elected officials on behalf of investors with the aim to increase profit margins. We work with elected officials to make sure that your interests are being considered to ensure that you will always be provided with safe, reliable and affordable electric service. That is the cooperative difference.

But it isn’t just our government relations team that helps us affect policy and legislative change. Your voice makes a huge difference in how quickly and effectively we can drive change. Through our grassroots advocacy programs we encourage you to bring your ideas to the table and to make your voice heard. This is how we show state and national officials that we are acting in your best interest. Your collective voice shows that we represent communities and families, not corporate interests.

The next time you are feeling frustrated, the next time you want to be heard or the next time you want to make a change in your community, call your local power company. Find out what we are doing to represent your interests, and find out how you can help affect change in our communities.

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.

FPU receives TVA’s Top Performer award

Fayetteville Public Utilities (FPU) received an award for being a Top Performer in Green Power Providers as part of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s EnergyRight Solutions for the Home program in 2013.

“The TVA Green Power Providers program has received much support from our customers and their investors who believe in providing clean, renewable energy resources for the Tennessee Valley,” says FPU’s CEO and General Manager Britt Dye. “Solar power installations in Lincoln County continue to produce renewable energy that is distributed as part of TVA’s power mix through our local power grid from which FPU customers benefit today.”

FPU’s first Green Power Providers solar system was installed in October 2010. In 2011, FPU experienced strong and steady growth in the program, adding 15 more solar projects to its distribution system for a total of 3.3 megawatts. Four of these systems were 750 kilowatts each.

The Green Power Providers program continued to grow as FPU customers installed another 13 systems at 1.8 megawatts added to the grid. Eight of these systems produce 200 kilowatts each.

In 2013, FPU added nine systems for a total of 368 kilowatts generated with a majority of these systems around 50 kilowatts each.

Today, FPU has 39 Green Power Providers solar projects operating in the service area for a total of 5.6 megawatts.

In the TVA region, FPU, with its customer participation, is the second largest producer per customer of solar energy.

Across the TVA region, the EnergyRight Solutions for the Home saw almost $60 million in homeowner investments for energy efficiency measures and generated enough in energy savings to power over 5,300 homes. EnergyRight Solutions for Business and Industry saw 3,960 projects completed by business and industrial customers accounting for over $109 million invested in energy efficiency measures.

“Fayetteville Public Utilities was a powerful partner in helping achieve these accomplishments,” says Cynthia Herron, director of TVA’s EnergyRight Solutions program. “Our partnership with FPU enabled us to exceed our load management target goals for the sixth year in a row.”

The award was presented to FPU at the October Board of Directors meeting by TVA’s Middle Tennessee Customer Service Manager Megan Keen.

TVA green power award 2

TVA green power award 2From left are FPU board members Linda Schoenrock, William Hurd, Micky Lawson, Mayor John Ed Underwood, FPU’s Key Accounts Representative Pat Haynes, Megan Keen (TVA), FPU’s CEO and General Manager Britt Dye, and FPU Board of Directors Chairman Janine Wilson, and FPU board members Michael Whisenant and Glenn Oldham. Not pictured is Paul Richardson, FPU board member.

 

14,000 comments sent to the EPA

NASHVILLE, Dec. 1, 2014 – Electric consumers from across Tennessee submitted more than 14,000 comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in opposition to the agency’s proposals to limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. The final EPA comment period closed Monday, Dec. 1.

“Tennessee’s electric cooperatives believe that low rates and reliable power must be a part of our clean energy future,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Unfortunately, the EPA didn’t consider the real-world impact this latest proposal will have on the cost and reliability of energy for families and businesses. That’s why thousands of Tennesseans told the EPA they couldn’t afford another all-pain-for-no-gain government regulation. It’s possible to balance affordability and environmental stewardship, but not under these latest rules.”

Comments were collected online at takeactionTN.com and from cards distributed by local electric cooperatives. These comments are also being submitted to the Tennessee Valley Authority as a part of TVA’s Integrated Resource Planning process that determines how the agency will generate energy in the future.

These 14,000 comments were part of a nation-wide effort by electric cooperatives that collectively submitted more than 1.1 million comments to the EPA opposing new regulations for new and existing power plants.

You can learn more about the impact of these regulations and get involved at tnelectric.org/takeaction.

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 2 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

Bundle up for winter storms

By Abby Berry

Are you ready for winter’s cold grasp? Snow and ice are inevitable when dealing with winter storms, but being prepared can make a world of difference. Tennessee’s electric cooperatives recommend the following tips to help you prepare for wintery blasts.

 

Winterize your home

Winter storms wreak havoc on your home. By winterizing your living space, you’ll be prepared for extreme cold and hazardous conditions.

  • Remember to maintain and inspect heating equipment and chimneys every year to ensure they’re working safely and properly.
  • Caulk and weather strip doors and windows to make the most of your heating system.
  • Freezing temperatures often cause water pipes to burst. Remember to insulate pipes with insulation or newspapers and plastic. Allow faucets to drip during extreme cold to avoid frozen pipes.
  • Consider installing storm windows for better insulation. You can also cover windows with plastic (from the inside) to keep the cold out.
  • Make sure everyone in your family knows where the home’s fire extinguisher is located and how to use it properly. House fires occur more frequently during winter months, as people tend to use alternative heating methods that may not be safe.

Prepare a winter survival kit

Severe winter storms often bring heavy accumulation of ice and snow, which can lead to downed power lines and extended outages. Electric co-op crews will work hard to restore power, but having a winter survival kit on hand is a smart idea.

  • Food: Store food that does not require cooking, such as canned goods, crackers, dehydrated meats and dried fruit. Keep a large supply of water on hand. Ready.gov recommends five gallons per person.
  • Medication: Be sure to refill all prescriptions in the event of a major power outage.
  • Identification: Keep all forms of identification handy, such as driver’s licenses, photo IDs and social security cards. Bank account information and insurance policies are also good to have on hand.
  • Other items: First Aid Kit, blankets, flashlight, battery-powered radio and extra batteries.

Stay warm and safe

If an outage occurs, you should plan for an alternate heating source. A fireplace, propane space heater or wood-burning stove would be sufficient. Fuel and wood-burning heating sources should always be vented, and make sure carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are working properly. Always practice extreme caution when using alternate heating sources.

If you decide to use a portable generator during an outage, make sure it is placed outside the home for proper ventilation. Be careful not to overload the generator. Use appropriate extension cords that can handle the electric load.

Follow these tips, and your family will stay warm in the event of a power outage. For more information on preparing for winter storms, visit your local co-op website or www.ready.gov.

Abby Berry writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service organization for the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

How renters can fight the winter chill

By Abby Berry

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 33 percent of Americans lease their homes. Unfortunately, many lease agreements forbid major alterations to rental properties. But don’t worry, renters! Consider using these low-cost, energy-efficient tips from Tennessee’s electric cooperatives to improve the efficiency of your home this winter.

Hot savings

Heating the home typically makes up about 48 percent of your utility bill. Set your thermostat as low as is comfortable in the winter – Energy.gov recommends 68 degrees Fahrenheit to boost energy efficiency.

During the winter months, take advantage of heat from sunlight. Open draperies and shades during the day to allow natural light to heat your home. Remember to close them in the evenings as the temperature drops and windowpanes become chilly.

Does your home have window air conditioning units? This winter, remember to insulate the units from the outside with a tight-fitting cover, available at your local home improvement center or hardware store. This keeps heated air from escaping outside. If desired, you can remove the window unit during winter months to prevent energy loss.

Another way to save on heating is to make sure your water heater is set at the lowest comfortable setting. Have you experienced scalding hot water when taking a shower? If so, it’s likely that your water heater is set too high – which is a waste of energy. Older models of water tanks are often not insulated, which can be easily remedied by covering them with an insulating jacket.

Bright ideas

Lighting is one of the easiest places to start saving energy, and savings are not strictly limited to winter months. Try replacing a few of your most frequently used light bulbs with ENERGY STAR-qualified lights, and save more than $65 a year in energy costs. ENERGY STAR-qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) use 75 percent less energy and last several times longer than incandescent light bulbs, saving money on energy bills and replacement costs. Practicing energy-efficient habits is another great way to reduce energy use. Always turn off your lights when leaving a room.

Other ways to save

Leasing an older home or apartment? Odds are you have single-pane windows and old or missing caulk. Don’t let the winter chill seep indoors! Apply caulk around window frames, sashes and door panels to combat air leaks. Also, be mindful when using electronics at home. Unplug devices when not in use, and use smart power strips to save on energy use. To learn more ways to be energy efficient around the home, visit togetherwesave.com.

Abby Berry writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service organization for the nations 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

‘Tis the season

‘Tis the season for family, fellowship and lots of cooking.

By Katie Kothman-Haby, CCC

No matter what or how you celebrate, energy use tends to increase over the holiday season. With more guests in your home and activities taking place, your electric meter spins a little faster than usual, costing you more money. Start the New Year off right. Celebrate the holidays efficiently so you don’t have to worry about a high electric bill.

Decorating

  • If you choose to decorate with strings of lights, consider LED (light emitting diode) options. They use over 80 percent less energy than traditional strings of lights and have a longer life. Make sure to purchase high quality strings from reputable sources. Safety and the lifetime can be compromised in less expensive LED strands.
  • Solar powered lighting options are also worth considering for decorations. Instead of having a plug handy, make sure you have a proper location for the solar panel that powers them.
  • Place strands of electric lights on timers so they automatically turn on in the evening after the sun sets, and turn them off around bed time. You won’t have to spend time thinking about plugging and unplugging them, and you won’t have to spend money powering them when unnecessary.
  • Decorate with less lighting. Consider a natural, vintage feel for your decorations. Use items like pinecones, greenery, candy canes, popcorn strings and gingerbread. The whole family can get involved with decorating the home with these safe and festive items.

2014_12_SW_Holiday-efficiency-tip-with-logoCooking

  • Cook with your microwave, toaster oven or slow cooker whenever possible. Small appliances cook quickly and more efficiently than your oven.
  • When you do use the oven, cook more than one item at a time. Have a ham, sweet potato casserole and rolls that all need to cook in the oven? Make some adjustments to cooking temperatures and times, and put all your dishes in at once to take full advantage of the heat that’s being produced.
  • Don’t peek! It’s tempting to open the oven door to check on holiday treats. Use the oven light instead, and keep the door closed. This will keep the heat where it belongs – inside the oven.
  • Glass and ceramic dishes allow you to cook food at a lower temperature than metal baking dishes. If the recipe calls for a metal baking pan and you substitute glass or ceramic cookware, reduce the temperature by about 25 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Have food defrosted before you cook. Simply planning ahead can cut cooking times and energy use in half. Place any frozen dishes in the refrigerator the night before so they are ready to go in the oven the next morning.

Around the house

  • Turn down your thermostat a few degrees. Extra people bustling around the home and the oven warming food will heat up your home a few extra degrees. Take advantage and adjust your thermostat accordingly. You will save some money on your bill, and your guests will still be comfortable.

Katie Kothmann Haby writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nations 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

Local before local was cool

Autonomy & Independence: One of the Seven Cooperative Principles that give all co-ops guidance

Whether you travel across the country or prefer to stay close to your hometown, one thing you may be noticing is the emphasis on “Buy Local” campaigns. This is based on one simple fact: It’s important to support businesses that support our community.

The Small Business Administration and the research firm Civic Economics estimate that dollars spent at a locally owned business stay in the community more than three times longer than money spent at “Big Box” stores, headquartered far away from your hometown. This means your community wealth is more likely to grow by shopping locally.

Consumer cooperatives, like Tennessee’s electric cooperatives, have known this forever. We were formed in the 1930s by people across the state to serve the people that work, worship and live in this community.

A common expression among cooperators is, “If you’ve seen one co-op, you’ve seen one co-op.”  While there are many similarities between co-ops, the fact that we are controlled locally, allowing us to serve your needs, is a critically important principle.

The fourth of our Seven Cooperative Principles is: Autonomy and Independence. And that is defined as follows: Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If the co-op enters into agreements with other organizations or raises capital from external sources, it is done so based on terms that ensure democratic control by the members and maintain the cooperative’s autonomy.

This will allow us to continue to be the self-help organization envisioned by the founders of the modern cooperative movement.

In other words, for the co-op to stay a co-op it is vitally important we stay close to you, our members, to ensure we are continuing to respond to your needs. This could be through increasing energy-efficiency programs, offering renewable sources of energy and continuing our efforts to support other local businesses, schools and civic organizations.

You can be sure that electric cooperatives will not be moving operations to Mexico or China, as so many other corporations do. We began right here in Tennessee, and we plan on being here for a very long time. You can take that to the bank, or better yet, the credit union – as all credit unions are financial cooperatives. As always, we welcome your participation and suggestions about how we can improve our locally owned and controlled services.

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

Green gift-giving guide

Wondering what to buy for the person who has everything? How about a gift for an environment-friendly family member or friend? This holiday season, Tennessee’s electric cooperatives urge you to consider giving the gift of energy efficiency.

This doesn’t mean that you have to go out and replace your aunt’s refrigerator or your grandma’s washer and dryer – though you may be their favorite if you do. Giving the gift of energy efficiency can be as simple as filling their stockings, or creating a gift basket, with some of these helpful products.

LED light bulbs are the easiest way to increase efficiency in your home. From indoor bulbs for your lamps, recessed lighting and hanging fixtures to outdoor lighting, such as flood lamps and even decorative lighting strands – there’s an LED bulb for everyone.

LED lighting used to be deemed as prohibitively expensive, but prices have gone down significantly in recent years. Here are some top-rated options for energy-efficient lighting that makes everything bright!

  • GE Reveal 60 Watt Equivalent Bulb – This will run you around $18
  • Cree TW Series 60 Watt Equivalent Bulb – This will run you between $9 and $16
  • Sylvania’s Ultra HD floodlight-style bulb – This will run you between $22 and $35

Water-saving showerheads are also a great gift option. On average, Americans consume over 3 billion gallons of water daily. Switching to a water-saving showerhead could save a family of three up to $631 per year in costs and could reduce water consumption by over 2,600 gallons per year. Lack of water pressure can be a concern when giving this gift, so here are a few examples of showerheads that save water, but not at the expense of water pressure.

  • Glacier Bay 1-Spray Hand Shower – This will run you around $13
  • The Delta 1-Spray Water-Saving Showerhead – This will run you around $16
  • The Delta Arias 5-Spray Showerhead – This will run you around $37

Providing your family and friends with energy-efficiency tips along with a gift is also a great option. For example, did you know that one of the best ways to save energy in your home is to turn off all of your electronic devices? Try a TrickleStar Motion Sensor Power Strip, which costs around $30.

Supplement your gift with caulking supplies or weather strips, and before you know it, you will have the perfect energy-saving gift! All of these products are available online and at Big Box hardware stores, so get to shopping. From everyone at Tennessee’s electric cooperatives, have a happy, energy-efficient holiday!            

Meghaan Evans writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nations 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

2014 Annual Meeting

NASHVILLE – The 73rd annual meeting of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association was held Sunday – Tuesday, Nov. 23 – 25, at the Nashville Airport Marriott. The theme of the meeting was “Powering Everyday Life,” and Dan Rodamaker, president and CEO of Gibson Electric Membership Corporation and president of the TECA board of trustees, called the meeting to order.

Representatives from 23 member systems and one associate member were present for the business meeting. Rodamaker and TECA General Manager David Callis, the resolutions committee, TECA staff and representatives from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative presented reports and updates.

Elections were held for four-year positions on the TECA board of trustees. John Collins, general manager of Chickasaw Electric Cooperative, was elected from Region I. Joe Mullins, Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation board member, was elected from Region II. Joe Atwood, Mountain Electric Cooperative board member, was elected from Region III.

Jim Code, general manager of Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation, Johnnie Ruth Elrod, director at Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative and Randell Myers, CEO and general manager of Powell Valley Electric Cooperative, were elected to the TECA board of trustees.

“Congratulations to those who have been chosen for leadership roles,” said Callis. “We appreciate their service and are confident they will provide sound direction and represent Tennessee’s electric cooperatives with honor.”

Throughout the year, TECA presents training and education programs for cooperative directors. Recognized at this year’s annual meeting, board members receiving Credentialed Cooperative Director status were Lee Armstrong, Plateau EC; Brian Boyatt, Plateau EC; Ronnie Fisher, Forked Deer EC; Bobby Gravitt, Sequachee Valley EC; Joseph Miller, Tri-County EMC; Edward Oliver, Cumberland EMC; Tom Perkey, Middle Tennessee EMC; Andrew Porch, Meriwether Lewis EC; Angela Talent, Fort Loudoun EC; and Gerald Taylor, Tennessee Valley EC. Board members receiving the more involved Board Leadership certification were J. Steve Roller, Caney Fork EC; Michael Mason, Cumberland EMC; Joe Tucker, Duck River EMC; Janine Wilson, Fayetteville PU; James R. Pugh, Fort Loudoun EC; Keith Carnahan, Meriwether Lewis EC; Zach Hutchins, Meriwether Lewis EC; Brian Boyatt, Plateau EC; Dave Cross, Plateau EC; Walter Barnes, Sequachee Valley EC; Paul Jaggers, Tennessee Valley EC; Kevin Staggs, Tennessee Valley EC; Wilbur Storey, Tennessee Valley EC; Joseph Miller, Tri-County EC; and James West, Upper Cumberland EMC.

The Tennessee Magazine reception, featuring products made or produced in Tennessee, was held on Sunday evening, Nov. 23. Attendees to this year’s meeting also heard from Jack McCall, humorist and motivational speaker; Mark Aesch, business leader and writer; and Sen. Bob Corker.

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.

[button link=”http://teca.smugmug.com/TECA-Annual-Meeting/TECA-Annual-Meeting-2014/”]View photos from the meeting →[/button]