Meriwether Lewis Electric Co-op helps local business with loan

The Spalon in Linden will be relocating and expanding its services with the help of a $50,000 loan from Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative. The interest-free loan was closed Feb. 29, and made possible by MLEC’s Revolving Loan Fund (RLF).

Owned by Jennifer Keeton of Perry County, The Spalon provides massages, tanning, skin treatments, and salon services. The loan allows her to settle into a different location more conducive to a spa atmosphere and offer more services to new and established clients.

As the loan is paid back over ten years, MLEC can loan it out again for other economic and community development projects. The RLF was established in 1996 with co-op funds and a grant from Rural Utilities Service. Since its inception, the RLF has awarded almost $750,000 in the MLEC service area and is in support of the cooperative’s goal to help local communities grow.

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.

Young Leaders Descend on State Capitol for Youth Leadership Summit

Speaker Beth Harwell today greeted students from across Tennessee attending the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association’s annual Youth Leadership Summit in Nashville. Harwell welcomed the young leaders to the House Chamber of the Tennessee State Capitol this morning and spent time explaining her role as speaker of the House and the process that is required to pass legislation.

Rep. Kevin Dunlap also addressed the group and encouraged them to stay active and involved. “You are already leaders or you would not be here today,” he said. “He also helped students understand the role electric cooperatives play in rural Tennessee. “The electric co-ops were created because there was a problem: rural Tennessee did not have the privilege of electricity,” said Dunlap. “Our leaders and citizens worked together to form the electric cooperatives and solve the problem.”

Senators Mike Bell, Richard Briggs and Ferrell Haile and Representatives Kent Calfee, Kevin Dunlap, Dan Howell, Jay Reedy and David Shepard joined Harwell and Dunlap for a town hall meeting with students in the House Chamber.

The theme of this year’s summit is “Small Towns, Big Ideas,” and attendees are encouraged to use their talents to improve rural Tennessee. “Local electric co-ops, school officials and guidance counselors chose these deserving students to attend the summit based on their interests in government and strong leadership abilities,” says Todd Blocker, vice president of member relations for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “During this year’s Youth Leadership Summit, we hope to teach these exceptional students that advances in technology have created unique career opportunities in their hometowns. They will be the next generation of leaders in rural Tennessee, and we want to prepare them for the challenges and opportunities they will face.”

“We want these students to share our passion for rural Tennessee and help them appreciate the things that make our rural communities special,” said David Callis, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Each year we plan to encourage these young leaders, but they always manage to turn the tables. We are the ones moved by their optimism and vision, and we can truly say that the future of rural Tennessee is bright. ”

 

Dealing with polarization

We are several primaries into a presidential election year, and even the most experienced political observer seems astounded by the level of polarization that exists in our country. The right hates the left; Democrats distrust Republicans — you get the point.

Depending on whom you ask, it’s obviously the other party’s fault. Armchair observers will contend that we’ve never been this divided. At times, the political system seems almost to the point of brokenness.

Fact is that polarization is nothing new. However, the gap may be widening. The Pew Research Center, which has been tracking political polarization for almost 30 years, says our “values and basic beliefs are more polarized along partisan lines than at any point in the past 25 years.” In a recent report, Pew goes on to state that “unlike in 1987, when this series of surveys began, the values gap between Republicans and Democrats is now greater than gender, age, race or class divides.”

Though polarization (of a different sort) is a good thing when it comes to motors and other machines that depend on electricity, political polarization becomes terribly distracting when you’re trying to operate an electric utility.

The electric utility business is an industry of “absolutes.” Electricity behaves in a constant and predictable manner. Yet, energy policy is determined in the world of politics. Over the years, despite partisan polarization, political battles and the whims and desires of various interest groups, we’ve fashioned a reliable, resilient electric grid.

Today’s electric grid is an interconnected network owned by electric cooperatives, municipal systems and investor-owned electric companies. It wasn’t always that way. There was quite a political fight in the 1930s before much of the nation was electrified with the help of the Rural Electrification Administration. The same is true for the creation and evolution of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

From our beginnings, electric cooperatives have been deeply involved in politics. In those early days, there were fights in the boardrooms of huge corporations, state assemblies and Congress. It wasn’t easy, and rural electrification didn’t happen overnight.

Over the decades, we’ve learned to navigate political obstacles.

Decisions made in the legislative hallways impact not only the cost of electricity but also its dependability. Because of our commitment to our communities, we have been able to fashion bipartisan support, which is fitting as our cooperative members span the spectrum in their political leanings.

For example, we have members who applaud the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Clean Power Plan, and we have members who believe it is overreach of the EPA’s authority. While electric cooperatives are on record opposing the Clean Power Plan, we are proven leaders in renewable-energy generation and energy-efficiency efforts. Our opposition doesn’t mean that we are opposed to the goals of the plan. We just believe there are better ways to accomplish them — ways that will allow us to maintain a reliable, affordable supply of power.

How do we deal with polarization on energy policy? The first step is the belief that reasonable people can disagree. The next is education — for those of us in the electric utility industry and for those who want to dramatically change our business. If we only listen to people who “think like us,” we may never see the other side of an issue.

It goes back to the fact that electricity behaves in a constant and predictable manner. Our political efforts have never been driven by greed. They are centered on maintaining our ability to provide power for our cooperatives. We know that we need an ample supply of affordable electricity to power our communities, and we must fulfill this commitment in an environmentally responsible manner. We try to maintain that balanced approach even when navigating the shifting sands of the political landscape.

Tennessee’s co-ops express concern over sale of TVA Bellefonte site

In a letter to Sherry Quirk, TVA executive vice president and general counsel, on Friday, March 18, TECA CEO David Callis expressed concern with the proposed sale of the TVA Bellefonte nuclear site.

“Our membership is concerned with the disposition of the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant Site,” said Callis. “We understand that Bellefonte isn’t needed in TVA’s current IRP. However, we are troubled that this valuable power asset could be sold as surplus property in a public auction.”

“Tennessee’s cooperatives believe this decision requires a thorough evaluation process that takes into consideration the full value of the site – both current and future needs,” said Callis. “While it may be two decades before TVA needs additional generation (potentially from the Bellefonte site), the value of TVA’s rights-of-way for high voltage transmission lines is too great to risk their loss. In today’s environment, securing paths and siting for new electric lines and substations is costly and time consuming.”

The letter also urged the TVA Board to consider additional input from TVA’s existing Public Advisory Councils and the Local Power Companies that depend on TVA.  Callis also expressed co-op support for the comments of the Tennessee Valley Public Power Association.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association is the service association representing the interests of Tennessee’s 23 electric distribution cooperatives and the 2.5 million rural and suburban consumers they serve.

Be a Co-op Voter

When was the last time you voted?

As member-owned electric cooperatives, voting is already in our DNA. It’s how we maintain an electric utility which is responsive to the consumers it serves. But voting also plays a crucial part in our representative democracy. Federal, state and local elections offer an opportunity to exercise a civic responsibility – to select the best leaders for our communities.

Yet in places all over America, even those served by electric cooperatives, citizens aren’t exercising that right.

In the 2012 national elections, voter turnout dropped overall, but the decline in rural counties was 18 percent—twice that of the nation as a whole.

And when voters miss the chance to vote, they also lose the opportunity to communicate their concern to our leaders about the issues that matter to us, where we work, live, and raise families.

Reliable electricity, access to rural broadband and the quality of our healthcare system are just a few issues we all care about. Still, they only become priorities if enough people show elected officials that they are paying attention. Registering to vote and voting are the most effective ways to send this message.

When we go to the polls with the cooperative principle of “Concern for Community” in mind, we instantly improve our political system. It’s a system designed to produce a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” People like you and me.

I’d like you to join me in a new initiative to get every eligible person registered to vote—you, me, our family and friends—and take the pledge to BECOME A CO-OP VOTER.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives have joined America’s electric cooperatives in launching a campaign to help get out the vote and insert issues important to co-ops into the public discussion. Called “Co-ops Vote,” this effort will help boost voter turnout in areas served by cooperatives across the country to ensure that our voices are heard loud and clear every day, and especially on Election Day.

Here’s what you can do to help. Visit the Co-ops Vote web site, WWW.VOTE.COOP, and take the pledge to BECOME A CO-OP VOTER to support your community and electric cooperative when casting your vote in 2016. The web site will give you information on your elected officials and candidates, the voter registration process, election dates and locations, and background about eight key co-op issues we want our elected leaders to understand: rural broadband access, hiring and honoring veterans, low-income energy assistance, cybersecurity, water regulation, rural health care access, affordable and reliable energy, and renewable energy.

Co-ops Vote is a non-partisan program developed by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives. With 42 million members across the nation, electric co-ops are a powerful voice on national issues that have a local impact.

If you have any questions, please visit WWW.VOTE.COOP or contact your local electric cooperative. I hope to see you at the polls!

Knowing what to do saved their lives

When teenagers Lee Whittaker and Ashley Taylor saw a power line safety demonstration at their high school, they never dreamed what they had learned that day would be put to test. Only days later, Whittaker and Taylor, along with two classmates, were in a car that crashed into a utility pole, bringing live power lines to the ground.

“When people are involved in a car accident, electricity is usually the last thing on their minds,” explains Molly Hall, executive director of the Energy Education Council’s Safe Electricity program. “We’re usually more concerned about whether anyone was injured or how badly the vehicle is damaged. We can forget that by exiting the vehicle, we’re risking exposure to thousands of volts of electricity from downed power lines.”

If you are in an accident with a utility pole, your vehicle may be charged with electricity. If this is the case and you step out of the car, you will become the electricity’s path to the ground and could be electrocuted. Loose wires and other equipment may be in contact with your car or near it—creating a risk for electrocution if you leave the vehicle.

While downed lines can sometimes reveal they are live by arcing and sparking with electricity, this is not always the case. Power lines do not always show signs that they are live, but they are just as lethal.

After an accident, stay in the car, and tell others to do the same. If you come upon an accident involving power lines, do not approach the accident scene. If you see someone approaching, warn them to stay away. Call 911 to notify emergency personnel and utility services. Do not leave your vehicle until a utility professional has told you it is safe to do so.

The safest place to be is almost always inside the car. The only circumstance when you should exit the vehicle is if it is on fire—and those instances are rare. If you must exit the vehicle, jump clear of it with your feet together and without touching the vehicle and ground at the same time. Continue to “bunny hop” with your feet together to safety. Doing this will ensure that you are at only one point of contact and will not have different strengths of electric current running from one foot to another, which can be deadly.

Whittaker, Taylor and their friends survived their accident because they had learned what to do. While they waited more than 30 minutes for line crews to arrive and deactivate the power line, Whittaker and Taylor made sure nobody left the car and warned those who came upon the accident to stay far away.

“Knowledge was crucial in keeping everyone involved in the accident safe,” Hall says. “We want to make sure that everyone knows what to do if they’re in accidents with power poles.”

For more information and to see Lee and Ashley’s story, visit SafeElectricity.org. If you would like to have the TECA Safety Demonstration Trailer at your event, click here.

How to choose efficient appliances

It’s never a good day when you realize you need to replace a large appliance in your home. However, when the unfortunate time comes, be sure to take a moment and consider what you will purchase – especially for appliances that haven’t been replaced in a number of years, as the technology may have changed substantially. Instead of rushing out to buy the same make and model of appliance you had, consider this an opportunity to assess the market and make a smart purchase that will save you money in the long run.

According to the Department of Energy, appliances account for about 13 percent of the average household’s energy use. Clothes dryers, refrigerators/freezers, computers, microwaves, dishwashers and washing machines are the appliances that tend to use the most energy in a typical American home. Every appliance you buy has an operating cost, which is the cost of the energy needed to power the appliance. To facilitate more informed comparison shopping, the federal government requires some appliances to have an Energy Guide label stating the approximate energy consumption and operating cost of the appliance. Appliances with an ENERGY STAR label use 10 to 50 percent less energy than standard appliances and are generally more expensive than their standard counterparts. So, it’s important to compare the lifetime costs of each (up-front cost + operating cost) to ensure that purchasing the efficient appliance is the best choice.

In addition to looking at the efficiency of your new appliance, make sure to consider its size. Purchasing an appliance that is too large for your needs will lead to more energy being used. For example, laptops or small desktops (e.g., the Mac Mini) use only one-quarter of the energy of typical desktop PCs and have sufficient memory and processing speeds for many common applications. This same principle applies to refrigerators, air conditioners and more.

As you begin your search for a new appliance, check with your electric cooperative to see if they offer incentives for energy efficient appliances, and remember to use the ENERGY STAR website as an additional resource.

Dramatic advancements in the efficiency of many electric appliances now can provide the same level of end-user comfort with substantially less electric input. With a little research and forethought up-front, you can save money over the life of your appliance without sacrificing any benefits. Good luck, and happy shopping!

Thomas Kirk is a technical research analyst specializing in energy efficiency and renewable energy for the Cooperative Research Network (CRN), a service of the Arlington, Va.-based National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

2016 Legislative Conference

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Members take co-op message to legislators

NASHVILLE – Directors and staff from [CO-OP NAME] were among more than 200 electric co-op leaders in Nashville on Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 9 and 10, for the 2016 Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association’s Legislative Conference. [CO-OP NAME] directors [DIRECTOR NAMES] joined [CO-OP STAFF NAMES AND TITLES] in meetings with legislators on Capitol Hill to help them better understand electric cooperatives and the issues that impact rural and suburban Tennessee.

House Speaker Beth Harwell welcomed the group to Nashville. “You serve 71 percent of our state and 2.5 million Tennesseans,” she said. “We recognize the impact you have on our state.”

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives maintain a visible presence in Nashville and Washington, D.C., to protect the interests of co-op members. “We are here to give a voice to rural Tennesseans,” says David Callis, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “We must tell the electric cooperative story and educate lawmakers about the impact of proposed legislation.”

“Decisions made in Nashville can have serious consequences for our co-op, our members and the communities we serve,” says [CO-OP LEADER, TITLE]. “We have a responsibility to our members to see that their voice is heard.” Attendees reminded legislators that co-ops are not-for-profit, member-owned and -regulated private businesses that impact rural and suburban Tennessee in many ways.

Visits focused on specific legislation that impacts co-ops and the communities they serve. Co-op leaders expressed support for a bill that allows electric co-ops to provide broadband Internet service. “We serve the areas with the greatest need for broadband,” says Mike Knotts, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “We have a role to play in bringing high-speed connectivity to rural Tennessee.” Co-ops also voiced their support of legislation that modernizes the tax code for co-ops and discussed the impact of the recent Supreme Court decision to halt implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

“Educated and informed legislators are necessary for us to provide low-cost, reliable power, and our members make a powerful impression when they come to Nashville,” says Knotts. More than 100 legislative visits were made during the conference, and dozens of legislators from across the state attended a reception honoring members of the Tennessee General Assembly.

[CO-OP BOILERPLATE]

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.

# # #

FOR MORE INFORMATION
[CO-OP MEDIA CONTACT INFORMATION]
Trent Scott | Vice President of Strategy | 615.515.5534 | tscott@tnelectric.org

TECA’s Knotts graduates from MIP

Mike Knotts, vice president of government affairs for TECA, recently completed an intensive program in electric utility management with the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The Robert I. Kabat Management Internship Program (MIP) is a series of workshops offered by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin. The program guides participants through all facets of the electric utility industry, including the many changes occurring around the nation.

Knotts is one of only a few electric utility leaders that will graduate from the Management Internship Program this year.

“MIP provides the opportunity to network with other co-op leaders and engage in high-level, in-depth discussion of the issues facing co-ops,” says Knotts. “Completing this program has helped me to better understand the difficult decisions that co-op CEOs and Directors face each and every day. I’m excited to put this education to work for the benefit each of the electric cooperatives of Tennessee.”

MIP participants go through three 10-day sessions designed to challenge and educate participants in new, innovative management techniques. Participants leave with a better understanding of what consumers want and how to ensure they get it.

Rural electric cooperative CEOs and top level management participate in the Management Internship Program. This allows greater emphasis of study on management challenges and the aspects of consumer-ownership that cooperatives enjoy. Participants learn focus on member value as part of day-to-day decision making.

 

Members take co-op message to legislators

NASHVILLE – More than 250 members and employees from Tennessee’s electric cooperatives were in Nashville on Monday and Tuesday, March 7 and 8, for the 2016 Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association’s 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.

House Speaker Beth Harwell welcomed the group to Nashville. “You serve 71 percent of our state and 2.5 million Tennesseans,” she said. “We recognize the impact you have on our state.”

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives maintain a visible presence in Nashville and Washington, D.C., to protect the interests of co-op members. “We are here to give a voice to rural Tennesseans,” says David Callis, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.

“Legislators consider bills that have serious consequences for co-ops and the communities they serve. We must tell the electric cooperative story and educate lawmakers about the impact of proposed legislation,” says Callis. Attendees reminded legislators that co-ops are not-for-profit, member-owned and –regulated private businesses that impact rural and suburban Tennessee in many ways.

Visits focused on specific legislation that impacts co-ops and the communities they serve. Co-op leaders expressed support for a bill that allows electric co-ops to provide broadband Internet service. “We serve the areas with the greatest need for broadband,” says Mike Knotts, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “We have a role to play in bringing high-speed connectivity to rural Tennessee.” Co-ops also voiced their support of legislation that modernizes the tax code for co-ops and discussed the impact of the recent Supreme Court decision to halt implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

“Educated and informed legislators are necessary for us to provide low-cost, reliable power, and our members make a powerful impression when they come to Nashville,” says Knotts. More than 100 legislative visits were made during the conference, and dozens of legislators from across the state attended a reception honoring members of the Tennessee General Assembly.