We want you to know

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of scams targeting our consumers’ pocketbooks. In one, a caller posing as a co-op employee threatens to shut off service unless the member provides immediate payment using a reloadable debit card, prepaid gift card or online payment service like PayPal. That’s not the way that we operate. Education and communication help reduce the number of victims, but some of our members still fall prey.

There are other schemes that fall into a category somewhere between outright scam and shady marketing. Many are legitimate products that truly help manage and lower energy usages; such as programmable thermostats, energy efficient appliances, timers, etc.

Unfortunately, many are not. When the first pitch is “What The Electric Companies Don’t Want You To Know“, there is a good chance that the product is questionable. The implication is that we are out to steal our members’ money.

Fact: We want our members to have lower electric bills. It’s just sometimes difficult to convince them of that fact.

As member-owned, non-profit cooperatives, we operate on margins that don’t include paying dividends to investors. We don’t have to generate record profits to increase our stock price. Every dollar taken in is used in running the system or re-invested back into the distribution system.

We encourage our members to use less electricity. What other business has that type of business plan?

When energy saving devices can cut electric bills – we want everyone to know about them. Electric cooperatives frequently gave away compact fluorescent or LED lights; we provide free advice on energy efficiency; we promote geothermal heating and cooling systems that can dramatically reduce your electricity consumption. We do everythiing we can to help our members use less electricity.

And despite what our members have been told, electric cooperatives and TVA encourage the use of renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar. We need coal, but that’s not all we’re about.

The bottom line is that we are concerned about our members’ bottom line. Our primary concern has always been keeping the lights on. That concern isn’t limited to keeping the power flowing, it also means keeping energy affordable.

So, the next time you see the phrase, “what your utility doesn’t want you to know,” tell your members to put their hand on your pocketbook. As we’re doing that, let’s make an extra effort to educate them on the measures that they can take to lower their bill – that’s something that we do want them to know.

Celebration of Rural Life

by David Callis, executive vice president and general manager

The Tennessee State Fair is a celebration of rural life. Recently we had the opportunity to help flip the switch and “light the midway” during the fair’s opening ceremony. It was only fitting that rural electric cooperatives were on hand to turn on the lights.

It was a perfect representation of what more than 2,600 electric co-op employees do each day across the state. The power we provide does more than chase away darkness – it powers the technology and innovation that connects us, it creates opportunity for jobs and commerce, and it ensures the safety, comfort and convenience that we often take for granted.

A lot goes on behind the scenes to get power to your home. There are people like John Spence, the Gibson EMC lineman who helped turn on the switch. There are engineers, member service representatives, foresters and communicators who work together to make a very complex job look easy.

Success means that the lights come on when our members flip the switch and their bill is affordable when it arrives in the mailbox.

Too often, our continued success is jeopardized by politicians and bureaucrats in Nashville or Washington. That is why our Take Action campaign is so important. If you have not already, please visit takeactionTN.com and submit your comments to the EPA on the Rule 111(D).

During the opening ceremony, we had a chance to meet Zoe, a young lady struggling with a serious medical condition. Her wish of being a princess came true as she proudly wore her tiara on stage with us. Her moment was made possible by the incredible efforts of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. I encourage you to learn more about their work at middletennessee.wish.org.

The rural roots we celebrated at the state fair are a part of our DNA as electric cooperatives. The self-sufficient character of rural residents is something you can’t really explain; you have to experience it.

Note from David

Perspective

There are usually two sides to every story. Quite often more than two sides. That makes decision making a difficult task, whether it’s parenting, voting, or complex business decisions. If you’ve every separated quarreling siblings, you know it’s no simple task discovering who instigated the fight. You listen to both parties, check the facts, and dispense justice – or something close to it.

The Environmental Protection Agency Clean Power Plan would essentially restructure the way that electricity is generated – local decisions would be made in Washington. As the EPA unveiled the proposed rule, they also quoted statistics stating that the cost of electricity would be lower in 2030 if the rule were adopted.

If you only consider the information that the EPA provides, you wouldn’t really understand why anyone would oppose a plan that purports to lower usage and fight climate change.

Unless, of course, you looked at another side of the issue.

Over the past decades, electric cooperatives across the nation have invested billions in emissions technologies and renewable energy sources. We’ve also led the way in energy efficiency efforts; what other industry pays you to use less.

The rule essentially eliminates coal as a generation source. To the EPA and proponents of the rule, that’s great. Yet, there is another side to the “war on coal”.

At a recent EPA hearing in Denver, Colorado, Moffat County (CO) Commissioner John Kinkaid shared the impact that coal has on his county. He began by discussing the natural beauty of his county and the tourism and recreational options available.

And then he discussed the financial impact of the EPA rule. The coal-fired plant in his county provides a financial impact of over $428 million each year to the local economy. The very same coal fired plant that co-exists with the residents and the mountains.

Residents of the county don’t want it closed. They don’t want local residents to lose good jobs. They don’t want their school systems to struggle for funding. They want to control their destiny – making the decisions that impact their future.

Moffat County is only one of many counties and towns impacted by the plan. Tens of thousands of families could see their lives upended for a rule that, on its face, looks like a good idea.

It all depends on your perspective.