The Top Tenn

The first annual TECA Top Tenn Communication Awards were presented during the 2015 TECA Annual Meeting. Duck River Electric Membership Corporation received an award for Best External Newsletter or Magazine Section; Appalachian Electric Cooperative, Best Internal Newsletter; Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation, Best Website; and Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative, Best Use of Social Media. Duck River Electric Membership Corporation, Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative and Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative each received awards in the Wild Card category, with Chickasaw Electric Cooperative and Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative also earning Honorable Mentions.

“Effective communication is a powerful tool for modern electric cooperatives,” says Robin Conover, TECA’s vice president of communications and editor of The Tennessee Magazine. “We honor these winners for telling the electric cooperative story in a professional way across multiple platforms.”

Best External Newsletter or Magazine Section

Duck River Electric Membership Corporation
Monthly sections in The Tennessee Magazine

“Content in these sections is varied enough that any reader can find articles of interest,”the judge claimed in describing the writing as “excellent” and praising General Manager Michael Watson’s monthly columns: “Whether he’s telling Duck River Electric Membership Corporation members about the prospects of their co-op merging with a neighboring system, getting them fired up about a monstrous tractor pull, or detailing the challenges of dealing with two huge ice storms in the same week, General Manager Michael Watson knows how to put things in perspective for members. His messages to the membership are simple, friendly, and to the point.”

Best Internal Newsletter

Appalachian Electric Cooperative
The Hotline employee newsletter

Our judge noted the heavy emphasis on co-op news, one particular article he noted as “masterfully done.” “Diversity of content in this newsletter should attract an array of readers,” he said citing “light, friendly offerings” and writing that’s “outstanding — clever, crisp, creative.”

Best Website

Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation

Our judge noted, “Articles are timely, up-to-date, and easy to read in proper journalistic style;” “Menus are easy to find and comprehend;” “The home page, especially, is clean, well-organized, and easy to distinguish what is most important and most relevant;” and “Articles are timely and updated.”

Best Use of Social Media

Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative

In analyzing Sequachee Valley EC’s social media posts, our judge said, “SVEC is getting incredible engagement on their posts as measured in retweets, shares, likes, and comments,” interaction the judge called “refreshing.” As for writing quality, it was noted as “appropriately varied according to the type of post: informative when there’s a power outage, lively when there is some interaction required, reverent when there is something serious or inspirational to say.”

Wild Cards

Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative
“Celebrating 75 Years of Light” campaign: Video, “A Place at the Table” cookbook, 75th anniversary quilt

We bundled together for consideration three related entries. “A Place at the Table — Celebrating 75 Years of Light” is a cookbook our judge called “a masterful, meaningful project dedicated to member-owners of Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative.” The cooperative’s annual meeting video, also titled “Celebrating 75 Years of Light,” is, our judge said, “A wonderful 12-minute video for which Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative staffers created the script and story board was perhaps the crown jewel in the organization’s celebration of its Diamond Anniversary — the 75th — in 2014.” And he called MLEC’s 75th Birthday Quilt “a great job all around!” “After being unveiled at MLEC’s 2014 Membership Meetings, the masterpiece made its way to each of the counties the cooperative serves. Those gatherings attracted some 1,200 members! That the quilt project was a modern-day version of quilting bees of the past made it even more appropriate for a 75th anniversary observance.”

Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative
“Energizing Our Communities for 75 Years” campaign: Cookbook and 75th anniversary commemorative book

This is another bundled set of submissions. “Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative Celebrates 75 Years,” our judge wrote, “is compact enough that it doesn’t take up much space on a shelf or in a drawer, and its type is easy to read. It should be a treasured keepsake for many members.” He also added extra praise for the book’s details: “What impressed me about (the cover) picture was that each of the 50 people shown was identified! An editor after my own heart!” Meanwhile, commemorative publication “Energizing Our Communities for 75 Years” is praised as “a marvelous 65-page book chronicling the 75-year history of Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative. A masterpiece chunk full of facts, features, and touching testimonials from some of the pioneers who helped bring electricity to the scenic Sequatchie Valley, this volume is a true keepsake for SVEC employees and members.”

Duck River Electric Membership Corporation
“Co-op Connections Business Directory”

“Somebody has put a lot of work into compiling and maintaining this comprehensive directory of local businesses that offer discounts and specials to participating Duck River Electric Membership Corporation members,” our judge commented. “All in all, Coop Connections is quite an undertaking, and the top-quality directory compiled and maintained by DREMC obviously plays a major part in its success.”

Honorable mentions

Chickasaw Electric Cooperative
“Third Annual Deck the Halls at Chickasaw”

“What a clever and creative Christmas promotion!” praised our judge, showing that a large budget isn’t necessary for strong communications initiatives, including those aimed at employee engagement. “I’m sure it’s something Chickasaw employees look forward to every year, and from the photos submitted with the entry, it’s evident that lots of creativity and effort go into the joyful project. Visitors are bound to be impressed – and inspired! Based on the photos, my favorite is the tree on which the Christmas-red “‘Caution: buried electric line below”’ tape and other electric utility trinkets are used as
decorations.”

Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative
“45 Years of WYT”

“Though I wish this video had narration, I understand why that wasn’t feasible,” begins the judge. “The producer did the next best thing, though, by providing text that tells who’s who, which year is which, and something about what’s going on. It’s a long video at just over 24 minutes, but considering the time span it covers and the number of young people it features, it’s worth every minute! I can’t imagine how long it took to gather all the information on Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative’s Youth Tour delegates, round up photos, and then write copy for this project.”

What would life be like without electric co-ops?

By Adam Schwartz

In the holiday movie classic “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the lead character, George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart), wishes he had never been born due to financial troubles he is experiencing. Through the help of an angel, he sees how many lives would have been negatively affected if he didn’t exist. George comes to realize that, even with his problems, he has a wonderful life with great friends and family.

So what do you think life would be like if community leaders had not founded your local electric cooperative?

Living in the U.S. in 2015, it is nearly impossible to imagine life without electricity. So many of our modern conveniences that improve the quality of our lives are dependent on electricity as the “fuel” to make them work: from the alarm clock that wakes us up to the refrigerator that keeps our morning milk cold and fresh, from the HVAC unit that keeps us cool in the summer and warm in the winter to the vacuum that lets us clean more efficiently and all those kitchen appliances that save us time and physical energy. Of course, so much of our entertainment, whether it comes from the TV, radio or computer, depends on the kilowatt-hours that your electric co-op provides. Just think: There would be no smartphones or cell phones if there were no electricity.

Businesses of all kinds rely on electricity to produce and sell the products we need. So, it is no wonder that many electric co-ops feel that, while their primary product is electricity, they are really in the quality-of-life business.

As we celebrate the season that reminds us to be thankful for all we have, it is important to remember the 1.3 billion people in the world who still live without reliable electric service. That is equal to about four times the U.S. population!

Many of the things we take for granted living in the U.S. are much harder and more time-consuming for people in developing countries around the world. Your electric co-op is a proud member of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) that is working through its affiliate, NRECA International, and the NRECA International Foundation to help bring power to people in developing countries like Haiti and Liberia. (www.nreca.coop/it-starts-with-power/)

We are thankful that our community ancestors right here had the vision and foresight to do for themselves what needed to be done, gathering our friends and neighbors to form our electric co-op. As the electric business of the 21st century continues to evolve, you can count on your local electric cooperative to meet all of your electric energy needs. More importantly, your co-op is here to help improve the quality of your wonderful life.

Adam Schwartz is the founder of The Cooperative Way, a consulting firm that helps co-ops succeed.  He is an author, speaker and member-owner of the CDS Consulting Co-op. You can follow him on Twitter — @adamcooperative — or email him at aschwartz@thecooperativeway.coop

The Top Tenn

The first annual TECA Top Tenn Communication Awards were presented during the 2015 TECA Annual Meeting. Duck River Electric Membership Corporation received an award for Best External Newsletter or Magazine Section; Appalachian Electric Cooperative, Best Internal Newsletter; Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation, Best Website; and Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative, Best Use of Social Media. Duck River Electric Membership Corporation, Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative and Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative each received awards in the Wild Card category, with Chickasaw Electric Cooperative and Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative also earning Honorable Mentions.

“Effective communication is a powerful tool for modern electric cooperatives,” says Robin Conover, TECA’s vice president of communications and editor of The Tennessee Magazine. “We honor these winners for telling the electric cooperative story in a professional way across multiple platforms.”

Best External Newsletter or Magazine Section

Duck River Electric Membership Corporation
Monthly sections in The Tennessee Magazine

“Content in these sections is varied enough that any reader can find articles of interest,”the judge claimed in describing the writing as “excellent” and praising General Manager Michael Watson’s monthly columns: “Whether he’s telling Duck River Electric Membership Corporation members about the prospects of their co-op merging with a neighboring system, getting them fired up about a monstrous tractor pull, or detailing the challenges of dealing with two huge ice storms in the same week, General Manager Michael Watson knows how to put things in perspective for members. His messages to the membership are simple, friendly, and to the point.”

Best Internal Newsletter

Appalachian Electric Cooperative
The Hotline employee newsletter

Our judge noted the heavy emphasis on co-op news, one particular article he noted as “masterfully done.” “Diversity of content in this newsletter should attract an array of readers,” he said citing “light, friendly offerings” and writing that’s “outstanding — clever, crisp, creative.”

Best Website

Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation

Our judge noted, “Articles are timely, up-to-date, and easy to read in proper journalistic style;” “Menus are easy to find and comprehend;” “The home page, especially, is clean, well-organized, and easy to distinguish what is most important and most relevant;” and “Articles are timely and updated.”

Best Use of Social Media

Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative

In analyzing Sequachee Valley EC’s social media posts, our judge said, “SVEC is getting incredible engagement on their posts as measured in retweets, shares, likes, and comments,” interaction the judge called “refreshing.” As for writing quality, it was noted as “appropriately varied according to the type of post: informative when there’s a power outage, lively when there is some interaction required, reverent when there is something serious or inspirational to say.”

Wild Cards

Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative
“Celebrating 75 Years of Light” campaign: Video, “A Place at the Table” cookbook, 75th anniversary quilt

We bundled together for consideration three related entries. “A Place at the Table — Celebrating 75 Years of Light” is a cookbook our judge called “a masterful, meaningful project dedicated to member-owners of Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative.” The cooperative’s annual meeting video, also titled “Celebrating 75 Years of Light,” is, our judge said, “A wonderful 12-minute video for which Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative staffers created the script and story board was perhaps the crown jewel in the organization’s celebration of its Diamond Anniversary — the 75th — in 2014.” And he called MLEC’s 75th Birthday Quilt “a great job all around!” “After being unveiled at MLEC’s 2014 Membership Meetings, the masterpiece made its way to each of the counties the cooperative serves. Those gatherings attracted some 1,200 members! That the quilt project was a modern-day version of quilting bees of the past made it even more appropriate for a 75th anniversary observance.”

Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative
“Energizing Our Communities for 75 Years” campaign: Cookbook and 75th anniversary commemorative book

This is another bundled set of submissions. “Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative Celebrates 75 Years,” our judge wrote, “is compact enough that it doesn’t take up much space on a shelf or in a drawer, and its type is easy to read. It should be a treasured keepsake for many members.” He also added extra praise for the book’s details: “What impressed me about (the cover) picture was that each of the 50 people shown was identified! An editor after my own heart!” Meanwhile, commemorative publication “Energizing Our Communities for 75 Years” is praised as “a marvelous 65-page book chronicling the 75-year history of Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative. A masterpiece chunk full of facts, features, and touching testimonials from some of the pioneers who helped bring electricity to the scenic Sequatchie Valley, this volume is a true keepsake for SVEC employees and members.”

Duck River Electric Membership Corporation
“Co-op Connections Business Directory”

“Somebody has put a lot of work into compiling and maintaining this comprehensive directory of local businesses that offer discounts and specials to participating Duck River Electric Membership Corporation members,” our judge commented. “All in all, Coop Connections is quite an undertaking, and the top-quality directory compiled and maintained by DREMC obviously plays a major part in its success.”

Honorable mentions

Chickasaw Electric Cooperative
“Third Annual Deck the Halls at Chickasaw”

“What a clever and creative Christmas promotion!” praised our judge, showing that a large budget isn’t necessary for strong communications initiatives, including those aimed at employee engagement. “I’m sure it’s something Chickasaw employees look forward to every year, and from the photos submitted with the entry, it’s evident that lots of creativity and effort go into the joyful project. Visitors are bound to be impressed – and inspired! Based on the photos, my favorite is the tree on which the Christmas-red “‘Caution: buried electric line below”’ tape and other electric utility trinkets are used as
decorations.”

Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative
“45 Years of WYT”

“Though I wish this video had narration, I understand why that wasn’t feasible,” begins the judge. “The producer did the next best thing, though, by providing text that tells who’s who, which year is which, and something about what’s going on. It’s a long video at just over 24 minutes, but considering the time span it covers and the number of young people it features, it’s worth every minute! I can’t imagine how long it took to gather all the information on Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative’s Youth Tour delegates, round up photos, and then write copy for this project.”

Small Towns, Big Ideas

NASHVILLE – “Small Towns, Big Ideas” was the theme of the 74th annual meeting of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, held Sunday, Nov. 22, through Tuesday, Nov. 24, in Nashville. More than 350 electric cooperative leaders from across the state attending the event were encouraged to be advocates for the communities they serve.

“Whether it be broadband expansion, political affairs or economic development, co-ops have unique opportunities to foster development in our service areas,” says David Callis, TECA executive vice president and general manager. “Concern for community is one of our guiding principles. The focus of this event – and the coming year – is to explore the real ways co-ops can demonstrate our commitment to rural and suburban Tennessee.”

During the meeting, elections were held for positions on the association’s board of trustees. Jeff Newman, general manager of Forked Deer Electric Cooperative in Halls; Dan Smith, a director from Middle Tennessee Electric Cooperative in Murfreesboro; and Jarrod Brackett, manager of Fort Loudoun Electric Cooperative in Madisonville, were elected to four-year terms.

Jim Coode, general manager of Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation in Clarksville, was named president of the board of trustees. John Collins, general manager of Chickasaw Electric Cooperative in Somerville, was named vice president; and Johnnie Ruth Elrod, a director with Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative in Centerville, was named secretary-treasurer.

Delegates also elected Tom Purkey, a director with Middle Tennessee Electric, to represent Tennessee on the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association board.

“Congratulations to those honored with leadership positions,” says Callis. “Their talents and ideas will be valuable as we continue our mission to serve Tennessee’s electric cooperatives and their members.”

The first annual TECA Top Tenn Communication Awards were presented during the event. Duck River Electric Membership Corporation received an award for Best External Newsletter or Magazine Section; Appalachian Electric Cooperative, Best Internal Newsletter; Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation, Best Website; and Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative, Best Use of Social Media. Duck River Electric Membership Corporation, Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative and Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative each received awards in the Wild Card category, with Chickasaw Electric Cooperative and Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative also earning Honorable Mentions.

“Effective communication is a powerful tool for modern electric cooperatives,” says Robin Conover, TECA’s vice president of communications and editor of The Tennessee Magazine. “We honor these winners for telling the electric cooperative story in a professional way across multiple platforms.”

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association represents Tennessee’s 24 electric cooperatives and the 2.1 million members they serve across rural and suburban Tennessee.

For more information
Trent Scott, Director of Corporate Strategy
Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association
615.515.5534 | tscott@tnelectric.org

 

There is a Cooperative Difference

While all electric utilities offer the same product, where it comes from makes a difference.

In the U.S., the vast majority of people receive their electricity from one of three types of utilities; investor-owned, municipal-owned or through their electric cooperative, which is owned and controlled by the people who use it. Let’s take a closer look at these three types of ownership models and see why it matters to you.

In the investor-owned model, the corporation is owned by a great number of stockholders who may or may not be real customers of the utility. Investor-owned utilities tend to be very large corporations such as Entergy, Con Edison or Excel. They serve large cities, suburban areas and some rural areas, too.

In most cases, investor-owned utilities (IOUs) have few employees in the communities where they operate. This, combined with the fact that they have outside investors whose sole motive is to make a profit on their investment, generally tends to lead to less personalized service. Consumer surveys confirm that IOUs have the lowest customer satisfaction ratings. About 72 percent of the U.S. population is served by investor-owned utilities.

Municipal electric systems, as the name implies, are government owned. They can serve large cities, like Los Angeles, Austin or Orlando, or smaller areas, like Jackson, Knoxville or Chattanooga.  In municipal systems, the city runs the utility with little to no meaningful oversight from the citizens. About 16 percent of the market is served by municipal utilities.

Rural electric cooperatives serve the smallest number of consumers, about 12 percent of the market, which equals 42 million people. There are more than 800 other electric co-ops in 47 states in addition to the 23 in Tennessee. While co-ops serve the fewest number of people, our electric lines cover more than 75 percent of the U.S. landmass. This is because we provide power where others once refused to go because of the low population density. Electric co-ops rank highest in member satisfaction among the three types of utilities. We believe this is because we serve member-owners, not customers.

As the electric utility business continues to evolve, we are committed to being there for you, our member, to provide for your electric energy needs. Unlike large investor-owned utilities, we are rooted right here in Tennessee. Over the years, we have answered the call to provide additional benefits and services because it is extremely important to us that our community thrives and prospers.  This is why Tennessee co-ops are active in economic development and energy efficiency and help to prepare young leaders for the challenges of tomorrow.

There is a cooperative difference. You own us, and we are here to serve you.

Adam Schwartz is the founder of The Cooperative Way a consulting firm that helps co-ops succeed.  He is an author, speaker and member-owner of the CDS Consulting Co-op.  You can follow him on Twitter @adamcooperative or email him at aschwartz@thecooperativeway.coop

Why electric co-ops replace utility poles

You probably don’t pay much attention to the utility poles in your neighborhood, but did you know these tall structures are the backbone of Tennessee’s distribution network?

Strong, sturdy utility poles ensure a reliable electric system, which is why co-ops routinely inspect the thousands of poles found on our lines. Throughout the year, crews check poles for decay caused by exposure to the elements. They know which poles are oldest and conduct inspections through a rotational process. Typically, a standard wooden distribution pole is expected to last more than 50 years.

Occasionally, poles need to be replaced for other reasons besides decay and old age. Weather disasters, power line relocation and car crashes are potential causes for immediate replacement. When possible, co-ops communicate when and where pole replacements will take place so that you stay informed of where crews will be working.

Here is a quick breakdown of how crews replace a utility pole:

When a pole needs to be replaced, crews will start the process by digging a hole, typically next to the pole being replaced. The depth of the hole must be 15 percent of the new pole’s height. Next, the new pole must be fitted with bolts, cross arms, insulators, ground wires and arm braces – all of the necessary parts for delivering safe and reliable electricity. Then, crews safely detach the power lines from the old pole. The new pole is then raised and guided carefully into position, and the lines are attached, leaving the new pole to do its job.

So, the next time you come across a co-op crew replacing a pole, use caution and know that this process ensures a more reliable electric system for you, our members.

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.

Three keys to understanding the EPA plan on climate change

The U.S. is in the process of taking a giant step in the noisy process of changing how we generate and use electricity now that the Environmental Protection Agency has released the final version of its Clean Power Plan.

That contentious process will continue for years, or even decades, as advocates warn of nothing less than destruction of the economy on the one side and the destruction of the planet on the other.

This current energy focus is the result of President Obama’s August 3 announcement of what he called, “A plan two years in the making, and the single most important step America has ever taken in the fight against global climate change.”

Two days after that announcement, 16 states asked the EPA to put a hold on the plan, calling it illegal and saying it would raise utility bills.

The plan would reduce the burning of coal to produce electricity, which now generates more than one-third of our electric power, and increase the use of renewable energy sources like solar and wind. The huge effects of those changes, and the complex and controversial ways they would happen, guarantee that the Clean Power Plan will be setting the nation’s energy discussion for the foreseeable future.

Here are the key things to know about the EPA Clean Power Plan:

Over the next 15 years, the plan would change the U.S. energy economy

The Clean Power Plan targets the 1,000 fossil fuel-burning electric power plants in the U.S., aiming to cut carbon dioxide emissions by one-third.

The Plan also sets out a way for that to happen. It calls for states to work with the power industry and submit a carbon dioxide emission reduction plan to the federal government by September, 2016. A two-year extension can be requested. Reductions would begin in 2022 and would be completed by 2030.

To replace fossil fuels, the Clean Power Plan encourages renewable energy.

Opposition could delay the plan

The 16-state request for a delay actually seeks to kill the Clean Power Plan. The request, in the form of an August 5 letter to the EPA, says that the agency should hold off on implementing the plan because of the states’ intention to sue the EPA.

The planned lawsuit would claim that the law the EPA is using as a basis for the Clean Power Plan, the Clean Air Act, does not allow the EPA to require states to make such large-scale changes to their energy economies.

The EPA says the Clean Power Plan has been carefully written to comply with the law. The August 5 letter cites other objections to the Clean Power Plan, including that it would “coerce states to expend enormous public resources and to … prepare State Plans of unprecedented scope and complexity. In addition, the State’s citizens will be forced to pay higher energy bills as power plants shut down.”

Additional lawsuits are expected from other opponents.

There is also strong political opposition. Elected officials in Congress as well as state governments have called on states to refuse to submit carbon reduction plans.

Electric co-ops say plan would raise electric bills, hurt rural economy

Electric co-ops cite special concerns about the effects of the Clean Power Plan because of their higher share of low-income members and often already-fragile rural economies.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association warned of the expected increase in electric bills as a result of power-plant closures.

“Any increase in the cost of electricity most dramatically impact those who can least afford it,” said NRECA. “The fallout from EPA’s rule will cascade across the nation for years to come.”

Paul Wesslund 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.

Why co-ops plan outages

Have you ever received a notification from the folks here at your local electric cooperative informing you of a “planned outage?” You may have wondered, “what is a planned outage?” and “why does my electric utility need to perform one?” Occasionally, the equipment we use to bring power to your home needs to be replaced, repaired or updated. When this happens, as a way to keep our crews and you safe, we plan an interruption to electric service.

We do our best to plan these outages during times when you will be least inconvenienced, so we often perform planned outages during school and business hours. We also try to avoid planning these outages during winter or summer months. We understand these are peak times of the year when you depend on running your heating and cooling units the most.

While they may sound slightly inconvenient, planned outages are actually beneficial to you, our members. Regular system upgrades are necessary for optimal performance, and they increase reliability. Repairing and upgrading our equipment is also critical to maintaining public safety. If older lines need to be replaced, we plan for it, repair or replace it, and that keeps everyone safe.

Planned outages also allow us to keep you informed of when and how long you will be without power. We can notify you long before an outage, so you can be prepared. We also keep you aware of when line crews will be working in your area.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives want to make sure we are doing everything we can to keep you safe and to keep our systems running smoothly. So, the next time you hear about a planned outage, know that it is one of the best ways we can provide you with quality electric service.

Meghaan Evans 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.

Saving energy in the kitchen

The holidays are upon us, which means most of us will be spending a lot of time in the kitchen. Whether you are considering replacing an appliance or simply looking for small ways to be more efficient, here are some tips to help you save energy – and money!

It sits in the kitchen, quietly humming away to keep your food cold. Most people don’t think about their refrigerator that often – as long as it’s working. A refrigerator typically runs for several years without any problems – but that doesn’t mean it’s performing to its optimal capacity. Older refrigerators use more energy. Upgrading this appliance can bring a major return on your investment.

According to Energy Star, if your refrigerator is from the 1980s, replacing it with a new model could cut your electric bill by $100 a year. If you bought your refrigerator in the 1970s, the savings could be as much as $200 a year.

Cooking can also be a big energy expender – in more ways than one! But there are a few ways to save energy while cooking. Placing the lid on a pot of boiling water will trap heat and cause the water to come to a boil faster. And there is no need to preheat the oven when cooking a large piece of meat, like a turkey or ham (you do need to preheat when baking or cooking smaller dishes). And, if you are planning on using the oven for a long period of time – for instance, when you are cooking one of those large pieces of meat – you might be able to turn down your home’s thermostat. The simple act of cooking will add warmth to the home because the heat from the oven can raise the temperature in the kitchen and surrounding rooms. This is especially true if you are hosting a party. Once your home begins to fill with people, the temperature will quickly begin to rise.

Even after the meal is over, there are still ways for you to save energy. The first is to make sure that your dishwasher is full before it’s started. Next, make sure you are using the right setting on your dishwasher. Many newer dishwashers have sensors that detect how clean your dishes are. When these auto cycles are used, they will get dishes clean without wasting energy or water. The sanitize setting should rarely be used since it is energy intensive. It is also a good idea to make sure the filter at the bottom of the wash-tub is cleaned. This will help the washer work at its optimal level.

One of the cheapest and easiest ways to save energy in the kitchen is to replace existing lights with LEDs. Not only do they use less energy – you don’t have to replace them nearly as often. Plus, their costs have come down in recent years, making them far more affordable to install. (Note: if you currently have linear fluorescent lamps, converting to LEDs may be too expensive to justify).

As you can see, there are many different ways to practice efficiency in the kitchen, and who knows – you could even save enough money to treat the family to dinner out a couple of times a year.

Brian Sloboda is a senior program manager specializing in energy efficiency for the Cooperative Research Network, a service of the Arlington, Va.-based National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. The Cooperative Research Network monitors, evaluates, and applies technologies that help electric cooperatives control costs, increase productivity, and enhance service to their consumers. Additional content provided by ESource.

Singleness of purpose

What is the single purpose we have in running an electric cooperative? Serving our members by keeping the lights on and the rates low. You’ve heard us repeat that refrain for years. It doesn’t seem long enough for a mission statement, and it isn’t really a motto. It seems so simple and direct.

And, it is absolutely true. Just ask our members.

A number of years ago, an electric cooperative (not in Tennessee) hired a new general manager who promised to change the status quo. He did. His initial contact with the cooperative was as an outside consultant hired to review the organization and suggest changes that would revitalize and “improve” the business. Once hired, the manager immediately began to reorganize departments, change titles and revamp the entire cooperative. The changes he enacted were innovative and quite a bit different.

The changes — and the manager — didn’t last long. I remember that when he left, he made a statement to the effect that he was “good at tearing down walls and not so good at building and maintaining them.” There were a number of failures, but the core failure was that the changes became the focus. Instead of focusing on the one purpose of the cooperative, the focus was placed on the cleverness of the changes.

That doesn’t mean that change is a bad thing. But change for change itself isn’t necessarily good. Change that loses sight of our reason for existence is doomed to fail. It will fail the cooperative, the employees and the members.

The current political environment is one of the more intriguing in recent history. The U.S. Senate is on a different page than the House of Representatives, and both are on different pages than the administration. As I write this, the House itself is a house in disarray — facing significant difficulty in selecting a speaker. The nation’s foreign policy is in a transitional period in which it is difficult to differentiate between our traditional friends and enemies.

As if contending with those issues weren’t enough, we have one of the most, shall we say, “interesting” presidential primaries ever. It’s a banner year for the news media and political pundits and a ratings bonanza for talk shows.

For the rest of us — for most of us — it’s more than enough to cause concern about the future. We prefer our government to govern, not entertain.

I’ve attended a number of electric cooperative annual meetings this year where the members celebrated the co-op’s 75th year of existence. Over those seven and a half decades, these member-owned corporations have weathered ups and downs — from economic recessions to multiple natural disasters. Over their existence, these cooperatives have seen hundreds of directors and thousands of employees come and go, each contributing to the leadership and productivity of the utility.

Through the years and all the challenges, one thing has remained constant: the focus on keeping the lights on and rates low.

As long as we do that one thing correctly, other avenues open up for us to continue to improve and invest in the communities we serve. Countless other things are vitally important to our members: economic development, great customer service, effective communications and many other needs. But if we fail in our single purpose, it’s time to refocus on the one thing.

Here’s to 75 years of maintaining a singleness of purpose that has transformed a nation.