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.

 

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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.

The Evolution of Safe Electricity

Working on electric lines has always been serious business, but in the early years of the 20th century, it could be downright scary. A lack of standards and safety protocols led to far too many injuries and fatalities.

Something had to be done. In August 1914—the same month World War I began in Europe—the U.S. government’s National Bureau of Standards, under the direction of Congress, established the National Electrical Safety Code.

A century later, in a very different world, the code still plays a critical role in electrical system safety with standards that have been widely adopted across the United States and even abroad. But as it celebrates its 100th birthday, the NESC, as it’s known in the industry, is in a process of revision aimed at the future.

“The NESC committee is taking a serious look at what the next hundred years need to be,” says Sue Vogel, who has the responsibility for the code as a senior manager at the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Standards Association.

Electric co-ops have a big stake in that process.

“Our members expect our systems to be reliable, cost effective and as safe as they can be, and going by the NESC is one of the best ways to make sure all that is happening,” says Robert Harris, engineering principal at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and a member of the NESC main committee that oversees the code.

NESC’s history

In the beginning, NESC standards principally dealt with worker safety, but they have since expanded to include the installation, operation and maintenance of overhead and underground lines, substations, grounding and communications equipment.

The standards mean that linemen or other workers are less likely to face unpleasant surprises when working on parts of a system they haven’t seen before. Establishing standards was vitally important in the early days of electricity, when electrical systems were isolated and varied significantly in construction.

But Harris says they remain relevant today, particularly when co-ops or other power suppliers send employees to help with disasters or emergency situations.

“It means they’re not going to be getting into something that’s completely foreign to them,” he says.

Tomorrow’s code

The NESC Main Committee, which has authority for approving the NESC, adopts revisions every five years to keep it up to date. Revisions currently under consideration will go into effect in the 2017 edition of the code.

Mike Hyland, chair of the NESC executive committee, says the process is based on consensus, and the committee invites comments from anyone in the industry with an interest in the code.

“An engineer, a lineman, meter readers, construction folks, consultants – they should all be active in this debate,” says Hyland, a senior vice president at the American Public Power Association, the trade organization for the nation’s municipal electric utility systems.

One proposed revision includes better defining where communications equipment and other equipment, such as photovoltaic panels, can be placed on poles, and aligning NESC’s work rules with new Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements that were published in April 2014.

A broader debate

All these matters have been addressed in the revisions. But there is also a broader debate underway about the future of the NESC. The question is whether the code should largely remain focused on the areas it has covered for decades or whether it should expand to take into account the rapidly changing face of the power industry.

“The electrical system is being asked to do things that it wasn’t asked to do back then,” Hyland says. “We didn’t have wind farms. We didn’t have rooftop solar. We didn’t have community solar. We didn’t have this overlay called the ‘smart grid system.’ Electric utilities are having to adapt and plan for all these changes going forward.”

If the NESC doesn’t expand to include some of these new technologies in its standards, some committee members worry it will lose its relevancy.

For example, the code so far has not really dealt much with distributed generation and renewable energy. But Harris says a representative from a company involved in large-scale solar generation joined the NESC committee last year, and an NESC member has attended solar industry events to make sure the committee is staying abreast of issues in that area.

With today’s pace of change, Hyland thinks it may be necessary to consider revising the code more often than every five years, possibly updating some sections every two years or so. He points out that the National Electrical Code, which is administered by the National Fire Protection Association and applies to in-home wiring, is updated every three years.

“Things get done very quickly in today’s world,” Hyland says. “We can’t sit back and say, ‘I had a great idea; I’ll put it in the next cycle, and maybe it’ll get into the code in 2022.’ That’s not going to fly, especially with the younger generation in the industry.”

He thinks the future may include developing apps or other digital systems to allow users to more easily access relevant parts of the code. The NESC is already used as a reference in about 100 countries, but Hyland believes expanding its use in other parts of the world could help bring standardized, safe power delivery to countries where that is still a challenge.

Protecting people

When you look at the history of the code in the U.S., its record of bringing safer practices to the industry is clear, Vogel says.

“If you go back to when the code was started, it was actually pretty graphic in that the editions listed what the deaths were and where,” she says. “There was a real need to put in safety rules to keep people from being killed.”

Harris believes the code also may have played a role in the spread of electrification across the nation. “There would have been a lot more injuries and fatalities and a lot more property damage without the NESC. Both workers and the public would have been at greater risk,” he says. “If people had had the perception that electricity is just too dangerous, that may well have put the brakes on electrification across the country.”

From the 1940s to the 1970s, the code underwent relatively few significant changes, Harris says, reflecting an industry that continued to operate much as it had for several decades. The changes have been more frequent since the industry began a period of change.

With all that, Vogel says there are some things about the NESC that haven’t changed. “Everybody who works on the code is very conscious of it being about protecting people and being a safety code,” she says. “That’s the theme that was there in the beginning, and that still exists to this day.”

Reed Karaim 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.

NRECA Summer Internship

Do you know of any rising college Juniors or Seniors in your community who might be interested in an exciting summer internship opportunity in our nation’s capital?

NRECA is looking for candidates for our 2015 summer internship program. The program is 12 weeks long starting May 19 and going through August 8. Along with gaining invaluable professional experience, candidates will get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live and work in Washington, DC while helping to make an impact in their local co-op community. The internships are full time (40 hours per week) and include a wide range of disciplines, such as communications; accounting and finance; government relations and regulatory affairs; compliance; and marketing. Those hired will receive $18.50 per hour.

In order to qualify, students must:

  • Complete the internship application on NRECA’s Jobs website.
  • Provide NRECA with a resume
  • Provide college transcripts
  • Provide two professional letters of recommendation
  • Be a rising Junior or Senior
  • Have a 3.0 GPA or higher (no academic or disciplinary action on record)

*Note: This program does not provide housing to interns

Pickwick EC leads national solar rankings

California and Tennessee Utilities Lead in SEPA’s 2014 Top 10 Rankings

SAN DIEGO – Pacific Gas & Electric claimed the top spot in the Solar Electric Power Association’s (SEPA’s) Top 10 rankings of U.S. utilities that put the most megawatts of solar on the grid in 2014. Meanwhile, the Pickwick Electric Cooperative of Selmer, Tenn., was named No. 1 in the rankings for adding the most solar watts per customer.

The eighth annual Top 10 rankings, announced April 29 at SEPA’s Utility Solar Conference in San Diego, are part of the educational nonprofit’s 2014 Utility Solar Market Snapshot report.

The full report, also released at the conference, identifies key industry trends, including:

  • Utility-scale solar’s ongoing importance as a main driver of market growth,
  • The emergence of dynamic solar markets outside California and Arizona
  • The impact of the industry’s continuing focus on cutting nonhardware “soft” costs, along with utilities’ efforts to improve their interconnection processes

Utilities ranking in this year’s Top 10 accounted for 72 percent of all new solar interconnections on the grid in 2014. California’s other two investor-owned utilities — Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric — were No. 2 and 3, respectively, behind PG&E on the Top 10 list for solar megawatts added in 2014.

“We are 100 percent committed to solar energy and its role in California’s energy future,” said Laurie Giammona, PG&E’s Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer. “Together with our customers and partners, we have worked to shorten connection times and help solar grow in our state. SEPA’s recognition shows this collaboration is paying off.”

On the watts-per-customer list, the Farmers Electric Cooperative of Kalona, Iowa and the City of St. George Energy Services Department in Utah, held down the No. 2 and 3 spots, behind the Pickwick Co-op.

“We saw it as an economic development engine for us,” Karl Dudley, Pickwick’s recently retired general manager, said of the two 16-megawatt solar installations that helped the co-op clinch the No. 1 ranking in watts per customer. “It made a statement: our utility is in the 21st century.”

“The achievements of small cooperatives such as Pickwick underline solar energy’s momentum across the United States. The market is no longer confined to California or a few other states,” said Julia Hamm, SEPA’s President and CEO. “Our Solar Market Snapshot also shows the leadership that utilities are providing as the industry works toward creating the new business models and regulatory frameworks needed to ensure a clean, affordable and sustainable energy future for all.”

The 2014 Utility Solar Market Snapshot, with full Top 10 listings, can be found at www.sepatop10.org.