National Electrical Safety Month

It’s May – and Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are celebrating National Electrical Safety Month. While safety for our members is top priority year-round, Electrical Safety Month is a time to acknowledge the importance of safety excellence.

This year, we’re focusing on electrical safety in the home. Electricity is the cause of over 140,000 fires each year, resulting in more than 500 deaths, 4,000 injuries and 1.6 billion in property damage, according to Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI).

There are many measures you can take to ensure the safety of your loved ones. Use these helpful tips from ESFI to safeguard your home.

In the kitchen

  • Vacuum refrigerator coils every three months to eliminate dirt buildup that can reduce efficiency and create fire hazards.
  • Ensure all countertop appliances are located away from the sink.
  • All appliance cords should be placed away from hot surfaces. Pay particular attention to cords around toasters, ovens and ranges. Cords can be damaged by excess heat.
  • The top and the area above the cooking range should be free of combustibles, such as potholders and plastic utensils. Storing these items on or near the range may result in fires or burns.

Light the way to safety

  • The wattage of the bulbs you use in your home should match the wattage indicated on the light fixture. Overheated fixtures can lead to a fire.
  • Check lamp cords to make sure they are in good condition – not damaged or cracked. Do not attempt to repair damaged cords yourself. Take any item with a damaged power cord to an authorized repair center.
  • Extension cords should not be used to provide power on a long-term or permanent basis. Have additional receptacles installed by a professional to provide power where needed.

Be prepared

  • Nearly two-thirds of fire deaths result from fires in homes without working smoke alarms. Smoke alarms should be located on every level of your home, inside each bedroom and outside each sleeping area.
  • Test smoke alarms every month. Batteries should be replaced at least once a year – or sooner if indicated in the manufacturers’ instructions. All smoke alarms should be replaced at least every 10 years.
  • Talk to your family about an emergency plan in the event of a fire in your home. If you have small children, include them in planning an emergency escape route – they are more likely to remember the plan if they’re involved in creating it.

Electrical safety awareness and education can save lives. For more tips and information about electrical safety, click here or visit www.esfi.org.

Transforming power to you

By David Callis, executive vice president and general manager

Looking outside your home, you’ve probably noticed the transformer on the pole (or ground) that supplies your electricity. Transformers are remarkable pieces of equipment. Wires and electromagnetic fields efficiently “transform” 7,200 or 24,000 volts of electricity from transmission lines into the 240 volts that you need. It is deceptively simple.

Your electric cooperative makes power distribution seem much simpler than it actually is behind the scenes. We’ve communicated with you about the Clean Power Plan proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Last year, thousands of you made the effort to communicate your concerns about “keeping the lights on.” Well, you’re not alone. Even though the public comment period ended a few months ago, evaluation of the proposal continues.

In March, a branch of the federal government held a hearing in St. Louis focused on the Clean Power Plan’s impact on the reliability of the electric grid. That hearing was one of a series that is being held throughout the country.

You heard that correctly: One branch of the government is looking into what another branch is doing.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is tasked with protecting “the reliability of the high-voltage interstate transmission system through mandatory reliability.” In short, the commission ensures that our nation’s electric grid can supply the electricity we need to keep the lights on. Its review covers how electricity is generated and transmitted throughout the nation. Part of its oversight responsibility is the impact the Clean Power Plan will have on our ability to keep those lights on. Electric cooperatives from the Midwest participated in the St. Louis hearing by providing testimony on how the plan would affect the reliability of the region’s electric power network.

That happens to be our concern each and every day: a reliable power supply.

To clarify, we’re talking about two aspects of reliability. Your local electric cooperative is concerned about keeping the lights on in your community. We don’t like for you to be in the dark for a single minute, and absent ice storms or tornadoes, we do a very good job of it. Even with storm outages factored into the equation, Tennessee’s electric cooperatives keep electricity flowing to your homes and businesses for all but a few minutes each year.

However, the commission is looking at the big picture: the power supply for the entire country. It’s tasked with asking questions to determine whether enough electricity is being generated throughout the year and if there are enough transmission lines available to safely and efficiently carry that energy where it is needed. Questions along those lines prompted the review of the Clean Power Plan, which could shutter needed power plants in various parts of the nation and could imperil our reliable power grid.

Just like the transformer outside of your home, the folks at your local electric cooperative make a complex and vital process look simple. There’s a lot going on in supplying safe, affordable and reliable electricity. And beyond your local cooperative, there’s even more activity. It doesn’t happen accidentally. It is a process that requires planning, coordination and attention to detail — from the Tennessee Valley Authority’s power plants, across the transmission lines, to the wires, poles and transformers that bring electricity into your home.

As the EPA Clean Power Plan continues its process, we’ll continue to monitor and keep you informed on regulatory action that impacts your everyday life.

As always, our goal is to keep the lights on.

For more information on FERC and the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, go to our website, www.tnelectric.org.

The apple is not rotten

By Mike Knotts, director of government affairs

I spend most of my days in contact with our elected officials in both Washington, D.C., and Nashville, so when the topic of the integrity of our government comes up for discussion, you might expect that I would want to tell you horror stories. That I would tell you the world is full of Frank Underwood-types (the lead character in Netflix’s “House of Cards”) who will stop at nothing to achieve their own selfish ambitions. That no politician really cares about serving as a steward of our great nation, only about serving himself or herself.

After all, it does seem to be the popular thing to express doubt and believe the worst when it comes to politics these days. How else can you explain the popularity of “The Daily Show,” a satirical television program fashioned as a fake news broadcast? It has grown from a late-1990s upstart aired on a cable channel most people had never heard of to one of the most prevalent sources of news information for those in the 18-to-34-year-old demographic.

The show bases its comedy on the real-life events that make up the news — mostly the current events surrounding politics and government — and generates laughter by assuming a cynical and skeptical tone about whomever is involved in the story. Common themes seem to involve a general lack of faith in the true intentions of just about anyone and everyone who is involved in public service, and, therefore, those same people and the decisions they make are deserving of ridicule. And this ridicule is deeply personal, typically targeted at a particular politician or public figure.

One would think that to enjoy this type of comedy, a person would have to understand the underlying events that the jokes are based on. In other words, if someone is not familiar with the topics the show lampoons, then he or she probably would not find it funny. But an interesting thing has happened. Many of the show’s biggest fans have skipped the first part, allowing the joke to become the vehicle by which they receive the information upon which the joke is based.

Mark Twain once said, “Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.” In the case of “The Daily Show” audience, it seems to me as though the distortion (made for the purpose of eliciting humor) has become the most pleasing way to first get your facts — the joke is the news. One of my good friends, educated and opinionated, admitted to me recently that she had stopped watching any television news but rarely missed “The Daily Show.”

I offer these thoughts not as a critique of one particular television show but as an observation about our society in general. You can make your own judgments about whether the rise in popularity of satirical “news” is a good or bad thing. You can make your own judgments about our society’s desire to point the finger at someone else. But the popularity of this type of comedy today does have an effect upon the real-world actions of our political leaders. Many of them are eager to appear on these programs themselves, understanding the reality that so many people view this programming as “news.”

But let me offer some words of encouragement from my own first-hand experience. Frank Underwood is a wildly fictional character and is nowhere close to reality. The bitterness and divisive assumptions about politicians that cause us to laugh at Jon Stewart’s jokes, well, that attitude is not reflective of the reality I am a part of almost every day. I find myself surrounded by decent, hardworking people who face difficult decisions on a daily basis. They make those decisions based on a number of factors, guided by their own faith, morals and convictions.

Sometimes they get it right; sometimes they don’t. But whether they do or don’t, does it do you any good to deride and ridicule the person who made the decision? By all means, I encourage you to participate in the political process and support or oppose those who reflect your desires for public policy. But the deeply personal way in which our society criticizes politicians only seems to keep good people from choosing to serve. The void in leadership that is then left behind is filled by people whose misdeeds make it very easy to criticize. So what did the personal criticism really get us?

I try hard, often unsuccessfully, to fight off my own cynicism about the manner in which our country chooses to govern itself. Staying focused on affirming that which is good about our politics seems to be a more productive use of our time. It is true that nothing in this world will ever be perfect. And it is also true that our system of government really is the worst … except for every other one that’s ever been tried.

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