National Electrical Safety Month

It’s May – and Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are celebrating National Electrical Safety Month. While safety for our members is top priority year-round, Electrical Safety Month is a time to acknowledge the importance of safety excellence.

This year, we’re focusing on electrical safety in the home. Electricity is the cause of over 140,000 fires each year, resulting in more than 500 deaths, 4,000 injuries and 1.6 billion in property damage, according to Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI).

There are many measures you can take to ensure the safety of your loved ones. Use these helpful tips from ESFI to safeguard your home.

In the kitchen

  • Vacuum refrigerator coils every three months to eliminate dirt buildup that can reduce efficiency and create fire hazards.
  • Ensure all countertop appliances are located away from the sink.
  • All appliance cords should be placed away from hot surfaces. Pay particular attention to cords around toasters, ovens and ranges. Cords can be damaged by excess heat.
  • The top and the area above the cooking range should be free of combustibles, such as potholders and plastic utensils. Storing these items on or near the range may result in fires or burns.

Light the way to safety

  • The wattage of the bulbs you use in your home should match the wattage indicated on the light fixture. Overheated fixtures can lead to a fire.
  • Check lamp cords to make sure they are in good condition – not damaged or cracked. Do not attempt to repair damaged cords yourself. Take any item with a damaged power cord to an authorized repair center.
  • Extension cords should not be used to provide power on a long-term or permanent basis. Have additional receptacles installed by a professional to provide power where needed.

Be prepared

  • Nearly two-thirds of fire deaths result from fires in homes without working smoke alarms. Smoke alarms should be located on every level of your home, inside each bedroom and outside each sleeping area.
  • Test smoke alarms every month. Batteries should be replaced at least once a year – or sooner if indicated in the manufacturers’ instructions. All smoke alarms should be replaced at least every 10 years.
  • Talk to your family about an emergency plan in the event of a fire in your home. If you have small children, include them in planning an emergency escape route – they are more likely to remember the plan if they’re involved in creating it.

Electrical safety awareness and education can save lives. For more tips and information about electrical safety, click here or visit www.esfi.org.

Carnahan to follow Womble at MLEC

(April 30, 2015) — The Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative Board of Directors named Keith Carnahan as the cooperative’s new Chief Executive Officer on April 28. Carnahan will step into the new role when Hal Womble retires in July after 16 years of leading the cooperative.

“Keith Carnahan will bring a unique perspective, business knowledge, skills, and management style to MLEC. The next decade promises many changes for our industry. It is the desire of this board that Keith work closely with each district, our dedicated staff and employees, the communities we serve, and the member owners to meet those challenges,” says MLEC Board Chair Johnnie Ruth Elrod. “We appreciate Keith’s enthusiasm and vision for MLEC and congratulate him as he takes on this new role to lead MLEC in the continued good service and the delivery of safe, reliable, and affordable electric service for our members.”

Carnahan is a graduate of Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and received his MBA from Bethel University. He has been an employee of E.I. DuPont for the past 27 years serving in several engineering and management positions and was most recently the Site Engineering Manager for the New Johnsonville Plant.  During his tenure at DuPont, he led numerous improvement programs that helped the New Johnsonville Plant become a world class producer of Titanium Dioxide. Also, for the last 5 years he has served on the Board of Directors for MLEC representing Humphreys County.

“Being only the fifth leader in 75 years is a great honor and responsibility,” says Carnahan. “I look forward to serving MLEC and its members and leading the cooperative as it evolves in the years to come.”

Carnahan and Lisa, his wife of 28 years, make their home in Waverly, Tennessee. They have three daughters – Alyssa, Ashton and Allie. His hobbies include duck hunting, golf, and cycling.

Womble announced his retirement in the September 2014 issue of The Tennessee Magazine. “My years at MLEC have been rewarding, and I’d like to think we’ve accomplished a lot together,” says Womble. “New substations, reliable electricity, new programs for the members, and getting our fiber network off the ground – and hopefully one day to our members – are some of the things I’m most proud of during my tenure.”

Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative, a Touchstone Energy® cooperative, is a non-profit organization offering reliable, low-cost electricity to over 33,500 members in Hickman, Houston, Humphreys, Lewis and Perry counties. Member – electric power companies of Middle Tennessee. Remember to play it safe around electricity.

 

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Co-op members take powerful message to D.C.

NASHVILLE – Members from the state’s rural electric cooperatives spent Thursday, April 29, in Washington, D.C., meeting with Tennessee’s Congressional delegation.

“Elected representatives make decisions and pass laws that have serious consequences for Tennessee’s electric cooperatives and their members,” says David Callis, executive vice president of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “It is important that we tell the electric cooperative story and inform Members of Congress of the impact of proposed legislation.”

“Educating our representatives about co-ops – who we are and what we do – is an important part of our mission to provide affordable and reliable energy to our members,” says Tommy Whittaker, a director with Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation and one of more than 40 co-op members who traveled to Washington, D.C. “These visits help them clearly understand the issues that concern co-ops and co-op members.”

Co-op members discussed environmental and power-supply issues with Members of Congress during their visits. “It is important that we communicate with how legislation affects rates and reliability for everyday Tennesseans,” says Callis.

A second group of Tennessee co-op representatives traveled to Washington, D.C., on Monday and Tuesday, May 4 and 5, to meet with Senator Corker and participate in the NRECA Legislative Conference.

Scheduling conflicts made it necessary to stretch the meetings out over two weeks.

FPU expands

Fayetteville Public Utilities (FPU) is moving forward with plans for facility renovations and expansion at the current office location to better serve utility customers.

“During this process, utility rates will not increase,” says FPU’s CEO and General Manager Britt Dye, “and we do not have plans to borrow funds for construction. The decision to expand and renovate our office follows many years of planning and setting aside reserve funds for the construction.”

“For years, we have needed additional office space and improved facilities to better serve the customers of Fayetteville Public Utilities,” Dye adds. “The 2002 utility consolidation successfully streamlined customer service and utility operations, and since then, we have managed to use every available space at our existing location for offices, meeting rooms, storage areas and department operations.”

Among the many concerns of FPU’s current situation is the need to improve security for customer confidentiality. Dye explains that current office space does not adequately accommodate customer privacy or other administrative concerns under the Identity Theft Policy adopted in 2008 to protect all manner of customer account information.

Due to the utility’s limited space for its customer service area, some FPU employees work in open-cubicle offices that offer little or no privacy for handling customer account and financial data. More private office space will allow employees to obtain and discuss sensitive utility account information with FPU customers under the guidelines of the Identity Theft Policy.

Other FPU office employees work in areas originally designed and used for material and file storage and for telecom headend operations. Construction and renovation plans include relocation of these offices and for a dedicated room for Channel 6 productions which FPU currently does not have.

“FPU’s Channel 6 is a vital information resource for our community,” says Dye. “Each day Channel 6 brings the community local programming and educational information as well as promotes and highlights community events. With the proper facilities for interviews and program editing, we can improve the quality of local programming you deserve and depend on from FPU’s Channel 6.”

FPU is also in need of additional storage space for office supplies and materials. Because there is limited storage available now, office forms and materials are currently stored in FPU’s minimally temperature-controlled warehouse facility along with utility construction materials.

FPU’s preliminary building and renovation plans will provide for the needed office space, improve security and customer confidentiality, add temperature-controlled storage areas for supplies and materials and will include an employee meeting area large enough to accommodate all 108 employees at one time for training and all-employee meetings. FPU also plans to make the meeting area available to the community for meetings and training.

“Our opportunity to purchase the two adjoining property lots on Market Street near FPU’s main office helped put our plans in motion,” says Dye. “Since that time, we have envisioned ways to better serve our customers. Our board is very supportive of the building plans, and we are working together to improve FPU and provide for future growth of the utility and the services we offer.”

“Having the necessary tools and equipment to perform our jobs is important to our success,” he adds. “We strive to be leaders in the utility industry and in our community. Our goals are to offer additional services to our customers like advanced technology, more payment options, improved communications, improved customer account security and faster, more convenient customer service.  But in order to offer these enhanced services, we need the facilities that will support all that we are capable of offering and all that our customers deserve from their utility provider.”

FPU estimates the construction phase will take a year or longer to complete once a design is approved and construction begins.

A large part of the existing Fayetteville Public Utilities’ building at 408 West College Street was built in the early 1940s. The FPU facility has undergone a handful of additions over the past few decades as the utility has evolved with the most recent being the 2007 expansion of the drive-thru payment area and customer parking lot. Prior to that, FPU’s last administration building renovation and addition was in 1988-1989 when the existing administration and customer service offices were built.

TVA’s Johnson meets with co-op

TVA President Bill Johnson met with Caney Fork EC directors and staff on Thursday, April 2. Johnson shared his background and vision for TVA –  controlling costs to provide efficient, affordable power for the Valley. He answered questions about the coal ash cleanup project at Kingston Fossil Plant and economic development.

TVA-Visit-3“We value our relationship with TVA, and we appreciate Mr. Johnson’s willingness to meet with us,” says Bill Rogers, general manager of Caney Fork EC. “TVA shares our commitment to public power, and our members are best served when Caney Fork and TVA work together to provide them with affordable and reliable service.”

Following his visit to Caney Fork EC, Johnson spoke to the McMinnville Rotary Club.

 

TVA's Johnson meets with co-op

TVA President Bill Johnson met with Caney Fork EC directors and staff on Thursday, April 2. Johnson shared his background and vision for TVA –  controlling costs to provide efficient, affordable power for the Valley. He answered questions about the coal ash cleanup project at Kingston Fossil Plant and economic development.

TVA-Visit-3“We value our relationship with TVA, and we appreciate Mr. Johnson’s willingness to meet with us,” says Bill Rogers, general manager of Caney Fork EC. “TVA shares our commitment to public power, and our members are best served when Caney Fork and TVA work together to provide them with affordable and reliable service.”

Following his visit to Caney Fork EC, Johnson spoke to the McMinnville Rotary Club.

 

Lineman Appreciation Day

NASHVILLE – The electric cooperatives of Tennessee are recognizing Monday, April 13, as National Lineman Appreciation Day to honor the hardworking men and women who keep the power on and protect the public’s safety. There are more than 700 electric co-op linemen in Tennessee.

“Today we honor the dedicated service of these courageous workers and recognize the critical roles they play in keeping the lights on,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Our communities depend on reliable energy, and Tennessee’s electric lineworkers place themselves in harm’s way to power our everyday lives.”

“These are special people who are passionate about their jobs and the communities they serve,” says Callis. “They go above and beyond, and all of us in this industry are honored to work with them.”

You can help Tennessee’s electric cooperatives honor lineman by posting on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #ThankAlinemanTN. The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association will share these messages with co-op linemen across the state.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association is a trade group representing the interests of Tennessee’s 23 electric distribution cooperatives and the 1.1 million consumers they serve. The association publishes The Tennessee Magazine and provides legislative and support services to Tennessee’s electric cooperatives. Learn more at tnelectric.org.

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

The value of electric cooperatives

Why being a member of a co-op saves you money

By Adam Schwartz

There are three main types of electricity providers in the U.S. Investor-owned utilities (IOUs) serve primarily densely populated areas. Municipal-owned utilities also serve densely populated cities from the very large, such as Los Angeles, to the very small like Lexington, Tenn. And of course, there are rural electric cooperatives that serve less populated parts of the country.

In the utility business, population matters a lot. Since the costs to serve any given area are similar, the more customers that you have allows you to spread the costs among more people to keep rates lower. At least that is the theory.

201312GRAPHICMilesofLineandRevenueComparisonThis graphic shows the national averages of density and revenue per mile of electrical line for IOUs, municipal-owned utilities and electric co-ops. Municipal-owned utilities, which operate in cities and towns, have the greatest density – 48.3 customers per mile of line, generating an average of $113,301 of revenue. IOUs follow with 34 customers per mile of line, while generating average revenues of $75,498. Finally, electric co-ops average 7.4 members (not customers, but members) per mile of line, bringing in an average of $14,938 of revenue per mile.

If I were to give this data to any business school in the country and ask (based on this information) what the rates should be for each of the utilities, the answer would likely be that electric co-ops would have a rate 7.5 times greater than municipal-owned utilities and 5 times higher than IOUs – but that is not the case. Why not? 

It has to do with the business model. IOUs are owned by outside investors that may or may not be users of the electric utility they own. These companies’ stocks are traded on Wall Street, and those investors demand a return on their investment. This drives up the price that their customers pay. Many municipal systems charge rates that generate a “profit” for their cities to help pay for other services. Tennessee’s electric cooperatives operate on a not-for-profit basis. Of course, co-ops are a businesses and must generate enough revenue to cover costs (the largest being the purchase of wholesale power). But they don’t have to charge rates to pay outside stockholders.

Since our members are our owners, we can provide safe, reliable and affordable power to you. That is just another way your co-op brings you value.

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. 

Ice Breakers

Tennessee Linemen Answer the Call

“I knew things were going to be difficult for Tennessee,” says Sid Sperry, director of public relations, communications and research at the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives. In 2007, Sperry — with the assistance of Steve Piltz of the National Weather Service office in Tulsa, Okla. — developed the Sperry-Piltz Ice Accumulation Index, or SPIA Index, a prediction tool that projects the footprint, ice accumulation and damage from approaching ice storms.

Three days before freezing rain, trees and power lines began to fall on Saturday, Feb. 21, Tennessee co-ops were aware that the SPIA Index was predicting widespread damage, including a Level 4 event in part of the state. “A L­­evel 4 event means significant damage and prolonged power outages,” says Sperry.

“Ice is different from tornadoes and thunderstorms,” says Aaron Hood, a service foreman for Volunteer Energy Cooperative in Benton. “In those types of events, you might have severe damage in some areas and no damage in others. But with ice, the damage is widespread.

“The entire (Cumberland) Plateau suffered severe damage. We saw areas where everything was covered in an inch of ice. The weight brought down trees, poles, all of it.”

Hood left home on Saturday, Feb. 21, and did not return home until Tuesday, March 3, working about 16 hours each day. “We would work from daylight until 10 p.m. or midnight,” Hood says.

“These folks can’t get their power on themselves; they need our help,” he says. “I think about the elderly. That’s someone’s mother or father, and we are accountable to those people. We have a responsibility — a privilege — to help them. In an event like this, when you know it will take several days to help everyone, it is a marathon — mentally and physically. We are not reconnecting meters; we are reconnecting people.”

The Feb. 21 event and another the previous week left their marks on Tennessee: more than $10 million in damage and 1,000 broken poles across the state. Some 500 lineworkers from Tennessee and surrounding states descended on the areas of greatest damage, working for days to restore service to co-op members.

“These are special people,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “The conditions are brutal and dangerous, yet they keep working. It is an honor to be associated with them.”

Hood was moved by the response restoration crews received from members: “They gave us meals, coffee and doughnuts. People I had never met hugged us. They went out of their way to show their hospitality and appreciation. Everyone was working together to help each other.”

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

National Lineman Appreciation Day is Monday, April 13. In Tennessee, there are more than 700 co-op linemen who restore power during outages and maintain 86,000 miles of distribution lines and equipment. Linemen put their lives on the line every day to serve our communities. Help us tell them “Thanks!” by posting on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #ThankAlinemanTN. We will share your messages with co-op linemen across the state.

Holston EC names Sandlin

Rogersville, TN – Holston Electric Cooperative announces the hiring of James B. “Jimmy” Sandlin P.E. as the new general manager for Holston Electric Cooperative. Sandlin will assume his responsibilities at Holston on May 4, succeeding Larry Elkins, who is retiring after a 35-year career.

Sandlin is a 27-year veteran of the electric utility industry, having spent his entire career at the Scottsboro Electric Power Board in Scottsboro, Ala. Sandlin has a bachelor of science degree from the University of Alabama and is a licensed professional engineer and a licensed instrument-rated private pilot. Sandlin was hired by the Scottsboro EPB in 1988 as an electrical engineer and has been the general manager since 1996. He has a proven track record. Under Sandlin’s leadership, Scottsboro EPB has enjoyed a tremendous amount of success in the expansion and modernization of its electric system, the construction of a $8.5 million cable system and the acquisition of a $2.1 million power generation plant, which is under contract with TVA.

Holston EC Board president Gordell Ely congratulates Sandlin and expressed his excitement for the cooperative, members and employees: “The board of directors desires that Holston EC continues its record of success with Jimmy and the dedicated staff of employees. We appreciate his enthusiasm, experience and vision for our utility. The next five to 10 years will be key in charting a course for success for Holston EC, and we feel sure that Jimmy will show great, competent leadership, a concern for our employees and a focus on customer service for our members.”

“I am excited about this opportunity here at Holston Electric Cooperative, and I am grateful for the confidence the board of directors has placed in me,” Sandlin says. “I look forward to getting to know the employees as we work to serve our members. We are going to continue the exemplary record of good service, good reliability and an excellent safety record here at Holston Electric Cooperative. There will be challenges, but with everyone working together toward a common goal, we indeed can enjoy success.”

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Holston Electric Cooperative serves 30,500 members in Hawkins, Hamblen and Greene counties in Tennessee. Holston EC has 60 dedicated employees who maintain and operate a 2,600 mile distribution system that covers a 525 square-mile service area.