The Windshield or the Rear View Mirror?

When you’re driving down the road, do you spend more time looking out your windshield or your rear view mirror? Well, if you’re doing it right –the windshield receives far more attention than the mirror. It’s good to glance at where you’ve been, but far more important to see what lies ahead.

It’s important for any company to plan for the future, but it is extremely important for a utility that provides an essential service for a community. The decisions you make have lasting impact to the communities we serve. If we spend too much time resting on the laurels of past victories, we fail too see the needs of the future.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson reminded us of this responsibility on July 14, 1965:

“America and Americans, if they are going to continue to provide the leadership for the free world, must constantly look to the future.

So in our society today we serve no really useful purpose by keeping alive differences and divisions of yesteryear. We don’t need to cling to the issues of the past. We do need to take hold of the issues of the future.

Now what does this mean to the rural electrification program, of which you are a part and which has filled a very vital role in the strengthening of this Nation and in the development of this Nation?

Well, you just cannot rest on the past. You must not just content yourselves with remembering old battles, or castigating old enemies, or parroting old slogans. None of us can do that and survive, whether we are business people, or laborers, or farmers, or politicians–but, least of all, men and women who are part of something that is as dynamic as the rural electric cooperatives.”

“So what do you need to do? You need to look far into the future–beyond 1965 or 1966 or 1970. And you really can’t look far into the future, and you really cannot provide the leadership that you ought to provide, and you really cannot be a doer if you just ask yourself constantly, “What will I get out of this?” and “How does it serve me?” You have got to be selfless.

You have got to have a desire and an ambition to help people who can’t help themselves if you are to provide the leadership that we need in the 20th century. You need to look to the America of 1980, and what it is going to be like, not just let it slip up on us–and 1990. You must look to the year 2000, when the clock turns and a new century begins. You must take the lead, therefore, in planning today for what is going to happen 35 years from now. You must take the lead in planning for a fuller utilization of rural America–providing the power and the services to meet your share of the future’s demands.”

Those words are as true today as they were in 1965. Electrifying a nation is an impressive accomplishment. No one recognized that, or was more involved with it, than President Johnson. Yet he saw the need for turning the focus to the future. Challenges remain for our rural communities and we have to be the leaders that meet those challenges.

Flickr image Rearview Sunrise by BrianKhoury

Tennessee Magazine gets the Willies

The Tennessee Magazine staff took home awards of merit for best photo and best editorial at the Willie Award Ceremony held Monday evening, Aug. 11, at the The National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The National Rural Electric Statewide Editors Association Willie Awards is a peer-reviewed program that recognizes excellence in electric cooperative statewide consumer publications.

TECA Executive Vice President and General Manager David Callis received an award of merit for best editorial for Resiliency (Oct. 2015), and Robin Conover, vice president of communications and editor of The Tennessee Magazine, received best photo for this image from The Lions Roar (July 2015).

“Our staff works very hard to create quality content for the readers of The Tennessee Magazine,” says Conover. “Keeping readers engaged with interesting features, editorials and photography is our goal each month. It’s exciting to be recognized by our peers.”

Electric co-ops help offer a place and a prize for research on greenhouse gases

What if carbon dioxide from burning coal at power plants could be contained and turned into something useful?

A group of electric co-ops and other partners who want to investigate that issue recently broke ground on a research facility at the Dry Fork Station, a power plant in northeast Wyoming owned by Basin Electric Power Cooperative.

More than a dozen sites around the globe now study “carbon capture” as one possible solution to climate change, but they generally don’t offer the real-world conditions the Integrated Test Center partners say their site will offer when it’s finished next summer.

The facility will allow researchers to place equipment that can test ways to grab carbon dioxide from a working power plant and use it in ways the world might find valuable.

In addition to Basin Electric’s involvement, financial support comes from Denver-based Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. The state of Wyoming has been the main funder and organizer of the test center, and another key partner is the XPRIZE Foundation.

XPRIZE Foundation is an organization that seeks “radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity.”

In the past, it has offered cash prizes for space travel and health innovations. More recently it announced two $10 million prizes for “transformational approaches to converting (carbon dioxide) emissions into valuable products.”

The carbon XPRIZE will be awarded in 2020, but this past spring’s preliminary deadline has already produced several applicants, says Dr. Paul Bunje, principal scientist and senior director of energy and environment at XPRIZE. He says those entries have come from “big corporations, garage tinkerers, universities and small and medium-sized businesses.”

The variety of planned research includes using carbon dioxide to make fuels, ingredients in chemical processes, or thin, extremely strong “supermaterials” of the future.

XPRIZE contestants will begin moving equipment to the test center in the summer of 2018, says Dr. Marcius Extavour, XPRIZE director of technical operations. And what will that look like?

“Some of the equipment will be tall and skinny, some of it low and wide,” says Extavour. “Some of it might be in a smooth steel case, others will be exposed pipes, others will be, who knows what?”

To read more about the carbon XPRIZE, visit www.carbon.xprize.org.

Paul Wesslund writes on cooperative 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.

Improving energy performance of new homes

Purchasing a newly constructed home is an exciting process and a major milestone. Whether you are building a custom home or buying a spec home, you will be making dozens of important decisions before moving in––from purchasing the perfect kitchen countertops to selecting a home financing package.

The decisions you make about the energy efficiency of your new home will have lasting consequences. These energy-related decisions, such as how you heat, cool, light and insulate your home, are often overlooked.

The first step to maximizing energy efficiency is to select a properly sized home that meets your family’s needs. America is known for its sizeable homes, but after hitting a peak of 2,268 square feet in 2006, the median size of new single-family homes started to trend down.

According to a recent report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “as square footage increases, the burden on heating and cooling equipment rises, lighting requirements increase and the likelihood that the household uses more than one refrigerator increases. Square footage typically stays fixed over the life of a home, and it is a characteristic that is expensive, even impractical to alter to reduce energy consumption.”

According to the Department of Energy, appliances account for about 13 percent of the average household’s energy use. Clothes dryers, refrigerators/freezers, computers, microwaves, dishwashers and washing machines tend to use the most energy in a typical American home. Every appliance you purchase has an operating cost (i.e., the cost of the energy needed to power that appliance). To facilitate more informed shopping, the federal government requires many appliances to include an EnergyGuide label stating the approximate energy consumption and operating cost of the appliance. Appliances with an ENERGY STAR label use 10 to 50 percent less energy than standard appliances.

Many owners of new homes are interested in solar energy. If you are considering solar, make sure your home is as energy efficient as possible. This will enable a smaller, less expensive solar system to provide a substantial portion of your energy needs. Prices for solar panels have dropped considerably over the last decade, and there are many financing models and incentives available to residential customers.

Another efficient option is a residential geothermal system. While they do not generate electricity, geothermal systems save energy by using heat from the earth to replace conventional heating and cooling systems. Throughout the year, the earth remains a constant, moderate temperature (i.e., 50 degrees Fahrenheit) just below the ground. Geothermal heating and cooling systems, also known as ground source systems, make use of this constant underground temperature by circulating water in a loop to exchange heat between your home, the ground source heat pump and the earth––providing highly efficient heating, cooling and hot water.

Installing an easy-to-use programmable thermostat is also a great way to efficiently operate your home. ENERGY STAR estimates a typical household can annually save $180 by properly using a programmable thermostat.

Regardless of the number of energy efficiency features in your home, occupant behavior is still a major factor in how much energy your household consumes. From unplugging appliances you rarely use, like a mostly empty second refrigerator, to making sure you run full loads in the washing machine, dryer and dishwasher, to turning out the lights––it all adds up in energy savings.

2015 Youth Tour delegates collect shoes for kids

One thing all Washington Youth Tour winners have in common when they return home is sore feet! During their week-long trip to D.C. this year, students took more than 123,000 steps — walking a whopping 61 miles! So when asked to come up with a group community service project, it was no surprise the 2015 delegates decided to host a shoe drive.

The students engaged their communities, family and friends in their efforts and jointly collected more than 100 pairs of new, youth-sized athletic shoes. This was no ordinary shoe drive, though, as the students chose to donate the shoes to Ashland City Elementary, a local school in rural Cheatham County. Principal Chip Roney was overwhelmed by the generosity and excited about being able to distribute the shoes during the school’s upcoming open house event.

That same excitement was shared by the students who gathered the shoes. “The amount of shoes we were able to collect will bring smiles to the faces of many children who otherwise might not get a new pair of school shoes this year,” says Eli Creasy, a 2015 WYT alumnus.

Youth Tour participants often return to their hometowns as stronger leaders with confidence they can make a difference. The 2015 WYT delegates exemplified this through their dedication to this community service project.

Broadband assessment statement for co-ops

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

[CO-OP NAME] ISSUES STATEMENT
ON STATE BROADBAND STUDY

 

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development released the results of a comprehensive study on broadband access in Tennessee earlier today, and [Co-op name] is encouraged by the report’s findings and recommendations.

The study, which examines broadband use and availability, finds that regulatory barriers in the state restrict investment and reduce competition. The report specifically mentions a state law that prevents electric cooperatives from providing retail broadband.

“The study identifies rural and economically distressed regions of the state as areas of greatest need. These are the same communities served by co-ops like [CO-OP NAME],” says [name, title] with [co-op]. “Despite our unique position, Tennessee state law prevents co-ops from providing broadband access to our members. We are confident that the legislature will act on the recommendations of this study, creating an environment that encourages investment, competition and, ultimately, greater access to broadband.”

“[CO-OP NAME] is committed to improving lives in the communities we serve,” says [MANAGER LAST NAME]. “We are excited to work with the state to identify real solutions that will benefit our members.”

You can view the full report here: http://www.tn.gov/assets/entities/ecd/attachments/broadband-study.pdf

 

[CO-OP BOILERPLATE]

 

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Contact:

[CO-OP MEDIA CONTANT INFORMATION]
Trent Scott | Vice President of Corporate Strategy | tscott@tnelectric.org | 731.608.1519

 

 

Co-ops issue statement on state broadband study

NASHVILLE, July 19, 2016 – Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are encouraged by the findings and recommendations released earlier today by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development concerning broadband availability across the state.

The report states that current regulatory barriers restrict investment and competition, specifically mentioning a law that prevents the state’s member-owned electric cooperatives from providing broadband access. Electric cooperatives serve 71 percent of the state’s landmass, including a majority of the rural and economically disadvantaged regions identified in the study as areas of greatest need.

“Limited access to broadband has serious consequences for rural Tennessee, and co-ops are uniquely positioned to provide real solutions,” says David Callis, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Co-ops have a legacy of expanding critical services beyond the city limits. A generation ago, the issue was power; today it is broadband. “

“Tennessee’s electric cooperatives appreciate Governor Haslam and Commissioner Boyd for their leadership on this important issue,“ says Callis. “This study should serve as a roadmap to the legislature to remove restrictions and foster competition. Co-ops are committed to working with the state to identify real solutions that will benefit rural and suburban Tennessee.”

A copy of the report is available here.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides legislative and communications 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 | Vice President of Corporate Strategy | tscott@tnelectric.org | 731.608.1519

 

Nine Hundred Words

The Washington Youth Tour essay contest rules are specific. Rule number 3 states:

The short story should be no more than 900 words in length (including articles of speech); 800 to 900 words will make your paper competitive.

One of the last things a high school student wants to do is write an essay. It takes more effort than a multiple choice exam and the odds of doing it correctly are lower than that of a True/False quiz. It requires some thought and creativity, but the payoff is incredible.

The students are also eligible for up to $16,000 in college scholarships and the opportunity to serve on the national Youth Leadership Council.

Tennessee sends the largest group each year. This year, 130 students from across the state were selected to attend along with 60 teachers and cooperative employees. About 1,700 students from across the nation were part of the Tour this year.

For the Washington Youth Tour to be as successful as it has been, it takes a commitment from our local cooperative boards and the dedicated cooperative employees that spend a long, tiring week chaperoning those students.

With almost $3 billion invested in our statewide utility infrastructure, we spend millions of dollars each year maintaining and improving the electric grid. The thousands spent to send high school students to Washington pales in comparison. As an investment, it isn’t something that provides an immediate payoff. However, as a long-term investment, nothing we do provides a lifetime of positive returns as does this investment in our future.

The results – years later – are tangible. Former Youth Tour participants turn up everywhere. We can’t track of all of them, but some are teachers, legislators or electric utility executives. You’ve likely heard of one former Youth Tour participant from Alabama, who is the current CEO of Apple – Tim Cook.

To quote one of the students, “I never realized how life changing a combination of 900 words could be until I won the short story competition.”

Cyber counter-attack

About 3:30 in the afternoon last December 23, operators at three electric utilities halfway around the world in western Ukraine found themselves not to be solely in control of their computer terminals. Someone from outside the utilities had taken over the controls and started opening circuit breakers at more than 27 substations, cutting power to more than 200,000 customers. Thousands of fake calls clogged utility switchboards, preventing people from phoning in to get information about the outage. Utility workers switched to manual operations, and it took three hours to restore power.

That’s not a movie plot. And if you missed or forgot about that news report from last year, people who run electric utilities have not. Attention to cyber security at electric utilities has been growing fast in the past few years, and the Ukraine attack pushed that trend into overdrive.

“It’s garnered a lot of attention from the federal government and throughout the industry,” says Barry Lawson, Associate Director of Power Delivery and Reliability for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA).

A big part of Lawson’s job is helping the nearly 1,000 electric co-ops in the country understand digital-age dangers, and ensuring that they know how to protect and secure the power supply, electric grid, and co-op members and employees from Internet mischief.

Electric co-ops are showing they do understand the importance of cyber security, says Cynthia Hsu, Cyber Security Program Manager for Business and Technology Strategies at NRECA.

“Electric co-ops were the first utilities to test and use the U.S. Department of Energy’s cyber security self-assessment tool,” says Hsu. “They are often on the cutting edge of implementing best practices to improve their cyber security capabilities.”

While the Ukraine cyber attack has been studied in-depth by U.S. utilities and the Federal Department of Homeland Security, most analysts see a large-scale attack by hackers as unlikely to succeed in this country. The reports characterize the Ukraine attack as extremely well planned and coordinated, but not technically sophisticated.

The Ukraine incident actually started as early as March of last year, when utility workers received e-mails with Microsoft Office documents, such as an Excel spreadsheet, from the Ukrainian parliament. But the emails were not from the Ukrainian parliament. When workers followed the email instructions asking them to click on a link to “enable macros,” malicious malware embedded in the documents––called BlackEnergy 3––secretly infected the system. Among other capabilities, BlackEnergy 3 can enable an adversary to observe and copy all the keystrokes made on the infected computers, giving hackers passwords and other login information needed to access the utility’s operations control systems.

Defenses against that kind of attack are pretty basic, and you’ve probably even heard the warnings yourself—don’t click on any links or attachments unless you were expecting the message to be sent to you. Utilities are increasing their efforts to enhance and formalize their security plans, processes and controls. New cyber security standards require upgraded levels of training for utility operators, multiple layers of security to shield operational and control systems from the Internet and even stricter procedures for visitor access (physical and electronic) to control rooms. These utilities are regularly audited for cyber security compliance, and regulators, such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), can levy strict penalties for not following standards.

NRECA’s Lawson describes an example of one type of security technology, a security token—a physical device an operator would carry with them that changes their password every 30 seconds.

NRECA has also worked with the Department of Energy to develop software called Essence, which constantly monitors a utility’s system for even a microsecond of irregularity that might indicate some kind of hacking attempt or malware is interfering with the system.

With all that attention to keeping the electricity flowing, Lawson says there’s another major cyber-threat receiving high-priority attention from electric co-ops—protecting data and critical utility information to avoid identity theft of members’ information. He says some co-ops hire firms to periodically try to hack into their computer systems, so the co-op can identify and fix the holes in their security.

Lawson describes a scary world of cyber terrorists, organized crime, issue-oriented groups or just kids in their basement seeing what kind of trouble they can cause on the Internet. At the same time, he compares those high-tech threats to risks posed by hurricanes or the everyday need for paying attention to safety at the electric cooperative. Co-ops regularly use risk assessment and management practices to balance a wide range of threats to their systems.

“Physical security and cyber security are becoming just another cost of doing business,” says Lawson. “You’ll never be 100 percent secure, and all you can do is try your best to keep up with the bad guys. It’s a fact of life in these days and times we’re living in.”

Paul Wesslund writes on cooperative issues for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nations 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

Use caution near co-op equipment

As you find yourself spending more time outdoors this summer, Tennessee’s electric cooperatives remind you to exercise caution near electrical equipment maintained by the co-op.

Substations and power lines carry extremely high voltages, and if contact is accidentally made, the results can be dangerous––or even deadly.

Never climb trees near power lines. If you make contact with a tree that is touching a power line, your body could become the path of electricity from the line to the ground. If you encounter an animal trapped in a tree near power lines or inside a substation, do not attempt to remove it––no matter how furry and cute! Call your local co-op for assistance.

These days, we are seeing more remote-controlled toys, like drones and airplanes, which can be a great way to have fun outdoors. But these gadgets also bring new safety concerns. Remote-controlled toys should never be flown near power lines, substations or other electrical equipment.

Remember these safety tips when flying a remote-controlled toy:

  • Keep a safe distance from electrical equipment when you fly. If contact is accidentally made with a power line or a transformer inside a substation, many members of your community could be left without electricity.
  • Keep the remote-controlled toy in sight at all times.
  • Avoid flying if weather conditions are unfavorable. High winds could cause you to lose control of the remote-controlled toy.

Your safety is important to your co-op. We hope you will share the message of electrical safety so that you and others can enjoy plenty of summer days filled with fun! Visit everydaysafe.org for more electrical safety tips.