Social media on ice

Snow, sleet, ice and bitterly cold weather set the stage for a rough week for co-ops across Tennessee. More than 50,000 members were without power at the peak of the event on Tuesday, Feb. 17. Many of our systems took to social media to get information to their members in a timely manner. Below are a few of our favorite posts from the week. Take an extra few minutes to read the supportive comments from co-op members.

 

Co-op members deliver power message

More than 250 members and employees from Tennessee’s electric cooperatives were in Nashville on Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 9 and 10, for the 2015 Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association Legislative Conference. Attendees met with their legislators on Capitol Hill to help them better understand electric cooperatives and the issues that impact rural and suburban Tennessee.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives maintain a visible presence in Nashville and Washington, D.C., to be certain that the interests of co-op members are protected. “We are here to represent rural Tennesseans,” says David Callis, general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.

“Our legislators make decisions and pass laws that can have serious consequences for Tennessee’s electric cooperatives and the members that rely on them. It is important that we tell the electric cooperative story and inform and educate legislators on the impacts of proposed legislation.” Attendees reminded legislators that co-ops are not-for-profit, member-owned and –regulated private businesses that impact their communities in many ways.

The primary goal during visits with representatives was to share an opinion by Tennessee’s Attorney General stating that the Tennessee Valley Authority’s regulatory authority extends to pole attachment rates, effectively ending years of debate at the Capitol on a contentious issue. Representatives were asked to support legislation that will limit co-op liability in cases of inverse condemnation. Co-op members also encouraged representatives to back a resolution supporting TVA’s license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for Watts Bar Unit 2.

More than 100 visits were made with members of the House and Senate during the conference. “We discussed important topics that will impact every members’ wallet,” says Mike Knotts, director of government affairs with TECA. “Educated and informed legislators are a key component of low-cost, reliable power, and our members make a powerful impression when they come to Nashville.”

 

Power out for 48,000 members

48,000 Tennessee electric cooperative members with out power following winter storm

Electric cooperatives across southern Tennessee continue to assess damage to their systems following a significant icing event Sunday and Monday, Feb. 15 and 16. More than 48,000 members remain without power Tuesday morning, Feb. 17. Crews from Tennessee co-ops and neighboring states are assisting in the recovery.

“This is a serious situation. We expect dangerously cold weather to remain in Tennessee for several days, so it is important that we restore power as quickly as possible,” says David Callis, executive vice president of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “These lineworkers are going out into some harsh conditions to serve their communities, and they are to be commended.”

Below is a summary of outage counts and assisting crews as of this morning. We expect these details to change rapidly, and we will be posting updates on Facebook and Twitter throughout the day.

APPALACHIAN EC
3,232 members out | Six crews assisting: two from Holston EC; two, Jackson Energy (KY); one, Cumberland RECC (KY); one, South Kentucky RECC (KY)

CANEY FORK EC
8,000 members out | Two crews assisting: one from Plateau EC; one, Tri-County EMC

DUCK RIVER EMC
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3,079 members out | Nine crews assisting: three from Sequachee Valley EC; one, Fayetteville PU; one, Tri-County EMC; one, Middle Tennessee EMC; two, Joe Wheeler EC (AL), one, Black Warrior EC (AL)

FT. LOUDOUN EC
16,000 members out | Six crews assisting from Central EC (AL)

PICKWICK EC
1,600 members out | 11 crews assisting: five from Gibson EMC; two, Southwest Tennessee EMC; four, Boliver EA

UPPER CUMBERLAND EMC
1,000 members out

VOLUNTEER EC
5,865 members out | One crew assisting from North Georgia EMC

Fight the winter chills

Another colder-than-normal winter is predicted for much of the country this year. Frigid temperatures can cause heating systems to work over time, and since heating and cooling can make up nearly half of your electric bill, you may experience sticker shock when you open that bill. Instead of waiting until after a potentially high bill is in your mailbox, be proactive. There are things you can do now to help ensure you are managing your energy use and spending less.

These simple steps can help you manage your use:

  • Wrap exposed pipes and water heaters that are in unconditioned spaces.
  • Make sure to change your air filter once a month.
  • Keep drapes closed at night and keep those that don’t get direct sunlight closed during the day, too.
  • Keep the fireplace damper closed when it is not in use. Keeping it open can bring cold air into the room.
  • Caulk around the fireplace hearth, and caulk or weather strip around doors and windows.
  • Monitor your electric use. If we’ve had a few days of frigid temperatures, see how you can try to save on days that are milder.
  • Dress for the weather, even if you are inside. Wearing proper clothing like long sleeves and pants, or wrapping up in a cozy blanket will help combat the temptation of bumping up the thermostat.

So, when temperatures fall this winter and you hear your weatherman talking about bringing in pets and plants, take the steps above to help manage your use.

Using the tips above can certainly help you manage your energy use, but your bill may still be higher than normal in winter months. Why?

  • The weather makes a big impact on electric bills, accounting for nearly half of your bill.
  • Even those with the most efficient HVAC systems will see more use in extreme weather.
  • When extreme cold temperatures hit, our heaters work overtime.
  • For example, even if you set your thermostat to our recommended 68 degrees in the winter, when it is 19 degrees outside, your system has to work hard to make up that 49-degree difference.
  • Your heater works harder and cycles on and off more often, making your use much higher. That means your bill will be much higher.
  • Remember, there is value in comfort. For us to be comfortable in our homes, our heaters are going to work harder, but it may be worth the additional cost to you.

Additional tips:

  • Call your local co-op to see what options might be right for you.
  • Speak to one of our energy efficiency experts. They can help you understand how weather and your use patterns affect your bill.

April Lollar 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.

NRECA International: Sharing the love

It’s more than just the numbers.

By Zuraidah Hoffman

These days, NRECA International is helping more than 42,000 people in Haiti, 7,000 in Tanzania, four million in the Philippines and more than half a million in Uganda. And hundreds of thousands more thanks to our electric co-op volunteers, donors and supporters. Behind these numbers are families and communities who are beginning a better life. Streets are made safer by streetlights; reading isn’t limited to daytime; doctors have more medicine thanks to refrigeration; and crops are being irrigated not just by Mother Nature, but with the help of powered water pumps. These are simple – yet critical – examples of how strong communities are created and brighter futures are launched.

Over the last 50 years, 110 million women, men and children in 42 developing countries have gained access to safe, reliable and affordable electricity. Over these five decades, the NRECA International team and its partners have developed meaningful relationships in these countries with government officials, community leaders, business owners and families. It’s a critical part in building solid foundations to ensure families and communities have electricity that will last generations.

Today and into the future, the NRECA International team of engineers, economists, country directors, volunteers and donors continue to make these important connections. Relationships are fostered not only to understand energy needs, but what communities must have to step out of subsistence living and be on a more equal playing field with the rest of the world.

Here’s a snapshot of the numbers, and the people behind them:

Haiti: More than 42,000 people

About 36,000 people live and work in northern towns in Haiti where they now have affordable and reliable access to 24/7 electricity, which was not the case two years ago. Today, a new power plant, a more effective distribution grid and power lines, and an established private utility—all managed by NRECA International—provide power to the towns of Caracol, Trou Du Nord, Terrier Rouge, Saint Suzanne and Limonade—and more towns will be added soon. In south Haiti, a new electric co-op was recently born. In early 2013, NRECA International helped establish Coopérative Electrique de l’Arrondissement des Coteaux. Groups of co-op volunteers from NRECA member cooperatives have begun traveling to Coteaux to help more than 6,000 residents benefit from 33 miles of new or upgraded power lines, powered by a solar-diesel hybrid power system.

Tanzania: 7,000 people

Work is underway to bring electricity to thousands of people in Tanzania—many for the first time. Partnering with Tanzania’s Rural Energy Agency (REA), our team is designing two pilot projects that could reduce electrification costs by as much as 50 percent. This means power for more people. And we hope to do more. NRECA International recently completed assessing the potential for rural energy expansion to more off-grid areas and provided recommendations to USAID on how they can work with the REA to make it happen.

Philippines: Four million people

Last year NRECA International began implementing the Philippines Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) project. Working with the country’s National Electrification Administration, the project will teach seven electric co-ops how to choose, invest in and use smart grid technology. How will this help? The next time a typhoon wipes out power in remote areas, co-ops will be able to respond efficiently to outages, resulting in more reliable power for the consumers.

Uganda: More than 500,000 people

For the last five years, NRECA International has worked with Uganda’s Rural Electrification Agency to develop a new national strategy to expand electric service to rural households and businesses. Recently, a detailed report was completed with recommendations on how it should be done, including off-grid solar energy solutions for people who live in far-flung areas.

How many people are electric co-ops helping? Hundreds of thousands.

With the electrification of rural America, we are living proof that it starts with power. Power leads to better education, better healthcare, safer streets and economic development. Rural electric co-ops and their volunteers are sharing their knowledge and making lasting connections with communities. Among them are:

  • In November 2014, groups of volunteer linemen traveled to Haiti and Guatemala to build or upgrade power lines. They work for electric co-ops from Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Washington, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Montana, Kentucky, Texas, Minnesota and Utah. And more may be added in the months to come!
  • Chippewa Valley Electric in Cornell, Wis., recently donated 165 transformers to the Power for Progress Program in the Philippines.
  • FEM Electric in Ipswich, S.D. donated a variety of line materials to the electric municipal in Ixcan, Guatemala.
  • Four volunteers from Coweta-Fayette EMC in Palmetto, Ga. traveled to Costa Rica in September to support their sister electric co-op, Coopeguanacaste.

To learn more about how NRECA International improves the quality of life for people around the world, visit www.nrecainternational.coop.

Zuraidah Hoffman writes on international 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.

Geared up for safety

Can you imagine working a job that requires you to lift heavy equipment and perform detailed tasks near deadly high voltage? Now imagine doing this 40 feet in the air, and sometimes, in extreme weather. This is the life of a lineman.

These brave men, and women, answer when called – and they do so to ensure that you are provided with safe, reliable electric service. But how do they stay safe when working in these conditions? Tennessee electric cooperative linemen are required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times when on the job to keep them safe.

Let’s take a look at a lineman’s PPE.

Fire resistant (FR) clothing. While our linemen do everything possible to prevent them, unexpected fires can happen. Fires typically occur with an arc flash – an explosion that results from a low-impedance connection to a ground phase in an electrical system. FR clothing will self-extinguish, thus limiting injury due to burn.

Insulated gloves. Linemen must wear insulated rubber gloves when working on any type of electrical line. These gloves provide protection against electrical shock and burn, and are tested at 30,000 volts. Protective gloves, usually made of leather, are worn over the insulated gloves to protect the rubber from punctures and cuts.

Hard hat. No matter how tough or “hardheaded” our linemen are, they still need protection. Insulated hard hats are worn at all times to protect them from blows and falling objects.

Steel toe boots. These heavy-duty boots are typically 16 inches tall and designed with extra support in mind. The height of the boot shields linemen from gouges, and serrated heels provide a better grip when climbing poles. The steel toe provides sturdier support and protects from objects that could potentially pierce the feet. .

Safety goggles. Linemen must wear protective goggles or glasses, whether working on electrical lines or clearing rights-of-way. This protects them from loose debris and other hazards.

These items make up a lineman’s basic PPE. While working on electrical lines, they also may be required to wear equipment belts, tool pouches, safety straps and other types of equipment. A lineman’s gear usually weighs about 50 pounds – that’s a lot of extra weight when working in hazardous conditions.

So, the next time you see a lineman – be sure to thank him or her for keeping the lights on. But more importantly, thank them for the hard – and often times dangerous – work they do, day in and day out.

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.

2015 Legislative Outlook

The Tennessee General Assembly returned last week with 23 new faces and a list of old problems to address. The first week of session was primarily ceremonial in nature culminating with the inauguration of Governor Bill Haslam for his second four-year term and the announcement of committee composition in both the House and the Senate. A two-week recess will allow for reorganization, as members will move their offices and staff is reassigned in order to be prepared for the next two years of lawmaking.

They will return on February 2 to begin a special session, called by the Governor, to consider Insure TN. This program is controversial, as it will use a combination of Federal funding and an assessment on hospital revenue to expand the population of citizens who qualify for TennCare (the state’s version of Medicaid). Since it is a special session of the legislature, Insure TN is the only topic that can be considered.

The special session is planned to last one week, with regular session set to commence on February 9. Major issues expected to dominate the headlines after Insure TN is settled include: revisions to the state’s educational standards (known as “Common Core”), proposals to regulate abortion providers and clinics, a discussion about funding for road projects which will include possible restructuring of the gas tax, and the inevitable disagreement over passing the state’s budget and its impact on funding for all other proposed new or revised programs.

Issues of concern for electric cooperatives will be many, although we cannot be 100% sure of all issues until the deadline for filing bills as passed. This year, the deadline is set for February 12 – although any delays in the Special Session could push that deadline back. TECA is proactively encouraging legislation to address liability concerns that arose from a court case regarding property owner claims of inverse condemnation. This legislation would reestablish a statute of limitations on the amount of time a property owner could bring such an action.

Also, TECA has been involved with a coalition of concerned parties who have been studying the State’s reaction to the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan. Director of Government Affairs, Mike Knotts, testified to joint meeting of the House and Senate Government Operations committees on this topic in December.  Click here to see the full video of the hearing, Mike’s testimony begins at 00:50:30. Legislation is likely to be proposed to guide the state’s reaction to EPA’s plan, once its becomes final later this year. TECA’s main concern is preserving all of the remedies, both legal and legislative, available to ensure that EPA’s plan does not harm cooperative members through unnecessary hikes in rates or reductions in reliability.

If you want to stay informed throughout the legislative session, join the mailing list for our legislative newsletter – View from the Hill.  To do so, sign up by clicking here.

Matheny retires, Partin to lead SVEC

Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative’s Board of Directors has named Mike Partin SVEC’s new President and Chief Executive Officer. Partin succeeds Robert W. (Bob) Matheny who retired earlier this month after serving for over 16 years,. Partin will be the seventh manager/CEO in the Cooperative’s 75 year existence.

“Mike is knowledgeable and experienced in the electric cooperative industry, having grown in responsibility and leadership over the course of his career,” said Board Chairman Mike Jordan. “The Board has complete confidence in his ability to lead SVEC in the delivery of safe, reliable, affordable electric service to its 35,000 members.”

Partin began his career with SVEC in 1998, serving first as Vice President of Marketing and Member Services and for the past 5 years, as Chief Operating Officer. He is an alumnus Grundy County High School and Middle Tennessee State University. Partin is also a graduate of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s management program at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Partin has also served in various capacities with industry related organizations including Touchstone Energy Cooperative, the Tennessee Valley Public Power Association and the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.

“I am certainly humbled and honored that the Board has put their trust in me to lead the cooperative,” said Partin. “I look forward to the opportunity to work with our Board and the dedicated men and women serving our communities and members. Our industry is on the brink of tremendous change and I look forward to the challenge of navigating SVEC into the future.”

Partin and his family live and farm in the Pelham Valley on the same land that has served his family for generations. Mike and his wife Kim, a teacher at Monteagle Elementary School, have two daughters, Macy and Maty. The Partins attend Monteagle Church of Christ.

After more than forty years in the electric utility industry, the last sixteen at Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative, President/CEO Bob Matheny retired on January 2.

Matheny began his career at SVEC in July 1998, after the passing of the previous manager, Bob Pickering. Early in his career Matheny gained electric utility experience working in member and energy services with TVA and two cooperatives in Florida. He then served as general manager for Tri-County Electric Cooperative in Michigan for almost 15 years before taking the reins at SVEC.

During Matheny’s tenure, the Cooperative has grown in membership, miles of line and advanced in technology, improving reliability for members and helping the Cooperative operate more efficiently.

While at SVEC, Matheny served  as a director on several national and regional industry-related boards, such as the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative, the Cooperative Response Center and Southeastern Data Cooperative. Matheny was also a member of the South Pittsburg Rotary Club and served as a member of the Marion County Partnership for Economic Development and a term on the Marion County Chamber of Commerce board.

“I have enjoyed a long career and worked with many dedicated people over the past 40 years,” Matheny said. “Thank you for your support. I am very proud of the accomplishments we made at SVEC.”

He and his wife Joyce plan on retiring to Florida and spending more time with family.

Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative, a Touchstone Energy® cooperative, is a non-profit organization offering reliable, low-cost electricity to 35,000 members in Bledsoe, Grundy, Marion and Sequatchie counties. SVEC is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Tennessee Legislative App

Legislative directory app connects residents to elected officials

NASHVILLE – Tennesseans interested in government and politics now have a powerful tool for connecting with their elected representatives.

Announced today, the 109th 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.

app-iconDeveloped 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.

phone2015“We have produced print directories of the General Assembly for more than 30 years, and this is our fourth 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 | Director of Corporate Strategy | tscott@tnelectric.org | 731.608.1519

Images:
Download high resolution graphics of the app icon and the app.

Five tips for space heater safety

As temperatures drop this winter, many will look for supplemental heating sources for their homes. Space heaters can be a good alternative for those who want to warm one area of their home without turning up the thermostat on the central heating system. However, space heaters are also responsible for 32 percent of house fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. If you are planning to use a space heater in your home this winter, review these tips from Tennessee’s electric cooperatives to keep you, your family and your property safe.

Materials – What are the components of your space heater made of? Parts like metal grating can be hot to the touch and may burn anyone who gets too close. Make sure you purchase a heater that is cool to the touch and has guards over the coils just in case little fingers get too close.

Placement – While it can be tempting to place a small heater on a shelf so it is not in the way of pets and children, it is safest to leave the heater on a level floor on a nonflammable surface. Keeping the space heater on the floor can keep it from falling over, preventing fire hazards. Also, remember that space heaters and bathrooms are not a good combination, unless the heater is designed for bathroom use. Moisture can damage the heater.

The most important rule about space heater placement is the three-foot rule. Whether you are using the heater in the bedroom, living room or kitchen, space heaters should always be kept three feet away from flammable materials and out of the way of children and pets.

Special Features – Does your space heater have an auto shutoff function if tipped over? Auto shutoff can be a lifesaver. If you currently own a space heater without auto shutoff, consider purchasing a heater with this important safety feature.

Cords – You should never use an extension cord when plugging in a space heater as it can cause overheating. The space heater should be plugged directly into a wall outlet, and should be the only thing plugged in to the wall outlet. Also make sure cords aren’t in a high-traffic area so they are not a tripping hazard.

Use – Never leave a heater unattended while in use. If you are leaving your home or going to bed, make sure to unplug the heater.

Following these tips and making sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions can keep you safe this winter.

April Lollar 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.