Carnahan to follow Womble at MLEC

(April 30, 2015) — The Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative Board of Directors named Keith Carnahan as the cooperative’s new Chief Executive Officer on April 28. Carnahan will step into the new role when Hal Womble retires in July after 16 years of leading the cooperative.

“Keith Carnahan will bring a unique perspective, business knowledge, skills, and management style to MLEC. The next decade promises many changes for our industry. It is the desire of this board that Keith work closely with each district, our dedicated staff and employees, the communities we serve, and the member owners to meet those challenges,” says MLEC Board Chair Johnnie Ruth Elrod. “We appreciate Keith’s enthusiasm and vision for MLEC and congratulate him as he takes on this new role to lead MLEC in the continued good service and the delivery of safe, reliable, and affordable electric service for our members.”

Carnahan is a graduate of Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and received his MBA from Bethel University. He has been an employee of E.I. DuPont for the past 27 years serving in several engineering and management positions and was most recently the Site Engineering Manager for the New Johnsonville Plant.  During his tenure at DuPont, he led numerous improvement programs that helped the New Johnsonville Plant become a world class producer of Titanium Dioxide. Also, for the last 5 years he has served on the Board of Directors for MLEC representing Humphreys County.

“Being only the fifth leader in 75 years is a great honor and responsibility,” says Carnahan. “I look forward to serving MLEC and its members and leading the cooperative as it evolves in the years to come.”

Carnahan and Lisa, his wife of 28 years, make their home in Waverly, Tennessee. They have three daughters – Alyssa, Ashton and Allie. His hobbies include duck hunting, golf, and cycling.

Womble announced his retirement in the September 2014 issue of The Tennessee Magazine. “My years at MLEC have been rewarding, and I’d like to think we’ve accomplished a lot together,” says Womble. “New substations, reliable electricity, new programs for the members, and getting our fiber network off the ground – and hopefully one day to our members – are some of the things I’m most proud of during my tenure.”

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. Member – electric power companies of Middle Tennessee. Remember to play it safe around electricity.

 

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Co-op members take powerful message to D.C.

NASHVILLE – Members from the state’s rural electric cooperatives spent Thursday, April 29, in Washington, D.C., meeting with Tennessee’s Congressional delegation.

“Elected representatives make decisions and pass laws that have serious consequences for Tennessee’s electric cooperatives and their members,” says David Callis, executive vice president of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “It is important that we tell the electric cooperative story and inform Members of Congress of the impact of proposed legislation.”

“Educating our representatives about co-ops – who we are and what we do – is an important part of our mission to provide affordable and reliable energy to our members,” says Tommy Whittaker, a director with Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation and one of more than 40 co-op members who traveled to Washington, D.C. “These visits help them clearly understand the issues that concern co-ops and co-op members.”

Co-op members discussed environmental and power-supply issues with Members of Congress during their visits. “It is important that we communicate with how legislation affects rates and reliability for everyday Tennesseans,” says Callis.

A second group of Tennessee co-op representatives traveled to Washington, D.C., on Monday and Tuesday, May 4 and 5, to meet with Senator Corker and participate in the NRECA Legislative Conference.

Scheduling conflicts made it necessary to stretch the meetings out over two weeks.

Cable Disconnect

Last month, Arkansas’s electric cooperatives faced an unexpected attack by cable TV concerns. Under the guise of promoting broadband, the cable giants wanted huge reductions in the pole attachment rates charged by the state’s rural electric cooperatives. Cable’s claim was that pole attachment rates were limiting broadband expansion into rural areas.

Sound familiar?

To address that concern, the cooperatives’ first overture was, “We will work with you, but will you guarantee that you will provide broadband services to all of our rural members?” Not surprisingly, the answer was no.

Therein lies the rub: There is quite a disconnect between what the cable companies profess to want and what they really want.

This was not an effort to provide broadband for rural Arkansans; it was a brazen attempt to generate more profits for cable company shareholders.

One of the large cable giants has the following sentence in its corporate Code of Conduct:  “Since no code or policy can spell out the appropriate behavior for every situation, you should talk with your supervisor – or refer to any of the resources listed throughout the Code – when you have questions or concern.”

What? That’s not an operational policy that explains billing or installation issues. It’s a code of conduct — how you treat the customer.

Perhaps cable officials meant well when they drafted that statement. Somewhere along the way, however, an easy, quick answer was lost. Perhaps the company should go with something as simple as … tell the truth.

We operate a little differently. In the lobby of NRECA’s main office stands a statue of a lineman. The lineman symbolizes everything for which we stand: keeping the lights on, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

A phrase used to describe the U. S. Post Office reads, “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…” Fact is, that signifies our linemen’s dedication to duty. It is the reality that they embody each day. Among the first responders in any emergency situation, you will always—always—find electric co-op lineman. Their dedication to duty and commitment to their communities are unquestioned.

Our electric cooperatives are driven by commitment and principle: to improve the quality of your life. Not profit, not fame, not trying to determine the “appropriate behavior.”

It’s about telling the truth and doing the right things, something that is intrinsic in the cooperative principles by which we operate.

This month, we celebrate our linemen, men and women who don’t need a code of conduct to know how to do the right thing.

FPU expands

Fayetteville Public Utilities (FPU) is moving forward with plans for facility renovations and expansion at the current office location to better serve utility customers.

“During this process, utility rates will not increase,” says FPU’s CEO and General Manager Britt Dye, “and we do not have plans to borrow funds for construction. The decision to expand and renovate our office follows many years of planning and setting aside reserve funds for the construction.”

“For years, we have needed additional office space and improved facilities to better serve the customers of Fayetteville Public Utilities,” Dye adds. “The 2002 utility consolidation successfully streamlined customer service and utility operations, and since then, we have managed to use every available space at our existing location for offices, meeting rooms, storage areas and department operations.”

Among the many concerns of FPU’s current situation is the need to improve security for customer confidentiality. Dye explains that current office space does not adequately accommodate customer privacy or other administrative concerns under the Identity Theft Policy adopted in 2008 to protect all manner of customer account information.

Due to the utility’s limited space for its customer service area, some FPU employees work in open-cubicle offices that offer little or no privacy for handling customer account and financial data. More private office space will allow employees to obtain and discuss sensitive utility account information with FPU customers under the guidelines of the Identity Theft Policy.

Other FPU office employees work in areas originally designed and used for material and file storage and for telecom headend operations. Construction and renovation plans include relocation of these offices and for a dedicated room for Channel 6 productions which FPU currently does not have.

“FPU’s Channel 6 is a vital information resource for our community,” says Dye. “Each day Channel 6 brings the community local programming and educational information as well as promotes and highlights community events. With the proper facilities for interviews and program editing, we can improve the quality of local programming you deserve and depend on from FPU’s Channel 6.”

FPU is also in need of additional storage space for office supplies and materials. Because there is limited storage available now, office forms and materials are currently stored in FPU’s minimally temperature-controlled warehouse facility along with utility construction materials.

FPU’s preliminary building and renovation plans will provide for the needed office space, improve security and customer confidentiality, add temperature-controlled storage areas for supplies and materials and will include an employee meeting area large enough to accommodate all 108 employees at one time for training and all-employee meetings. FPU also plans to make the meeting area available to the community for meetings and training.

“Our opportunity to purchase the two adjoining property lots on Market Street near FPU’s main office helped put our plans in motion,” says Dye. “Since that time, we have envisioned ways to better serve our customers. Our board is very supportive of the building plans, and we are working together to improve FPU and provide for future growth of the utility and the services we offer.”

“Having the necessary tools and equipment to perform our jobs is important to our success,” he adds. “We strive to be leaders in the utility industry and in our community. Our goals are to offer additional services to our customers like advanced technology, more payment options, improved communications, improved customer account security and faster, more convenient customer service.  But in order to offer these enhanced services, we need the facilities that will support all that we are capable of offering and all that our customers deserve from their utility provider.”

FPU estimates the construction phase will take a year or longer to complete once a design is approved and construction begins.

A large part of the existing Fayetteville Public Utilities’ building at 408 West College Street was built in the early 1940s. The FPU facility has undergone a handful of additions over the past few decades as the utility has evolved with the most recent being the 2007 expansion of the drive-thru payment area and customer parking lot. Prior to that, FPU’s last administration building renovation and addition was in 1988-1989 when the existing administration and customer service offices were built.

TVA's Johnson meets with co-op

TVA President Bill Johnson met with Caney Fork EC directors and staff on Thursday, April 2. Johnson shared his background and vision for TVA –  controlling costs to provide efficient, affordable power for the Valley. He answered questions about the coal ash cleanup project at Kingston Fossil Plant and economic development.

TVA-Visit-3“We value our relationship with TVA, and we appreciate Mr. Johnson’s willingness to meet with us,” says Bill Rogers, general manager of Caney Fork EC. “TVA shares our commitment to public power, and our members are best served when Caney Fork and TVA work together to provide them with affordable and reliable service.”

Following his visit to Caney Fork EC, Johnson spoke to the McMinnville Rotary Club.

 

TVA’s Johnson meets with co-op

TVA President Bill Johnson met with Caney Fork EC directors and staff on Thursday, April 2. Johnson shared his background and vision for TVA –  controlling costs to provide efficient, affordable power for the Valley. He answered questions about the coal ash cleanup project at Kingston Fossil Plant and economic development.

TVA-Visit-3“We value our relationship with TVA, and we appreciate Mr. Johnson’s willingness to meet with us,” says Bill Rogers, general manager of Caney Fork EC. “TVA shares our commitment to public power, and our members are best served when Caney Fork and TVA work together to provide them with affordable and reliable service.”

Following his visit to Caney Fork EC, Johnson spoke to the McMinnville Rotary Club.

 

Lineman Appreciation Day

NASHVILLE – The electric cooperatives of Tennessee are recognizing Monday, April 13, as National Lineman Appreciation Day to honor the hardworking men and women who keep the power on and protect the public’s safety. There are more than 700 electric co-op linemen in Tennessee.

“Today we honor the dedicated service of these courageous workers and recognize the critical roles they play in keeping the lights on,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Our communities depend on reliable energy, and Tennessee’s electric lineworkers place themselves in harm’s way to power our everyday lives.”

“These are special people who are passionate about their jobs and the communities they serve,” says Callis. “They go above and beyond, and all of us in this industry are honored to work with them.”

You can help Tennessee’s electric cooperatives honor lineman by posting on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #ThankAlinemanTN. The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association will share these messages with co-op linemen across the state.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association is a trade group representing the interests of Tennessee’s 23 electric distribution cooperatives and the 1.1 million consumers they serve. The association publishes The Tennessee Magazine and provides legislative and support services to Tennessee’s electric cooperatives. Learn more at tnelectric.org.

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Contact:
Trent Scott | tscott@tnelectric.org | 731.608.1519

The value of electric cooperatives

Why being a member of a co-op saves you money

By Adam Schwartz

There are three main types of electricity providers in the U.S. Investor-owned utilities (IOUs) serve primarily densely populated areas. Municipal-owned utilities also serve densely populated cities from the very large, such as Los Angeles, to the very small like Lexington, Tenn. And of course, there are rural electric cooperatives that serve less populated parts of the country.

In the utility business, population matters a lot. Since the costs to serve any given area are similar, the more customers that you have allows you to spread the costs among more people to keep rates lower. At least that is the theory.

201312GRAPHICMilesofLineandRevenueComparisonThis graphic shows the national averages of density and revenue per mile of electrical line for IOUs, municipal-owned utilities and electric co-ops. Municipal-owned utilities, which operate in cities and towns, have the greatest density – 48.3 customers per mile of line, generating an average of $113,301 of revenue. IOUs follow with 34 customers per mile of line, while generating average revenues of $75,498. Finally, electric co-ops average 7.4 members (not customers, but members) per mile of line, bringing in an average of $14,938 of revenue per mile.

If I were to give this data to any business school in the country and ask (based on this information) what the rates should be for each of the utilities, the answer would likely be that electric co-ops would have a rate 7.5 times greater than municipal-owned utilities and 5 times higher than IOUs – but that is not the case. Why not? 

It has to do with the business model. IOUs are owned by outside investors that may or may not be users of the electric utility they own. These companies’ stocks are traded on Wall Street, and those investors demand a return on their investment. This drives up the price that their customers pay. Many municipal systems charge rates that generate a “profit” for their cities to help pay for other services. Tennessee’s electric cooperatives operate on a not-for-profit basis. Of course, co-ops are a businesses and must generate enough revenue to cover costs (the largest being the purchase of wholesale power). But they don’t have to charge rates to pay outside stockholders.

Since our members are our owners, we can provide safe, reliable and affordable power to you. That is just another way your co-op brings you value.

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

Home energy networks offer new tools for energy management

Nearly three quarters of U.S. households subscribe to high-speed, broadband Internet service, and most of them are blanketed in Wi-Fi networks. Most households, in other words, are already high-speed Internet gateways, and Americans are increasingly filling them with more connected devices, expanding the universe of products — smart appliances, streaming media players, smart thermostats, and “traditional” networked devices like computers and mobile devices — that can communicate with each other and the Internet.

Homeowners use networks for a variety of purposes, including security, productivity and entertainment, but as network connectivity and control expand to large residential end uses like appliances, heating, air conditioning, lighting and electronics, these networks can increasingly be leveraged for energy monitoring. These home energy networks connect energy-using devices to provide services related to the consumption of energy.

At their most basic, home energy networks provide information on energy use and control over connected devices. Forget to turn off the lights or turn down the thermostat before going on vacation? Need to see how much money you’re spending to run laundry equipment? With home energy networks, there’s an app for that.

Advanced home energy networks can analyze use trends, suggest behavior changes, automate/optimize the setup of certain devices and frequently provide mobile apps to centralize settings and controls. A well-known example is the Nest Learning Thermostat, which users train to recognize their temperature preferences and away-from-home schedules. The more complicated the network and the greater number of connected devices, the deeper the potential energy savings and the more sophisticated these “orchestrations” become. In the most advanced systems, homeowners can create scenarios that effectively provide a “sleep” or “standby” mode for the entire house.

Home energy networks require a lot more than a smartphone and software wizardry. There can be significant hardware investments. Often systems cannot effectively communicate between manufacturers. Of course, some systems will be difficult to set up and configure. But some can be up and running in under two minutes. The combinations of systems are almost endless, and the array of options can be confusing. New players are constantly entering the market offering the killer app to solve all of your home networking problems.

Anyone looking to automate their home or monitor their home remotely should first ask what one or two things they really want to use — not what is trendy, but what is practical and useful. If your schedule is unpredictable, then a smart thermostat may be the best option. It will help you to make your home comfortable when you arrive while saving money when you are away. If you entertain a lot, then one of the smart lighting systems may be the best bet. They allow you to change the light output and color based on how you are using the room. They can help you make the room more romantic for that special someone or set the right light level for watching a movie.

Big box stores are devoting prominent shelf space to a plethora of home energy network systems and devices. The challenge for consumers will be to find systems that perform a useful function and can be installed without having to consult customer support — or a third grader.

 

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

Laura Moorefield is the founder Moorefield Research & Consulting, LLC in 2013. She currently resides in Durango, CO and is a member of La Plata Electric Association.

Peter May-Ostendorp is the founder of Xergy Consulting in Durango, CO and is a member of La Plata Electric Association.

Cooperation among Cooperatives

Let’s just say it – we’re tired of cold weather.  This winter has brought us bitter cold, snow, and multiple rounds of ice. Statewide, our systems have experienced tremendous damage that has taken days – in some cases weeks – to repair.

The Cumberland Plateau was hit the hardest with an inch of ice. High winds compounded the strain, resulting in fallen tree limbs, downed power lines and broken poles.

Cumberland County Emergency Management officials called it the “worst natural disaster in the history of Cumberland County.” Veteran emergency responders said the damage was comparable to an EF-2 tornado ravaging the entire county. Clyde Jolley, longtime Volunteer Energy Cooperative employee, said, “In my 42 years with VEC, this is one of the worst weather events I’ve ever seen. We had more than 700 broken poles and an estimated $9.5 million in damage to the system.”

At the peak of the storm some 40,000 VEC members lost power. The Tennessee Valley Authority’s transmission line outages caused a loss of power to five VEC substations, and major breakers were lost at three other substations.

Nature can destroy in a few hours what took years to build. Before the storm left the area, VEC employees were already hard at work for their members, calling for assistance from neighboring cooperatives.

The hallowed cooperative principle of Cooperation among Cooperatives took center stage from the beginning of the storm until the last member was reconnected many days later.

VEC crews received assistance from crews from Appalachian Electric Cooperative, Athens Utility Board, Caney Fork Electric Cooperative, Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation, Fort Loudoun Electric Cooperative, Holston Electric Cooperative, Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation, Rockwood Electric Utilities, Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative and Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation as well as contract crews from Davis Elliott, Galloway, MPS, Seelbach and Service Electric.

Co-op members, many of whom were without power for days, recognized the difficulty of the situation and the effort that VEC was making.

Rody Blevins said 650 people were on the scene working to restore power and were supported by dozens of other staff members. “We appreciate the hard work of our folks and the help we received from around the region,” Blevins said. “And we especially appreciate the patience and support from all our members who were affected by this devastating storm.

“This has been one of the most challenging weather events in the history of Volunteer Energy Cooperative, and we are very grateful for the cooperation, dedication and patience of everyone involved.”

The members of Volunteer Energy Cooperative can attest to the fact that Cooperation among Cooperatives isn’t just a mantra; it’s how we co-ops do business.