Fill 'er up, please

by Mike Knotts
Director of Government Affairs
Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association

A few weeks ago, when I stopped at the gas station on my way to work to fill up, the math was pretty easy. Ten gallons of gas went in the tank, and the price was $2.50 per gallon. After handing the clerk $25, I drove away and didn’t give it another thought. Several days later, I stopped after midnight to get enough fuel to make it home at the end of a long trip. Once again, 10 gallons of regular unleaded went in, and $25 dollars came out of my wallet. Simple.

When you get gas, you are essentially prepaying for energy your car will use at some point in the future. And it’s easy to visualize what you are paying for because you can see, smell and touch it. A gallon is a familiar unit of measurement. How many gallon jugs of milk have you carried into your home over the years?

For most of us, we don’t put much more thought into paying our electric bill than I did filling up the truck. An envelope arrives in the mail, we open it, write a check and send it in. Or it could be even easier because you have agreed to allow a draft directly from your bank account. Some folks may take a quick look at more of the details that are printed on the bill, but how many fully understand what they’re paying for?

For many years, your co-op has worked very hard to make paying your bill as easy and painless as your trip to the pump. This is despite the fact that purchasing electricity is very different than buying gasoline. Here are three reasons why:

First, electricity is a bit of a mystery. We know it is there, despite being unable to touch, smell or even see it, because we can see the result of its existence. But, as the old adage goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Second, do you know how much energy you are consuming at any given time? In your car, there is a gauge that shows how much fuel is in the tank and probably a display showing your current miles per gallon. But where is the same gauge in your house to show you how much electricity you have consumed? Most of us have very little idea of how much energy our refrigerators, air conditioners, water heaters, ovens, heaters and other major appliances use. So how do we know what it costs when we turn them on? When you open the envelope from your co-op and the bill says you used 1,652 kilowatt-hours of electricity last month, how many milk jugs does that even equate to?

Those are hard questions to answer — but not because there is no equipment that will help you monitor your use. Rather, the question is difficult because our society by and large doesn’t want to know the answer. We have become accustomed to having electric energy available on demand, without exception, at low cost. It’s testament to the hard work of tens of thousands of people whose mission never takes a day off. The luxury that universal electrification affords us as Tennesseans and Americans is not to be taken lightly and has changed the world in so many positive ways over the past 100 years. For that, we should be grateful.

Lastly, there is no practical way for you to purchase and store electricity to be used later (although this could change in the future — see the June 2015 column “Is the future here now?” at tnmagazine.org). When you flip the switch, the electricity you consume is being generated and transmitted to you at that exact same instant. Other common energy sources like wood, gasoline, diesel and even natural gas can be stored in large tanks in preparation for future needs. But to run your air conditioner on a hot July afternoon, you are relying on your electric utility to provide a seamless connection across hundreds of miles of wires to deliver that energy to you at the exact moment you need it — since electricity moves at the speed of light, 671 million miles per hour. This means the cost to generate this energy can be different depending upon the hour of the day, the time of year or even the activities of your neighbors or the factory down the street.

However, technology is advancing at such a rapid pace that the complexity of the electric grid is quickly becoming less of an impediment to the average person’s understanding of his or her own energy consumption. And it is also helping your co-op have a better understanding of how and when entire communities will require their energy — even though the members will continue to demand electricity in real time. With this new information will come better and more transparent methods of paying for our consumption, which I look forward to discussing in a future article.

Fill ‘er up, please

by Mike Knotts
Director of Government Affairs
Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association

A few weeks ago, when I stopped at the gas station on my way to work to fill up, the math was pretty easy. Ten gallons of gas went in the tank, and the price was $2.50 per gallon. After handing the clerk $25, I drove away and didn’t give it another thought. Several days later, I stopped after midnight to get enough fuel to make it home at the end of a long trip. Once again, 10 gallons of regular unleaded went in, and $25 dollars came out of my wallet. Simple.

When you get gas, you are essentially prepaying for energy your car will use at some point in the future. And it’s easy to visualize what you are paying for because you can see, smell and touch it. A gallon is a familiar unit of measurement. How many gallon jugs of milk have you carried into your home over the years?

For most of us, we don’t put much more thought into paying our electric bill than I did filling up the truck. An envelope arrives in the mail, we open it, write a check and send it in. Or it could be even easier because you have agreed to allow a draft directly from your bank account. Some folks may take a quick look at more of the details that are printed on the bill, but how many fully understand what they’re paying for?

For many years, your co-op has worked very hard to make paying your bill as easy and painless as your trip to the pump. This is despite the fact that purchasing electricity is very different than buying gasoline. Here are three reasons why:

First, electricity is a bit of a mystery. We know it is there, despite being unable to touch, smell or even see it, because we can see the result of its existence. But, as the old adage goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Second, do you know how much energy you are consuming at any given time? In your car, there is a gauge that shows how much fuel is in the tank and probably a display showing your current miles per gallon. But where is the same gauge in your house to show you how much electricity you have consumed? Most of us have very little idea of how much energy our refrigerators, air conditioners, water heaters, ovens, heaters and other major appliances use. So how do we know what it costs when we turn them on? When you open the envelope from your co-op and the bill says you used 1,652 kilowatt-hours of electricity last month, how many milk jugs does that even equate to?

Those are hard questions to answer — but not because there is no equipment that will help you monitor your use. Rather, the question is difficult because our society by and large doesn’t want to know the answer. We have become accustomed to having electric energy available on demand, without exception, at low cost. It’s testament to the hard work of tens of thousands of people whose mission never takes a day off. The luxury that universal electrification affords us as Tennesseans and Americans is not to be taken lightly and has changed the world in so many positive ways over the past 100 years. For that, we should be grateful.

Lastly, there is no practical way for you to purchase and store electricity to be used later (although this could change in the future — see the June 2015 column “Is the future here now?” at tnmagazine.org). When you flip the switch, the electricity you consume is being generated and transmitted to you at that exact same instant. Other common energy sources like wood, gasoline, diesel and even natural gas can be stored in large tanks in preparation for future needs. But to run your air conditioner on a hot July afternoon, you are relying on your electric utility to provide a seamless connection across hundreds of miles of wires to deliver that energy to you at the exact moment you need it — since electricity moves at the speed of light, 671 million miles per hour. This means the cost to generate this energy can be different depending upon the hour of the day, the time of year or even the activities of your neighbors or the factory down the street.

However, technology is advancing at such a rapid pace that the complexity of the electric grid is quickly becoming less of an impediment to the average person’s understanding of his or her own energy consumption. And it is also helping your co-op have a better understanding of how and when entire communities will require their energy — even though the members will continue to demand electricity in real time. With this new information will come better and more transparent methods of paying for our consumption, which I look forward to discussing in a future article.

Energy Independence

by David Callis
Executive Vice President and General Manager
Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association

Last month, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected an early challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to curb carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants, saying the legal action was premature. The panel did not rule on the merits of the lawsuit, stating that objections to the plan were filed too soon because the regulation has not yet been finalized. When the rules are finalized later this year, there will be additional challenges.

The decision was just the latest milestone in the long journey to energy independence. Though it remains unclear if the Clean Power Plan will withstand legal challenges, it doesn’t alter the changes the electric utility industry has undertaken over the past few years.

These changes predated EPA’s Clean Power Plan by several years. Case in point, I wrote the following in The Tennessee Magazine’s July 2007 edition:

We are at the beginning of our own revolution — an energy revolution. Last month, we talked about the changing political landscape and the climate change debate. In fact, it seems that every other headline these days is something about climate change, greenhouse gases, carbon emissions and global warming. The climate change issue has brought about political change — change that will affect us, our children and our grandchildren.

The change won’t occur quickly, that’s for certain. There is no “magic bullet” that is going to solve our energy needs and clean up the environment. Steps toward lowering our energy consumption will go a long way toward lessening our carbon emissions. However, as our population grows, conservation and efficiency can’t solve all of our problems. It will take a long, deliberative process that is going to involve individuals and governments. Developing cost-effective energy alternatives will take a massive technological effort and investment.

Hybrid vehicles, once a novelty item, are rapidly gaining an anchor in the marketplace. Compact fluorescent lamps are quickly replacing incandescent lights in our homes and offices.

There is a long list of renewable energy technologies that today are in their commercial infancy: Solar, wind, geothermal and landfill methane are just a few. As we develop and improve the technologies for harnessing these resources, those energy sources may become more commonplace.

Our current reliable low-emission energy sources — hydro and nuclear — will continue to be a part of our achieving our energy-independence goals. Even coal-fired generation, while contributing to carbon emissions, can be improved through technological advancements that greatly reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted.

As we begin this revolution, there is hope for the future. EPRI, the Electric Power Research Institute, suggests “it is technically feasible to slow down and stop the increase in U.S. electric sector carbon dioxide emissions and then eventually reduce them over the next 25 years while meeting the increased demand for electricity.” For example, technologies are currently being developed that would capture and store carbon dioxide in underground caverns.

Those trends have continued — and accelerated — during the past eight years. New housing construction and appliances are even more energy-efficient. Renewable energy resources such as solar and wind are implemented more each year.

Just as our electric cooperatives brought another degree of independence to rural America more than 80 years ago, we remain committed to being involved in a sustainable, renewable energy future as we look toward our nation’s energy independence.

Callis presents at DOE

WASHINGTON, D.C. – David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, presented today during the Department of Energy’s Clear Path III, a hurricane preparedness and response event and exercise for the energy sector.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives routinely provide assistance to neighboring co-ops in Tennessee and surrounding states following natural disasters. “Cooperation is one of the founding principles of electric cooperatives. It is what makes us different from other utilities,” says Callis. “In the hours and days following a natural disaster, we have a responsibility to act with purpose to restore service to our member-owners. It only makes sense to coordinate our efforts and resources to speed the process.”

Deputy Secretary of Energy Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall invited Callis to discuss the electric cooperative mutual aid process as part of a series of information briefs during the event. The objective of Clear Path III is to assess government and industry’s plans, policies and procedures at all levels to identify and improve response efforts.

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.

 

#   #   #

Contact:
Trent Scott | Director of Corporate Strategy | tscott@tnelectric.org | 731.608.1519

A sun-safe summer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in America. As many as one in five Americans will be diagnosed with the disease. People who work outdoors in the summer, including many employees of electric cooperatives, are at even higher risk.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association worked with the American Cancer Society to develop resources to remind co-op employees of the dangers and the simple precautions that should be incorporated into their daily routines.

“Millions of Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer each year. Fortunately, there are some simple precautions that you can take to reduce your risk,” says Greg Broy, spokesperson for the American Cancer Society in Tennessee. “We are pleased to work with the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association to increase awareness of these precautions for the thousands of electric co-op employees across the state.”

TECA has developed a poster and the infographic below to remind co-op employees to have a sun-safe summer. Order posters for your co-op by contacting Trent Scott at tscott@tnelectric.org.

 

suninfo

Energy Independence

Last month, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected an early challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to curb carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants, saying the legal action was premature. The panel did not rule on the merits of the lawsuit, stating that objections to the plan were filed too soon because the regulation has not yet been finalized. When the rules are finalized later this year, there will be additional challenges.

The decision was just the latest milestone in the long journey to energy independence. Though it remains unclear if the Clean Power Plan will withstand legal challenges, it doesn’t alter the changes the electric utility industry has undertaken over the past few years.

These changes predated EPA’s Clean Power Plan by several years. Case in point, I wrote the following in The Tennessee Magazine’s July 2007 edition:

We are at the beginning of our own revolution — an energy revolution. Last month, we talked about the changing political landscape and the climate change debate. In fact, it seems that every other headline these days is something about climate change, greenhouse gases, carbon emissions and global warming. The climate change issue has brought about political change — change that will affect us, our children and our grandchildren.

The change won’t occur quickly, that’s for certain. There is no “magic bullet” that is going to solve our energy needs and clean up the environment. Steps toward lowering our energy consumption will go a long way toward lessening our carbon emissions. However, as our population grows, conservation and efficiency can’t solve all of our problems. It will take a long, deliberative process that is going to involve individuals and governments. Developing cost-effective energy alternatives will take a massive technological effort and investment.

Hybrid vehicles, once a novelty item, are rapidly gaining an anchor in the marketplace. Compact fluorescent lamps are quickly replacing incandescent lights in our homes and offices.

There is a long list of renewable energy technologies that today are in their commercial infancy: Solar, wind, geothermal and landfill methane are just a few. As we develop and improve the technologies for harnessing these resources, those energy sources may become more commonplace.

Our current reliable low-emission energy sources — hydro and nuclear — will continue to be a part of our achieving our energy-independence goals. Even coal-fired generation, while contributing to carbon emissions, can be improved through technological advancements that greatly reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted.

As we begin this revolution, there is hope for the future. EPRI, the Electric Power Research Institute, suggests “it is technically feasible to slow down and stop the increase in U.S. electric sector carbon dioxide emissions and then eventually reduce them over the next 25 years while meeting the increased demand for electricity.” For example, technologies are currently being developed that would capture and store carbon dioxide in underground caverns.

Those trends have continued — and accelerated — during the past eight years. New housing construction and appliances are even more energy-efficient. Renewable energy resources such as solar and wind are implemented more each year.

Just as our electric cooperatives brought another degree of independence to rural America more than 80 years ago, we remain committed to being involved in a sustainable, renewable energy future as we look toward our nation’s energy independence.

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2015 TECA Accountants’ Conference recap

The Hilton Garden Inn in Gatlinburg was the site for the 2015 Accountants’ Conference on April 22-24.  Twenty-nine accountants from seventeen cooperatives and TVA met for an informative 1 ½ day conference.

Presentations were made from Barry Murphy, Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury; Jennifer Brogdon, TVA; Carl Wilson, RUS; and Rod Crile, NRUCFC.  Additional updates from Bill LaDuca, CoBank; Ty Harrell, NRUCFC; David Callis, TECA; and Jon Anderson, NRECA were all extremely relevant to the electric cooperative industry.

Shelia Orrell, Director of Financial Services with Duck River EMC, gave a presentation on Community Solar Projects.  DREMC started their solar farm in 2012 and have experience positive community response through various education opportunities.

The final speaker, Vincent Phipps, presented attendees with the opportunity to refine communication skills.  He conducted three group experiments on listening skills, asking clear yes or no questions and written communication.

2015 TECA Employment Law and HR Conference recap

By Amy Jordan, Accountant

Thirteen human resource managers representing 10 cooperatives attended the 2015 Employment Law and Human Resources conference at the Sheraton Read House in Chattanooga on April 9–10.

Kim Vance, Shareholder with Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz PC had a full agenda:
·      State employment law changes,
·      Supreme Court Employment-Related Cases,
·      EEOC – Pregnancy Discrimination Guidance and Trends,
·      Discussion of the potential changes recommended in the Presidents memorandum to the Secretary of Labor to “modernize” and “simplify” the white collar exemption regulations
·      The Abercrombie Case Study
·      Employee Handbook—Legal Compliance Issues for 2015, including no-gossip policies. (really?!)

In his presentation, Doug Fiero, Regional Field Manager with NRECA encouraged us to use the PIRC resources that are readily available.

Day two started with a lively roundtable discussion which covered subjects of interest and concern that are common to all co-op systems. The feedback from the group allowed us to hear other options to solve problems or issues at our own systems.

For the last two sessions, we joined with the TECA Administrative Professionals Conference. Randy Pendergrass gave a great presentation on defensive eating. He is a cancer survivor, personal trainer, and physical therapist. He encouraged everyone to start now—to eat better and exercise!

Vincent Phipps, the final speaker gave a robust presentation on how to “Amplify Your Professional Attitude.”   He provided attendees with positive motivation, points of clarity in communication and ways to impact others.

Engineering success

There are a number of constants in the electric utility industry: keeping a watchful eye on the weather, a 24/7 readiness to respond to weather emergencies, innovation, intensive investment and poking fun at engineers.

OK, the last one isn’t work-related, but it is a constant. Engineers often don’t understand why we would joke about them, but those of us who aren’t engineers make fun of their people skills. For example: How do you tell an introvert engineer from an extrovert? Well, the introvert engineer stares at his shoes; the extrovert engineer stares at yours.

There are many more, but I’ll spare you. Granted, not all engineers are “socially challenged.” I’m certain I’ll hear from the more communicative engineers.

Truth be told, our daily lives would be far less productive and much more difficult were it not for the creative minds of engineers. Being a well-known engineer even aided the political rise of President Herbert Hoover. Long before he served as secretary of commerce, Hoover was known as “the great engineer” for his work around the globe, first in mining and then public service. His methodical organizational skills aided relief efforts for thousands in war-ravaged Europe and victims of flooding in the Mississippi Delta.

In the electric utility industry, where vice president of engineering is a common executive-level position, engineers are critical to our success. Each day, engineers painstakingly design the substations and electric distribution network that make up the electric grid. They have to map out the locations for the lines to best serve today’s members while allowing for growth. Their everyday work involves complex calculations and reviewing lots of data to ensure that we have enough electricity to power our homes and businesses.

There may be a good reason that engineers seem, well, preoccupied. It takes a special mind to be able to visualize solutions to difficult problems. It takes a lot of concentration and an ability to organize those thoughts into real-world solutions. Engineers make it look easy, so it’s only fair that we give them some relief for any lack in communications skills.
Here’s to the engineers who make our lives better. If those minds weren’t solving problems, we would be living in a far different world.