Co-ops light midway at state fair

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Sept. 5, 2014 – Tennessee’s electric cooperatives lit the midway during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Tennessee State Fair on Friday evening. John Spence, a lineman with Gibson Electric Membership Corporation in Trenton, Tenn., threw the switch that officially started the nine-day event.

“Each day electric cooperatives deliver power and opportunity to more than two million rural Tennesseans,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “The fair is a celebration of life in rural Tennessee, and that is why we are proud to be a sponsor of tonight’s opening ceremony.”

The Tennessee State Fair presented by One Main Financial runs Sept. 5 – 14 at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds. Learn more at tnstatefair.org.

During the opening ceremony of the Tennessee State Fair, electric co-op representatives had a chance to meet Zoe, a young lady struggling with a serious medical condition. Her wish of being a princess came true as she proudly wore her tiara on stage, a moment made possible thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. You can learn more about their work at middletennessee.wish.org.

About TECA
The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association is a trade group representing the interests of Tennessee’s 23 electric distribution cooperatives and the more than two 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 | Director of Corporate Strategy
tscott@tnelectric.org | 731.608.1519

 

Download a high-resolution photo here.

Caption: John Smith, a lineman with Gibson Electric Membership Corporation in Trenton, assists Zoe from the Make a Wish Foundation to flip the switch and kick off the 2014 Tennessee State Fair.

Energy efficiency workshop

NASHVILLE, Sept. 5, 2014 – A workshop held today in Nashville explored opportunities to provide energy-efficiency assistance to Tennessee’s low-income homeowners. The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, its member cooperatives and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s Office of Energy Programs hosted the event.

Tennessee is one of six states selected to participate in the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices’ State Policy Retreats on Innovations in Energy Efficiency that aim to reduce energy consumption, stimulate economic demand for local energy-related jobs and services and lower emissions associated with the generation of electricity.

The workshop focused on the development of a program to help co-op members finance energy-efficiency activities such as weatherization improvements, HVAC upgrades, ground-source heat pumps, lighting, small-scale renewable generation, consumer education and outreach and energy audits.

“Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are committed to improving the lives of their members and the communities they serve,” said Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau. “We are privileged to be working with TECA to identify ways to access capital for energy-efficiency improvements in Tennessee’s rural communities. Energy-efficiency improvements result in reduced energy demand and consumption, thereby lowering energy costs for consumers.”

“We’re excited about this joint effort and the agencies that are working with us,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “The cost of heating and cooling a home can be a burden for low-income, rural Tennesseans, so energy efficiency can do more than make homes more comfortable – it can change lives. These improvements can have long-term impacts for homeowners and the communities where they live.”

Representatives from the Office of Gov. Bill Haslam, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, other state agencies, the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and several member cooperatives, the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Services, the Tennessee Valley Authority, Appalachian Voices and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy participated in the workshop.

About TECA

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association is a trade group representing the interests of Tennessee’s 23 electric distribution cooperatives and the more than two 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.

 

Download high-resolution photo here.

Cutline: Frank Rapley, senior manager, energy right solutions for homes, with the Tennessee Valley Authority speaks at a workshop today in Nashville. Participants explored opportunities to provide energy-efficiency assistance to Tennessee’s low-income homeowners.

 

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

Are you grounded? GFCI outlets can help!

Did you know there are different types of electrical outlets? Each are designed for different purposes; however, there is one specific type that stands high above the rest—the ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet. GFCIs have saved thousands of lives and cut the number of electrocutions in half since the 1970s. If your home lacks GFCI outlets, don’t fret—you can learn how to “get grounded.”

GFCIs are the most efficient outlet in protecting from electrical shock. If it senses a loss of current, the outlet switches off power to that circuit. These devices can either be installed in your electrical system or built into a power cord. The third hole at the bottom of the outlet is known as the “ground” slot, and it monitors electrical currents that flow through the left “neutral” slot and the right “hot” slot on each outlet. A GFCI can react faster than a blink of an eye to any imbalance of power by immediately shutting off the electrical current. These outlets are now a requirement in all places where water could potentially come into contact with electrical products such as bathrooms, garages, outdoors and kitchens. GFCIs are not exclusive to three-prong outlets. They can be installed into standard outlets, and there are even portable devices available when installation is not practical.

GFCIs should be tested at least once a month to ensure they are working effectively. The first step you need to take is to test an item, such as a lamp, that visibly powers on when plugged in. Push the “reset” button to prepare the outlet then push the “test” button. Did your lamp turn off? If it did, the GFCI is working properly. Now, hit the “reset” button once again to power it back on. If your lamp did not power off, then you should contact a certified electrician to correct the problem.

Next time you have a free moment, take the time to look around your house. If you’re not “grounded,” consider updating your electrical outlets to GFCIs.

Sources: Electrical Safety Foundation International, Consumer Product Safety Commission

Amber Bentley writes on energy efficiency issues for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

Saving energy on entertainment

Many homes boast TVs and sound systems that can rival any football stadium and many movie theaters. People can save hundreds of dollars a year by watching movies at home rather than going to the local theater. Luckily, there are simple steps to saving even more money if you manage the power consumption of your home entertainment system.

Many of the devices in your home entertainment system and your computer system use energy when they are turned off. This is commonly called parasitic load or vampire load. According to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the average home loses 8 percent of its monthly energy consumption to these energy vampires.

Your devices use power when turned off because the electronics inside the devices are still working. What these devices are doing and the amount of energy used when turned off varies. It could be that they are remembering the last channel that you viewed, remembering the language you speak or trying to turn on faster. Devices such as TVs and DVD players will often have power settings in the setup menu. Try to find that menu and adjust the settings to save more power. Generally this will cause the device to take a few more seconds to start. Many manufacturers have power settings turned off by default.

Microwave ovens and alarm clocks, which use relatively small amounts of standby power, are acceptable to leave plugged in. A digital video recorder (DVR) uses a fairly significant amount of power when turned off, but if you record programs frequently, you will want to leave it plugged in too.

You don’t have to worry about unplugging items with mechanical on/off switches, such as lamps, hair dryers or small kitchen appliances like toasters or mixers―they don’t draw any power when turned off.

How do you slay other energy vampires? Try plugging household electronics like personal computers, monitors, printers, speakers, stereos, DVD and video game players and cell phone chargers into power strips. Not only do power strips protect sensitive electronic components from power surges, but you can quickly turn off several items at once.

Of course, using a power strip is a manual process and is an all-or-nothing option. A variation on the power strip is the “smart strip.” Smart power strips allow you to plug devices into a specially marked section of the power strip so they will still have power when turned off. Other devices that can be turned off safely are plugged into the rest of the strip. This allows you to turn off parts of a home entertainment system, such as the stereo, DVD player or home theater audio system without losing the ability to record programs to a DVR or having to reprogram the television every time you want to watch a show.

Of course, there’s always a catch. Some devices use standby power to make life more convenient. If you unplug your television or cable/satellite receiver box, what happens? When plugged back in, the TV or box usually will have to run its initial setup program. Depending on the particular device, it could take up to 20 minutes for channels to be recognized or for the user to reset preferences, which isn’t something most people are willing to do every day. For these devices, look for the Energy Star label. If your cable or satellite box doesn’t have it, call your provider and request a new one. Make sure they give it to you for free. TV providers want to keep your business, and they most likely will not let you change providers over something simple, such as a new cable or satellite box.

Entertaining doesn’t have to drain your budget. The money saved by eliminating the energy vampires in your home may be enough to go out and see a movie. But it may still be not enough to afford that extra-large popcorn!

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

The Cooperative Research Network monitors, evaluates, and applies technologies that help electric cooperatives control costs, increase productivity, and enhance service to their consumers.

Using energy efficient window treatments

Part science, part style

A recent study by two federal agencies used rigorous science and analysis to dissect window-covering choices—how you use them, where you install them and whether they really save energy. These days, every penny counts, which is why Tennessee’s electric cooperatives always recommend finding ways to be energy efficient around the house.

“Windows account for 25 to 40 percent of annual heating and cooling costs, especially in older homes,” says Trent Scott, director of corporate strategy for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Blinds, shades, films and drapes are all good options to consider if old or inefficient windows can’t be replaced.”

According to a joint government and industry research effort (including the U.S. Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Window Covering Manufacturers Association), window coverings—blinds, shades, curtains and awnings—could save significant amounts of energy at a relatively low cost to the consumer. Researchers next want to quantify how much energy consumer households could save based on the dominant types of window coverings used, in which climate zones people live and how U.S. households currently operate their window treatments. In the meantime, you may want to give your window treatments a second look when it comes to cooling, heating and comfort in your home.

“It’s important to remember that location, placement and materials are key,” said Scott. “Windows facing west let in the hottest light and need the most coverage, while windows facing south are the most important natural light source and only need light coverage.”

Drapery.  During the winter months and in cold climates, draperies work best. Their ability to reduce heat loss depends on fabric type (closed or open weave), color, the season and other factors. Keeping drapes drawn during the winter, especially at night, could save up to 10 percent of heat loss from a warm room. When hanging draperies, make sure they are placed as close to windows as possible to reduce heat exchange and that they are long enough to fall onto a windowsill or floor.

Shades. Shades—pleated or cellular, quilted roller and dual—are one of the simplest product choices for insulating rooms. But depending on the material, some are more energy efficient than others. Cellular or pleated shades are one example of an energy efficient choice. They can help keep air from either entering or escaping your home. Dual shades—highly reflective (white) on one side and heat absorbing (dark) on the other side—are also energy efficient and can be reversed with the seasons. In the summer, lower shades on sunlit windows. Shades on the south side of a house should be raised in the winter during the day, then lowered at night.

Interior blinds. Because of their spacing and openings, blinds tend to be more effective at reducing summer heat gain than winter heat loss. But the level of cooling and heating can also be influenced by the position of the slats. When completely closed and lowered at a sun-filled window, for example, heat gain can be reduced by around 45 percent, according to industry estimates. Slats can also be adjusted to block and reflect sunlight onto a light-colored ceiling.

Window film. Residential window films can be high-end and permanent or inexpensive and temporary solutions to improve the energy efficiency of windows. Clear solar-control window films can block up to 84 percent of the solar energy that would normally enter through windows, according to the International Window Film Association, a nonprofit organization of window film dealers, distributors and manufacturers. When installed well, you may not even know some types of film have been applied to your interior windows, manufacturers say, but they’re working year-round to block ultraviolet light in summer and retain warmth in the winter.

With these and other carefully selected window treatments, you can reduce heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer – keeping your house comfortable and your energy bills lower. To find out more ways to save, contact your local electric cooperative.

Sources: U.S. Department of Energy, Energy.gov, and “Residential Windows and Window Coverings: A Detailed View” September 2013 Report (http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2013/11/f5/residential_windows_coverings.pdf)

B. Denise Hawkins writes on energy efficiency issues for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

Early Decisions

Mike Knotts, director of government affairs

For the past 20 years, Tennesseans have become much more accustomed to early voting. It’s become an accepted part of the election process in our state. No longer a novelty, early voting requires much less explanation and helps voters avoid the long lines often encountered on Election Day. Because more than half of all ballots cast in our elections occur during the early-voting period, candidates have changed how they conduct their campaigns.

Early voting often allows the results of the election to be accurately predicted at the exact moment the polls close rather than waiting a few hours for each county commission to actually count all the votes cast.

Oddly, in the current political climate across Tennessee, we are starting to receive these results of elections months, not hours, ahead of time. How could that be? As we learned in our high school civics classes, for all offices that are elected in partisan elections, there must first be a primary election to determine the candidates that will represent the Republican and Democrat parties. Typically, these elections are held in August. Then a general election is held in November to determine the person who will ultimately hold the office.

More and more, it seems that many elected offices are essentially being decided in the primary election. There are many reasons for this: Demographic changes, population shifts and decennial redistricting are among them. But what is frequently occurring is that while more than one candidate may run in a primary election, there will be no representative of the other political party to run in the general election. If there is an opposing candidate in the general election, there are now many districts that vote so overwhelmingly for one political party that the general election is simply a formality.

mapSo, we are learning who will represent us earlier and earlier than ever. It is certainly noteworthy that the decision about who will represent your interests in the U.S. Congress and in the Tennessee Legislature are often happening in the August rather than the November election. If you don’t vote in the primary election, you may not be participating in the selection of your elected representative. The map below shows a county-by-county breakdown of the percentage of registered voters who participated in the August 2014 primary election in Tennessee. Across Tennessee, only 903,000 of the nearly 4 million registered voters voted in the U.S. Senate primary. Take a look at your county and see how many of your neighbors actually voted. Did you?

From the perspective of your electric cooperative, the map does provide some good news. The darker colors represent higher levels of turnout, and the lighter colors represent a lower percentage of voters actually casting their ballots. On the whole, this map shows higher turnout in rural counties and lower turnout in the large cities and metropolitan areas.

That is encouraging, given that population growth in the larger cities has been outpacing growth in Tennessee’s rural communities. As this trend in population change continues and subsequent redistricting occurs, the collective political strength of rural Tennessee could be diminished. The only way to combat this trend is for more rural citizens to actually exercise their rights and vote. I hope you will continue to do so.

 

Impacts

By David Callis, executive vice president and general manager

While there are usually two sides to every story, quite often there are even more. That makes decision-making difficult, whether it’s parenting, voting or solving complex business decisions. If you’ve ever separated quarreling siblings, you know it’s no simple task discovering who instigated the fight. You listen to both parties, check the facts and dispense justice — or something close to it.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently introduced its Clean Power Plan, which would essentially restructure the way electricity is generated — local decisions would be made in Washington, D.C. As the EPA unveiled the proposed rule, it also quoted statistics stating that the cost of electricity would be lower in 2030 if the rule were adopted.

If you only consider the information the EPA provided, you wouldn’t really understand why anyone would oppose a plan that purports to lower your electric bill and fight climate change.

That is unless, of course, you looked at another side of the issue.

Everyone wants clean air; that should go without saying. Over the past decades, electric cooperatives across the nation have invested billions of dollars in emissions technologies and renewable energy sources. We’ve also led the way in energy-efficiency efforts; what other industry pays you to use less of its product?

Closer to home, the Tennessee Valley Authority closed several aging coal plants, switched fuels to natural gas whenever possible and continued to build carbon-emission-free nuclear generation. All of these measures have been cost-effective, systematic and done without federal mandates. (TVA is a federal agency, but operating decisions are made locally.)

The EPA’s rule essentially eliminates coal as a generation source. To the EPA and proponents of the rule, that’s great. Yet, there is another side to the “war on coal.”

At a recent EPA hearing in Denver, Moffat County (Colorado) Commissioner John Kinkaid shared the impact coal has on his county. He began by discussing the natural beauty of his county and the tourism and recreational options available.

And then he discussed the financial impact of the EPA rule. The coal mines and power plants are the largest taxpayers in the county, providing an annual financial impact of more than $428 million to the local economy. This comes from the very same coal-fired plant that co-exists with the residents and the mountains.

Residents of the county don’t want it closed. They don’t want local residents to lose good jobs. They don’t want their school systems to struggle for funding. They want to control their destiny, making the decisions that impact their future.

Opposition to EPA’s Clean Power Plan doesn’t mean that we only support coal, and it certainly doesn’t mean that we oppose clean air. However, the plan’s impact on the U.S. economy is far too great without making any significant impact on reducing global carbon emissions.

Moffat County is only one of many areas impacted by the plan. Tens of thousands of families could see their lives upended for a rule that, on its face, looks like a good idea.

As we’ve mentioned, the EPA is taking comments on the Clean Power Plan proposed rule until Thursday, Oct. 16. EPA officials asked for comments, so let’s give them comments. Go to takeactionTN.com and let your voice be heard.

Perkerson joins TECA staff

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Aug. 26, 2014 – The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, a trade group representing the interests of electric cooperative members across the state, announced today that Alex Perkerson joins the association as government affairs specialist. In this role, Perkerson will assist with the association’s legislative and grassroots efforts.

“Tennessee’s electric cooperatives work to inform and protect their members,” says Perkerson. “It is exciting to be a part of their mission to serve the people of rural and suburban Tennessee.”

A 2011 graduate of the University of Alabama with a degree in political science, Perkerson previously worked as a legislative assistant at the Tennessee General Assembly.

“We are thrilled to add Alex to our team,” says Mike Knotts, director of government affairs for TECA. “I am confident that she will make positive contributions on behalf of our members.”

About TECA

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.

A high-resolution photo is available here.

Note from David

Perspective

There are usually two sides to every story. Quite often more than two sides. That makes decision making a difficult task, whether it’s parenting, voting, or complex business decisions. If you’ve every separated quarreling siblings, you know it’s no simple task discovering who instigated the fight. You listen to both parties, check the facts, and dispense justice – or something close to it.

The Environmental Protection Agency Clean Power Plan would essentially restructure the way that electricity is generated – local decisions would be made in Washington. As the EPA unveiled the proposed rule, they also quoted statistics stating that the cost of electricity would be lower in 2030 if the rule were adopted.

If you only consider the information that the EPA provides, you wouldn’t really understand why anyone would oppose a plan that purports to lower usage and fight climate change.

Unless, of course, you looked at another side of the issue.

Over the past decades, electric cooperatives across the nation have invested billions in emissions technologies and renewable energy sources. We’ve also led the way in energy efficiency efforts; what other industry pays you to use less.

The rule essentially eliminates coal as a generation source. To the EPA and proponents of the rule, that’s great. Yet, there is another side to the “war on coal”.

At a recent EPA hearing in Denver, Colorado, Moffat County (CO) Commissioner John Kinkaid shared the impact that coal has on his county. He began by discussing the natural beauty of his county and the tourism and recreational options available.

And then he discussed the financial impact of the EPA rule. The coal-fired plant in his county provides a financial impact of over $428 million each year to the local economy. The very same coal fired plant that co-exists with the residents and the mountains.

Residents of the county don’t want it closed. They don’t want local residents to lose good jobs. They don’t want their school systems to struggle for funding. They want to control their destiny – making the decisions that impact their future.

Moffat County is only one of many counties and towns impacted by the plan. Tens of thousands of families could see their lives upended for a rule that, on its face, looks like a good idea.

It all depends on your perspective.

The “Essence” of cybersecurity

The online world can be a dangerous neighborhood. News of another huge data theft or malicious computer virus seems to arrive almost weekly. One study found that 740 million online records were hacked last year. Target, the giant retailer, revealed cyber-criminals had stolen information on as many as 70 million of its customers alone.

While it hasn’t received nearly as much publicity, cooperatives and other electric utilities haven’t been immune from this assault. Craig Miller, chief scientist for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), says there are thousands of probes, big and small, into utility systems. These threats to the security and stability of the nation’s grid are only expected to grow.

But an ambitious effort by the Cooperative Research Network (CRN), the research and development arm of NRECA, and several partners is underway to make sure the systems delivering your power remain safe and secure. It’s called “Essence” and through the project, researchers are developing the next generation of automated cybersecurity for the industry.

That’s particularly important for co-op members and other consumers, who not only count on the power being there when they need it, but also on their electricity provider protecting their privacy. “The success of Essence will improve the protections around their personal information and it will improve the reliability of their power systems,” says Miller.

Miller says most of the attempts to hack into utility systems have been efforts to grab personal data or business information. Consumers obviously want to be sure bank account information, social security numbers or other personal data don’t fall into the hands of identity thieves.

But there have also been more ominous attacks that should concern any U.S. citizen. “There have been attempts on control systems. They are much rarer because they require a much higher level of expertise, and there’s no potential monetary gain,” Miller says. “But people have done it.”

The assumption, he says, is that some of these efforts are by “state actors,” other nations probing for potential weaknesses. Defense analysts also believe a cyber-attack on the nation’s power grid could be attractive to terrorists for its potential to create widespread chaos.

The essence of Essence is to protect Americans from all these threats. There are existing software programs with the same goal, but it’s how Essence safeguards utility systems that makes it a major advance in cybersecurity.

Most computer systems are protected through firewalls, special software that blocks suspicious attempts to connect or upload software. But these programs largely depend on lists of known threats that have to be constantly updated. “One of the challenges is that these security systems require expert users who are hyper-diligent about staying current,” says Miller. “They also have the potential for human error. This creates vulnerabilities.”

But Essence changes the balance of power in this constant battle. “Instead of monitoring what’s going in and out of the network, it monitors the network itself and uses advanced algorithms (procedures) to determine what is normal,” explains Maurice Martin, CRN’s project manager for cyber security. “Essence looks for anomalies – stuff that shouldn’t be happening – and then raises a red flag when it sees something that’s amiss.”

This means Essence doesn’t have to depend on lists of the latest dangers out there, or on humans keeping it up-to-date. It doesn’t need to know exactly what hackers are up to because anything that’s not right with the system will get its attention.

All this is accomplished by an unassuming device, small enough to be held in one hand, which can be added to a utility system in key spots to unobtrusively monitor what’s happening on the network.

Project managers also have taken several steps, including using storage in the cloud and open software standards, to keep costs down and make sure Essence doesn’t require extensive expertise to manage. “It’s going to bring state-of-the-art cybersecurity to co-ops of every size, from the biggest to the smallest,” says Martin. “The philosophy is no co-op left behind. Everyone will be able to use this.”

Essence is being developed through a $4 million grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy to research next-generation cybersecurity devices. CRN has partnered with Carnegie Mellon University, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the cyber security firm Cigital on the project. Several large corporations are also following the effort.

Researchers hope to have the first version of the Essence device in the field for tests early next year. If it’s as successful as expected, commercial partners will be brought in to produce the product, providing electric utilities with an affordable, automated cybersecurity system they can depend on.

That will be good news for consumers everywhere. As Martin notes, “Maintaining cybersecurity for your co-op or utility is a something that matters to anyone who’s on a power line.”

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.