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

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Trent Scott | | 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 

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.

Quality surge protection

There is little, if anything, you can buy today that does not have some electronic component. Even clothing as wearable electronics are starting to take hold. Not to mention a device ( that allows you to make a keyboard from bananas. So, it’s time to take a look at making sure your electronics last as long as possible. I’m not talking  about replacement plans or extended warranties. Today we’re talking about protecting your products from electrical surges.

The first order of business is to define a surge. Here’s one from Computer Hope ( on the ‘Net. “Alternatively known as a line surge, a surge is an unexpected increase in voltage in an electrical current that causes damage to electrical equipment. For example, the standard United States voltage is 120V. If an electrical current above this rating was to come through a power outlet for more than three nanoseconds, this would be considered a surge, anything less is considered a spike. A surge is usually created by lightning and can damage unprotected computers and sometimes even protected computers.”

Many people think a blink from your local power company is a surge, but these are generally caused by something like a tree contacting a line. In such cases, the system’s protective devices work, causing an interruption to protect the wires and other components. These are not surges, but more like turning a light on and off.

True surges will enter a home through any number of avenues. The most obvious is through the power lines. Less obvious is through the telephone lines, cable/satellite connections, water lines and any other metallic system that connects to your home. So, to protect against surges, you need to take a three-pronged approach.

Perhaps the most important thing to do is to be sure all the grounds in your home are good and that they are bonded together. Over the years, grounds can deteriorate, new services can be added with inadequate grounding and so forth. A faulty ground will allow surges into the home rather than bleeding them off into the earth. Get a qualified electrician to test and correct your grounding system.

Next, protect your electrical service entrance with a surge device. [If your co-op offers surge devices, include that information here] The easiest to install are those mounted behind the meter. They can also be mounted at the main electric panel. When a surge travels down the electric lines, these devices will act to “clamp” the surge and reduce its power. These are sacrificial devices that allow themselves to be destroyed rather than allowing the surge to pass through. Noble devices indeed!

The third prong is to protect expensive devices at their point of use. Computers and entertainment equipment are prime examples. Remember that surges can enter the home via avenues other than the power lines. Computers and entertainment equipment are frequently connected to cable and phone lines. Those devices need to have protection at the point of use that covers all possible avenues. These are generally in the form of a power strip or wall device most of us are familiar with. Use a quality product from a manufacturer such as Monster, Belkin, Tripp Lite, or APC, to name a few. Look for one with a joule rating of at least 1,000, a connected equipment warranty and compatibility with digital signals from cable and satellite. While you are at it, look for a “smart” strip that turns off all but one connected device when not in use.

Save money on your electric bill while protecting your equipment. It’s a definite win-win.

Tom Tate 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.

Energy updates that make sense

By Brian Sloboda

When it comes to energy efficiency, there are two ways to measure improvements. The first is the payback period. This is the amount of time that the improvement will pay for itself. The second is comfort. Improvements can often increase the comfort level of a home. This is not easy to measure, but it is one of the driving forces behind home weatherization efforts. There are several areas of the home that can be improved easily, without breaking your budget.


In recent months, the price of LED lamps for residential consumers has steadily declined. 60W LED lamps can be purchased at many big box retailers for $10 or less. LEDs can save 60 percent or more when compared to incandescent bulbs – and last for several years. It should be noted that care should be taken when selecting a bulb for a fixture that uses a dimmer, as not all dimmers will work with LED bulbs. There are also flickering issues with poorly made LEDs.

Heating and air conditioning

The Energy Information Agency estimates that heating and air conditioning account for 22 percent of a typical home’s annual electric bill. Options such as an air source heat pump or a ground source heat pump can be 20 to 45 percent more efficient than the existing heating or cooling system in the average home. However, the upfront cost is often a barrier to adoption.

Simple solutions such as changing air filters at least every three months will increase airflow to rooms, increase the life of the HVAC unit’s motor and improve the air quality of the home. Sealing and insulating ductwork can be completed in a weekend and result in energy savings of up to 20 percent.

By locating and correcting air leaks, you can lessen the amount of work that heating and cooling systems need to do. To locate leaks, walk through your home on a cold day and feel for drafts around exterior doors and windows, electric outlets and entrance points for TV and telephone cables. In basements, target dryer vents, gas lines or any place with an opening in the wall. To fix leaks, apply caulk, spray foam or weather stripping to these areas.

Simple acts, such as cooking outdoors on a hot summer day and keeping curtains closed to keep out summer sun, will keep the interior of the home cooler and reduce the amount of time air conditioning units need to operate.

Appliances and electronics

The appliances and gadgets that make life easier are also the largest users of electricity in our homes. When buying a new appliance, look for the ENERGY STAR label. This simple act can result in 10 to 15 percent more in energy consumption savings. Some states have adopted ENERGY STAR holidays where the sales tax is waived on the purchase of qualifying ENERGY STAR rated appliances.

More simple household tips to boost energy efficiency include:

  • Cleaning lint traps on dryers and not over-drying clothes will save energy and extend the life of your clothes.
  • Replacing worn refrigerator gasket doors will stop cool air from leaking from the refrigerator.
  • Clean refrigerator coils and keep refrigerators away from heat-generating appliances such as an oven.

Home electronics, such as computers, TVs, DVD players and other modern devices, consume power even when turned off. This phenomenon is called parasitic load, and sometimes these devices are referred to by the more playful term, “energy vampire.” According to a study conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the average home loses 8 percent of its monthly energy consumption to these energy vampires. A full 75 percent of the power used to run home electronics is consumed when those appliances are turned off, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Cutting off power by using a power strip or a smart strip is the best way to stop this senseless loss of energy.

The best energy efficiency improvements are often the easiest. Turning lights off when leaving a room, sealing windows and doors and cleaning refrigerator coils isn’t as much fun as buying a shiny new appliance. But these simple jobs are proven ways to save energy and increase comfort.

Brian Sloboda is a program manager specializing in energy efficiency for the Cooperative Research Network, a service of the Arlington, Va.-based National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

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.

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

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

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)

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

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

1,000 members out

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.