The most wonderful time of the year can also be the most stressful—particularly when it comes to keeping your kids safe through parties, presents, travel, and meals. Follow these tips from the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) to protect your little ones this holiday season. For more information, visit



Electronic gifts

About 70 percent of child-related electrical accidents occur at home when adult supervision is present, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. So make sure those new toys don’t pose a danger.

  • Electric-powered toys and other devices can be extremely hazardous if improperly used or used without proper supervision.
  • An adult should supervise the use of any electrical product.  Consider both the maturity of the child and the nature of the toy when deciding how much supervision is required.
  • Do not buy an electrical toy, or any toy, for a child too young to use it safely. Always check the age recommendation on the package, and remember that this is a minimum age recommendation. You should still take into account your child’s capabilities.
  • Never give any child under 10 years old a toy that must be plugged into an electrical outlet. Instead, choose toys that are battery-operated.
  • Make sure all electrical toys bear a fire safety label from an independent testing laboratory, such as UL (Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.).
  • Inspect all electrical toys periodically.  Repair, replace, or discard deteriorating toys.
  • Ban play with electrical toys near water, and make sure they understand that water and electricity don’t mix.
  • All electrical toys should be put away immediately after use in a dry storage area out of the reach of younger children.

Decorating safely

Christmas, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Day lead the year for candle fires, according to ESFI. Mind your festive decorations for safety hazards:

  • Read manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels for any decoration that will be used around young children, like electronic trains or animatronic dolls.
  • Keep candles, matches, and lighters out of reach, and never leave children unsupervised when candles are lit.
  • Instead of traditional candles, try using battery-operated candles.
  • Cover any unused outlets on extension cords with plastic caps or electrical tape to prevent children from coming in contact with a live circuit.
  • Place electrical cords out of the reach of small children.
  • Never allow children to play with lights, electrical decorations, or cords.


In 2009, ranges and ovens were involved in an estimated 17,300 thermal burn injuries seen in U.S. hospital emergency rooms. Of these, 36 percent of the victims were younger than 5. Keep little kitchen helpers in check:

  • Never leave the kitchen when something’s cooking—a fire or accident can happen in an instant.
  • Keep children at least three feet away from all cooking appliances.
  • Never hold a child while cooking or when removing hot food from the microwave, oven, or stove.
  • Turn pot handles in, away from reaching hands.
  • Use the back burners on the cooktop whenever possible.
  • Hot tap water scalds can be prevented by lowering the setting on water heater thermostats to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or below and by installing anti-scald devices in water faucets.
  • Once your holiday meal is ready, check that the stove and oven are turned off and that other kitchen appliances are unplugged and out of reach.

NASHVILLE – Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are warning residents to be on the alert for a telephone scam targeting utility consumers.

Scam artists call a home or business posing as a co-op or utility employee and threaten to shut off service unless the consumer provides immediate payment.

“The calls sound official,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “They claim to be with the local electric cooperative, and many times the caller ID even displays the name of the utility.”

Co-op officials say that the scam is easy to recognize. Callis says electric co-ops will not call members and threaten immediate disconnection. Typically, multiple written notices are sent to delinquent accounts prior to disconnection.

Co-op leaders stress that members who receive any call regarding immediate payment of a bill should contact their local co-op directly.

“We are asking co-op members to be wary of any phone calls,” says Callis. “If in doubt, hang up and look up your electric cooperative’s phone number. Call them directly to be certain you are dealing with an official representative of the cooperative.”

Law enforcement officials are looking into reported fraud cases, but consumers are encouraged to protect themselves by shredding or destroying old utility statements, verifying the ID of any callers and reporting suspicious calls to law enforcement. “No one can protect you from being victimized better than you,” Callis says.

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


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Trent Scott | [email protected] | 731.608.1519

NASHVILLE – The 72nd annual meeting of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association was held Sunday – Tuesday, Nov. 24 – 26, at the Nashville Airport Marriott. The theme of the meeting was “Power of Potential,” and Bill Rogers, Caney Fork Electric Cooperative general manager and president of the TECA board of trustees, called the meeting to order.

Representatives from 23 member systems and one associate member were present for the business meeting. Rogers and TECA General Manager David Callis, the resolutions committee, TECA staff and representatives from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative presented reports and updates.

Elections were held for four-year positions on the TECA board of trustees. John Collins, general manager of Chickasaw Electric Cooperative, was elected from Region I. Joe Mullins, Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation board member, was elected from Region II. Joe Atwood, Mountain Electric Cooperative board member, was elected from Region III.

Dan Rodamaker, president and CEO of Gibson Electric Membership Corporation, was elected president of the board of trustees. Rody Blevins, president and CEO of Volunteer Energy Cooperative, was elected vice president and Robert Drinnen, board member at Appalachian Electric Cooperative, was elected secretary treasurer.

“The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association informs and protects co-op members,” says Rodamaker, a longtime member of the association’s board of trustees. “It is an honor to be a part of an organization that has such an important mission.”

“Congratulations to those who have been chosen for leadership roles,” said Callis. “We appreciate their service and are confident they will provide sound direction and represent Tennessee’s electric cooperatives with honor.”

Throughout the year, TECA presents training and education programs for cooperative directors. Recognized at this year’s annual meeting, board members receiving Credentialed Cooperative Director status were Michael Hicks, Appalachian EC; Michael Bouldin, Caney Fork EC; Ralhp Hall, Ft. Loudoun EC; Dave Cross, Plateau EC; Steve Lambert, Plateau EC; and Kevin Robertson, Tennessee Valley EC. Board members receiving the more involved Board Leadership certification were Dale Fain, Appalachian EC; Dale Harris, Appalachian EC; Stephen Douglas, Cumberland EMC, Britt Dye, Fayetteville PU; Paul Richardson, Fayetteville PU; Glenn Honeycutt, Upper Cumberland EMC; and Alan Pippin, Upper Cumberland EMC. James Martin, Pickwick EC, received the Credentialed Cooperative Director status and Board Leadership certificate this year.

The Tennessee Magazine reception, featuring products made or produced in Tennessee, was held on Sunday evening, Nov. 24. Attendees to this year’s meeting also heard from Jeanne Robertson, humorist and motivational speaker; Dr. Marci Rossell, economist and former CNBC contributor; and Diane Black, Tennessee’s 8th district congressman.

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.

[button link=”″]View annual meeting photos →[/button]

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are closely monitoring a significant winter storm that will likely create power outages across West and Middle Tennessee this weekend.

Ice can create widespread damage to trees and power lines. Ice can increase the weight of branches by 30 times, and 1/2″ accumulation on power lines can add 500 pounds of extra weight. When ice is combined with high winds, as predicted for the next few days, the weight of ice and falling trees can damage poles and power lines.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives have been busy this past week preparing for the upcoming ice storm. Preparations have included positioning personnel and equipment, checking supplies and reviewing emergency work plans. TECA staff has been in regular contact with the National Weather Service and emergency management personnel. Arrangements are also in place to bring in additional crews, if needed, from electric cooperatives in neighboring states.

New Sperry-Piltz Ice Accumulation Index predicts utility damage

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Developed by Sid Sperry with the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives and Steve Piltz with the National Weather Service, the SPIA Index can predict the projected footprint, total ice accumulation, and resulting potential damage from approaching ice storms. It is a tool to be used for risk management and/or winter weather preparedness.

You can learn more about the SPIA in this Weather Channel video.

View the latest SPIA index for the Memphis and Nashville regions.

How should your family prepare?

Remember the following tips to stay safe and warm should you find yourself in the dark as a result of this severe winter event:

  • Never touch a fallen power line, and assume all wires on the ground are electrically charged. Call your local electric co-op  to report it immediately. Avoid contact with overhead lines during cleanup and other activities.
  • In the event of an outage, an alternate heating source—such as a fireplace, propane space heater, or wood stove—may be used. Extreme caution should be taken.
  • Plan to stay in an area of the home where the alternate heat source is located.
  • Fuel- and wood-buring heating sources should be vented. Be sure to follow  manufacturer’s directions.
  • Make sure carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors are working properly.
  • Do not use a gas-powered oven for heating. A gas oven may go out or burn inefficiently, leading to carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Do not use a gas or charcoal grill inside the home. Do not use charcoal briquettes in the fireplace.
  • If you use a portable generator to power a heating source, be sure the generator is located outside your house for proper ventilation. Do not use a generator in an attached garage. Follow manufacturer’s directions for operating the generator.
  • Take special care not to overload a generator. Use appropriately sized extension cords to carry the electric load. Make sure the cords have a grounded, three-pronged plug and are in good condition.
  • Never run cords under rugs or carpets.
  • Never connect generators to power lines. The reverse flow of electricity can electrocute an unsuspecting utility worker.

Ideally, your family will stay warm until the power comes back on. But keep an eye on family members for signs of hypothermia, which include shivering, drowsiness, and mental and physical slowness. The elderly and young children are particularly vulnerable to hypothermia. Call 911 immediately if you notice these symptoms. At least one telephone in the house that does not depend on electricity should be available in the case of a power outage.


Video courtesy of our friends at PowerSouth Energy Cooperative.

Energy efficient shopping, baking, and decorating holiday tips

Hosting a “green” holiday takes a little planning and effort, but the payoff can help your budget stay out of the red. So go ahead and deck the halls with energy savings by following these tips for energy-efficient shopping, baking, and decorating.

Green Shopping

Investing in a big gift? ENERGY STAR TVs and appliances save a bundle on power use. They feature a lower standby-mode consumption than an average device and generally use less energy in all functions.

Include a smart power strip as part of your gift. Most electronic devices consume energy, even when turned off.  In fact, such standby power consumption ranges from 5 percent to 10 percent of a household’s total energy consumption.

Smart power strips save energy by shutting off power to plugged-in gadgets when they go into standby mode. Many smart power strips also have one or two unmonitored, always-on outlets. Use these outlets to plug in devices that always need power, like a cordless phone base or alarm system.

Deck the House in Savings

Know a neighbor who gives the fictional Griswold family from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” a run for their money? Give them strings of light-emitting diodes (LEDs). A high-quality LED has a life expectancy of 50,000 hours or more. Consider recycling the retired strands at and get a 25 percent off coupon toward the purchase of LED holiday lights.

More isn’t always best. A small, thoughtful display stirs warm holiday feelings and you’ll be grateful when your January power bill doesn’t put a dent in your budget. Consider using timers for holiday lights, too. Set lights to turn on when it gets dark and off once viewers are snug in their beds.  Four to six hours should be plenty of time. And don’t forget using ribbons, wreaths, and garland—energy-free decorating traditions still deliver holiday cheer!

Green-Baked Goodies

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates cooking accounts for 4 percent of a home’s total energy use. Add energy costs for refrigeration, hot water heating, and dishwashing and you’ve got a hefty kitchen price tag. As holiday parties and potlucks gear up, keep efficient cooking tips in mind.

Cut baking temperatures by 25 degrees with a ceramic or glass pan. These pans retain heat better than metal. Use the oven wisely by cooking in large batches, and fit pans into all available oven space. Keep the door closed. Each time you peek into the oven you let out hot air, causing the oven to work overtime to bring the temperature back up.

Get to know how long it takes to preheat your oven and make sure you’re ready to start cooking right away. Insert a stainless steel skewer through meat or baked potatoes to speed the cooking process, or cut food into smaller pieces to shorten cooking time.

Have a convection option on your stove? It helps reduce cooking time and temperature. Turn your electric oven off ten minutes before the end of the cooking time; it maintains the temperature that long. And last but not least, if you’re planning some kitchen time, lower your thermostat. The heat generated in your kitchen can help heat the entire house, especially if you leave the oven door open after you are done.

The holidays are a joyful time, and there’s little that feels as good as giving someone you love the perfect gift. Make that gift a positive one and keep the holidays green for both you and your loved ones.

Sources: U.S. Department of Energy

Christina Sawyer writes on safety and 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.

Before your family puts up a tree or hangs the stockings this holiday season, start a new tradition. Put safety at the top of your list. Too often the twinkling lights people see are on top of a fire truck or ambulance—the result of holiday accidents that could have been prevented.

Trees and lights are danger-prone holiday decorations. According to the United States Fire Administration, Christmas trees start an average of 260 house fires each season, resulting in more than $16 million in property damage. Another 150 house fires are sparked by holiday lights and decorative lighting, costing $8.9 million in damage. Typically, all of these fires are more severe and damaging, resulting in twice the injuries and five times the fatalities per blaze compared to average winter home fires.

Unsafe practices while putting up decorations are to blame for even more injuries. Nearly 6,000 individuals visit emergency rooms each year for falls that occur. Four thousand more are treated for injuries associated with extension cords.

But safety steps don’t end with bright decorations. Gifts trigger injuries, too. Toys that are not used as intended or used without proper supervision lead to avoidable accidents. Electrical shocks, burns, or injuries from sharp, pointed, or moving parts are to blame for many of these injuries according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

When it is time to deck your halls, take these precautions to ensure the safety of you, your family, and holiday guests:


Real or artificial, short or tall, Christmas trees are often the culprit for danger. Incorporate these safety guidelines in your decorating routine:

  • Make sure an artificial tree is labeled “fire resistant.” Be aware that “fire resistant” does not mean “fire proof.” Exercise caution when it comes to your tree.
  • Make sure a live tree is fresh and green. Dry, brittle limbs and shedding needles are a breeding ground for sparks. Water a live tree regularly to prevent it from drying out.
  • Place any type of tree away from heat sources such as fireplaces, vents, and radiators.


Festive lights give homes a magical glow both inside and out. When decorating this season, a few simple safety tips can keep your spirits bright.

  • Do not overload electrical outlets. Most lights are designed to connect no more than three strands. Inspect the wires periodically to make sure they are intact and not warm to the touch.
  • Never leave lights on overnight or when no one is home.
  • Only use lights that have been approved by an independent testing laboratory.
  • Replace any strands that show signs of damage, such as bare or frayed wires, broken bulbs, or loose connections. Faulty lights can send an electrical charge through a tree and electrocute anyone who comes in contact with a branch.


The thrill of holiday presents is quickly forgotten when a gift leads to injury. Here are a few suggestions to keep children safe:

  • Select gifts that are age appropriate for the recipient. Toys recommended for older children pose too many risks for younger children to use safely.
  • Educate children on electrical safety when using any new toy or product that requires an electrical connection.
  • Review all instructions and safety guidelines included with new products before you allow the child to use it. This ensures the safety of the child and protects the integrity of the product.

Make sure safety ranks at the top of your “to do” list this holiday season. Like the old Christmas song says, there is no place like home for the holidays—especially when your family is safe and your home is filled with good cheer.

Sources: United States Fire Administration, Consumer Product Safety Commission

Sara Peterson writes on safety and 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.

By Mike Knotts, Director of Government Affairs

My first car was a 1965 Ford Mustang. My parents bought it for me, even though they were actually buying the same car for a second time. It had been purchased for my older sister, then eventually found itself parked in her driveway and needing work. We agreed to undertake a restoration, Mom and Dad signed what must have been a very bittersweet check, and I began pouring what little money I had into updates and upgrades for every part of the car.

I had the keys to a classic machine and was anxious to make the car shine. And every now and then, maybe just make that big block engine roar. And roar it did. Unlike most of today’s cars, the engine underneath my Mustang’s hood was pretty simple to understand. There was plenty of room to work, and replacing the original carburetor with a new and more efficient model was a simple task. While the car may have been 30 years old, it continued to serve its purpose well, and sensible improvements actually made it better than new. I wish I still had it.

Much like an engine powers the drivetrain of a car, electric power plants provide the horsepower that drives today’s complex and real-time American economy. I don’t believe it is hyperbole to suggest that the massive increase in life expectancy and quality of life across the planet over the past 100 years is directly related to the expansion and use of central-station electric service. The benefits to society provided by power plants are unquestionable, if most certainly under-appreciated.

When power plants are built, they are designed to operate for 50 years or more and cost huge sums of money to construct. The biggest decision is what fuel will power the plant. It’s a huge decision with lots of ramifications. It is not taken lightly by anyone involved.

That decision affects you directly. Approximately 80 cents of every dollar you pay to your cooperative flows directly to the Tennessee Valley Authority, which owns and operates a fleet of power plants. Much like a good stock portfolio, TVA’s plants use a diversified mix of fuels — hydro, nuclear, coal, natural gas, wind, solar and even landfill gas are converted into the electricity you use every minute of every day. This “all-of-the-above” fuel strategy has served us well. Tennesseans enjoy relatively low rates, 99.999 percent reliability and some of the most beautiful landscapes God has blessed us with here on earth.

President Obama has stated that he agrees with this type of strategy. He said as much in a speech on March 15, 2012, in Maryland where he outlined his priorities on energy policy. “We need an energy strategy for the future,” said the president, “an all-of-the-above strategy for the 21st century that develops every source of American-made energy.” We agreed with him then, and this statement appears on the website of the White House to this day.

That is why Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are so disappointed that the president’s administration has abandoned this strategy and replaced it with an “all-but-one” approach that effectively removes coal from the nation’s fuel mix. This is being done by creating standards for carbon dioxide emissions from power plants that are impossible to meet with current technology.

This is not the first time that Washington has sought to pick winners and losers. In 1978, Congress passed a law outlawing the use of natural gas for power generation. The result was that utilities across the country had little choice but to build more coal-fired generation, as they were being encouraged to do by President Carter. Many of these plants are being upgraded and working hard to serve their purpose. Like a restored classic car, the engines are performing well, and many are better than new. Now, these same plants are at risk of being closed by the new regulations even though they may only be halfway through their useful lives.

Join with us and encourage Washington to stick to an “all-of the above” energy policy. Please go to today take two minutes to share a message with the Environmental Protection Agency. America’s energy infrastructure is just too important and much too expensive to allow history to repeat itself.

By David Callis, Executive Vice President and General Manager

When you ask boxing historians to rank the hardest punchers of all time, Rocky Marciano is usually near the top. One reason: the power in his right hand. A contemporary said getting hit by Marciano was like being hit by a truck.

In his 1952 title fight with Jersey Joe Walcott, Marciano was knocked down in the first round and was behind in the scoring after several rounds. Yet in the 13th round, he knocked out the titleholder with “a right cross that traveled only 6 inches.”

Until the 13th round, Marciano had yet to take full advantage of the power from that right hand. The unleashed power was there, yet it was just potentially dangerous.

We all know a person (or two) whom we describe as “having a lot of potential.” It’s not a comment you want to hear about yourself, especially from a teacher or supervisor. It’s a backhanded way of letting you know that you are wasting the potential you possess.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives possess a lot of power. We use that power in a variety of arenas: economically, politically, charitably and, of course, the electricity that powers our communities. We could just string up the wires and provide power, but we would be wasting a tremendous potential to do better things.

Your expectations of us —and our expectations of ourselves — go far beyond. Turning the lights on was one accomplishment. Yet today, businesses depend on that power to be on all the time — blinks and momentary outages mean costly shutdowns to many.

The nation’s economy has yet to gain a sure footing. We are more fortunate than many states, but the impact of a slow economy and high unemployment hits rural areas hard. Our cooperatives work closely with the Tennessee Valley Authority and state and federal governments to invest in rural economic development. By providing manpower and resources, we’re able to recruit new industry into our communities and help maintain and grow existing businesses.

New environmental regulations could dramatically increase the cost of electricity. It’s important to us all; higher costs impact the struggling economy and your day-to-day lifestyle. We try to ensure that environmental goals don’t sacrifice affordability for the sake of politics. We can do both, keeping rates reasonable and achieving cleaner standards. We use our political power not to gain an unfair advantage but to ensure that rural areas aren’t shuffled to the end of the line as energy policy is developed.

As you travel about during the holidays, you’re likely to see a lot of lights strung around town squares. It’s just as likely that a co-op truck and lineman put them there. From lighting baseball fields to changing street lights to being part of the local Rotary, our co-ops are good corporate citizens, giving generously to charitable organizations in their communities. Outside of corporate giving, cooperative employees donate their personal time and money to the community.

It’s important to note this spirit of cooperation really begins with you. The co-op starts with the membership. Our concern for community is nothing more than an extension of the members’ concern for one another that started this whole operation. It’s grown from one light to cover a nation.
That’s a lot of potential.

Rocky Marciano not only had tremendous power in his punch, he had an endurance that kept him in the ring, punishing his opponents. His tenacity propelled him to achieve an unparalleled 43 knockouts during his 49-0 career.

We’d like to think that we have that same staying power. With your help — your cooperation — we can harness that power to continue meeting the needs of our communities.

Let’s not waste the power of that potential.

Friends of Radnor Lake, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and preserving the natural integrity of Radnor Lake State Natural Area, recently announced that TECA’s Robin Conover was the recipient of the organization’s Environmental Award.

The Environmental Award is given annually to an individual who has demonstrated exceptional leadership and made notable, voluntary contributions in conserving Radnor Lake’s precious resources. Conover has been actively involved with Friends of Radnor Lake for almost 20 years, including serving as a board member since 2002. Conover has contributed her talents to co-write and edit the Friends of Radnor Lake newsletter. She has also produced the Friends of Radnor Lake annual wall calendar featuring her photographs of Radnor Lake since 2006, donating one-hundred-percent of the proceeds to the protection of Radnor Lake.

Conover serves Tennessee’s co-ops as Vice President of Communications of TECA and Editor of The Tennessee Magazine. You can learn more about Friends of Radnor Lake at


TECA Telecom is helping to bring broadband Internet to Tennessee thanks to a partnership with the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative. This partnership allows TECA member systems to make satellite internet available to their members in underserved areas where traditional high-speed services are currently not being delivered.

Exede broadband service brings together the highest capacity satellite in the world, state-of-the-art ground equipment and breakthrough web acceleration technology. Exede Internet service is owned and operated by ViaSat, an American company with a long history in satellite innovation for the government, business and residential military customers here in the U.S. and around the world. All Exede plans provide up to 12 Mbps of speed and begin at $49.99 per month.

Contact Todd Blocker for more information on Exede Internet.


by David Callis
Executive Vice President and General Manager

The more you use a phrase, the more apt you are to experience weariness or fatigue with it. We experienced this in October, repeatedly hearing the terms “default,” “defund” and “shutdown.” In everyday life, any one of those words will usually make you snap to attention. Yet when the use becomes repetitious, we tend to miss what it truly means.

For those of us involved in the electric cooperative business, it’s good to periodically take stock of how important the term “member-owner” truly is. To us on the supply side of the equation, the member-owners (that’s you) are the people for whom we work. We try to not lose sight of that.

Our central focus is to manage our systems for the good of the community. Safe, efficient and cost-effective operation of the system are rightly expected of us by the member-owners. That encompasses every aspect of the co-op, from the engineering design to line construction to accounting and customer service.

When our job requires handling legislative and regulatory affairs, we don’t focus on maximizing profits. Cooperatives are nonprofit companies that recover the money needed to operate the business and build for the future — no more, no less. In analyzing the impact of regulations, we focus on the impact to you. Our concern is your bottom line — your wallet and your well-being.

We’re currently facing a number of challenges — more than just keeping the lights on. The use of sensitive electronic devices has increased, so it’s critical to have a clean, uninterrupted supply of electricity. More than ever, technologies allow all of us to monitor and manage our use remotely. That helps improve service and lower costs for everyone, but technology comes at a price, as does adding renewable energy sources and making the emissions from older power plants cleaner.

So, what about the other side of the equation? There are responsibilities required of you as a member-owner.

Mostly, you need to stay informed.

We use every avenue possible to do that: The Tennessee Magazine, newsletters, newspapers, radio, television, your co-op’s website and social media outlets, emails and text messages. Many co-ops have customer meetings, and every co-op has an annual membership meeting.

Financial reports and legislative updates aren’t much of a drawing card, so we try to entice you to attend annual meetings, where members are more than happy to get free stuff — food, entertainment, door prizes and other giveaways.

We also want you to take away something else that’s free: information. You need to stay informed about the cooperative’s financial condition and how it is meeting the needs of the community. Our boards are composed of member-owners, so it’s a pretty good idea for you to keep tabs on how your fellow members are managing the co-op.

A lot of members take an active interest in the ownership of their cooperative. I’ve seen that firsthand this year. At a mid-sized co-op, a board election resulted in a five-vote margin of victory for the challenger. Nearly 1,500 members were motivated enough to actively participate. Three years earlier, that same challenger lost by the same five-vote margin.

Stay informed and be an active member-owner. Above all, don’t be an uninformed member or voter; we’ve seen the path that takes us down. Remember October’s shutdown?

by Mike KnottsDirector of Government Relations

Sport is a great metaphor for life and does a fantastic job of relating important lessons. Not only does participating in your favorite game provide needed physical exercise for your body, sport also feeds our minds and satisfies the natural human need for competition. During the game, our brain, without even realizing it, works hard to analyze and react to multiple situations that are occurring at a rapid pace. We make decisions in the blink of an eye. We don’t agonize over the potential negative consequences of a mistake. We just play.

This is especially true of team sports. The added interaction with teammates and opposing players alike only magnifies the positive attributes of sport. Understanding that your actions affect others and can make their experience either better or worse can teach us a lot about considering others in the way we live. It takes nine players to field a baseball team. Counting both teams, 22 square off on the football field. Each player has a role to fulfill, and subtracting just one from the total can result in an embarrassing result or even a complete forfeit.

But we don’t usually participate in sport because of its mental stimulation or because “it’s good for us.” We do it because it is fun and we want to win. Tennessee has for two straight years been represented in the Little League World Series, the best-known and most widely viewed youth athletic event. Do you think those 12-year-olds are worried about how the game is maturing their minds and molding their personalities? Of course not!

And whether on the golf course or at church-league basketball, there are rules we have to follow. Albert Einstein aptly simplified this: “You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”

But what if those rules change? For instance, this past year the National Football League moved up the spot where the kicker places the ball to kick off to the opposing team (effectively eliminating the kickoff return as a part of the game — regrettably, in my opinion). How does that change affect the way we play the game? Continuing my example of the NFL kickoff, the rule change was made well in advance of the season, and teams altered their strategies and tactics to compensate. But what if the change were made in the middle of the game? That would be unfair, and the teams would certainly protest. How can you expect to be successful if the rules change as you play?

And what if the rule change was so unreasonable it made the game unplayable? Suppose a study concluded that a 20-inch-wide basketball would reduce the risk of injury in the game, so your church league decided that all basketballs would now be that size. Since the larger ball seems to be a safer alternative, how could anyone oppose such a sensible change? The obvious answer to my question is that a 20-inch ball couldn’t possibly work in the game of basketball because the hoop is only 18 inches in diameter.

You might be thinking that these examples are a little far-fetched. But in today’s political and regulatory environment, changing the rules midstream happens all the time. While Congress may be struggling to legislate these days, the rulemaking apparatus of the federal government continues to churn out regulations that carry the force of law but lack the accountability that an elected official faces through the election process. These rules are often contradictory and change the way our industry produces its product and conducts its business. More frequently than ever, these rule changes are being implemented to accomplish what appears to be a well-meaning purpose, but the new requirements may be so onerous that the easiest decision may be to simply quit the game. Or, in one case that affects your cooperative, the mandate is to utilize a technology that doesn’t even exist.

While some of these new “rules of the game” may sound good inside the marble meeting rooms of Washington, D.C., they often conflict with the harsh reality of the real world. And when you consider the billions of dollars, millions of man-hours and thousands of pieces of equipment that are required to power the lifestyle that separates our society from the 19th century, the electric power industry does not have the luxury of guessing what “might” work. Our job is to deliver a 21st-century lifestyle and do it 99.999 percent of the time.

That is why we take so much time and effort to monitor and influence the decisions made by our state and federal governments that affect your co-op. Simply put, our product is too important to society to quit the game. So we will fight to be sure the rules are fair.

Big-ticket electronics, such as televisions, computers, and gaming consoles, are at the top of many holiday wish lists—but safety may not be. Purchasing, installing, and operating these items safely protects not only the expensive equipment, but also your entire home. The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) offers the following tips, and for more information, visit

Safety tips

  • Always purchase electrical devices from a reputable retailer that you trust. Be especially wary when making online purchases.
  • Check that all electrical items are certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Canadian Standards Association (CSA), or Intertek (ETL).
  • Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions before use.
  • Send warranty and product registration forms for new items to manufacturers in order to be notified about product recalls. Recall information is also available on the website of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (
  • Never install an exterior television or radio antenna close enough to contact power lines if it falls.
  • Never remove the ground pin (the third prong) to make a three-prong plug fit into a two-prong outlet.
  • All appliances and cords should be kept in good condition. Examine them regularly for damage, and repair or dispose of damaged items.
  • Keep cords out of reach of children and pets.
  • Make sure entertainment centers and computer workstations have enough space around them for ventilation of electronic equipment.
  • Keep liquids, including drinks, away from electrical devices. Spills can result in dangerous shocks or fires.
  • Unplug equipment when not in use to save energy and reduce the risks for shocks or fires. Power strips or surge protectors make a good central turn-off point.
  • Always unplug electrical items by grasping the plug firmly rather than pulling on the cord.
  • If you receive any kind of shock from a large appliance or any other electrical device, stop using it until an electrician has checked it.
  • If an appliance smokes or sparks, or if you feel a tingle or light shock when it’s on, stop using it. Discard and replace it or have it repaired by an authorized service provider.

 Extension cords

  • Extension cords are meant to provide a temporary solution. They should not be used as a long-term or permanent electrical circuit.
  • Never use a cord that feels hot or is damaged in any way. Touching even a single exposed strand can result in an electric shock or burn.
  • Only use weather-resistant, heavy gauge extension cords marked “for outdoor use” outside.
  • Keep all outdoor extension cords clear of snow and standing water.
  • Arrange furniture so that there are outlets available for equipment without the use of extension cords.
  • Do not place power cords or extension cords in high traffic areas or under carpets, rugs, or furniture (to avoid overheating and tripping hazards), and never nail or staple them to the wall or baseboard.

 Surge protector or power strip?

Although surge protectors and power strips both allow you to plug several devices in one location, it is important for consumers to understand that they are not interchangeable. A true surge protector includes internal components that divert or suppress the extra current from surges, protecting your valuable electronics from electrical spikes, while a power strip simply provides more outlets for a circuit.

Source: Electrical Safety Foundation International

Control energy costs while preparing holiday feasts

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that cooking alone accounts for 4 percent of total home energy use, and this figure doesn’t include the energy costs associated with refrigeration, hot water heating, and dishwashing.

As holiday parties and potlucks gear up, keep these tips in mind to control energy costs:

  • Don’t peek. Every time the oven door is opened, the temperature inside is reduced by as much as 25 degrees, forcing it to use more energy to get back to the proper cooking temperature.
  • Turn it down or turn it off. For regular cooking, it’s probably not necessary to have your oven on as long—or set as high—as the recipe calls for. For recipes that need to bake for longer than an hour, pre-heating the oven isn’t necessary. And residual heat on an electric oven or stovetop will finish the last 5 to 10 minutes of baking time. Just remember to keep the oven door closed or the lid on until time is up. Alternately, if you’re baking in a ceramic or glass dish, you can typically set your oven for 25 degrees less than the recipe calls for. Because ceramic and glass hold heat better than metal pans, your dish will cook just as well at a lower temperature.
  • Give your burners a break. For your stovetop to function effectively, it’s important that the metal reflectors under your electric stove burners stay free of dirt and grime.
  • Don’t neglect your slowcooker. Or your microwave, toaster oven, or warming plate. For example, the average toaster oven can use up to half the energy of the average electric stove over the same cooking time. Information to help you estimate how much energy your own appliances use is available on
  • Give your furnace the day off.  If your next party involves a lot work for your stove, think about turning down your furnace to compensate. The heat of the oven and all those guests will keep the temperature comfortable.
  • Make contact. Electric stovetops can only transmit heat to pans they are in direct contact with; the less contact your pan has with the burner, the more energy the stovetop will have to expend to heat the pan. If cooking with your warped pan is taking longer than it should, it may be time for a flat-bottomed update.

Source: U.S. Department of Energy

A quick Internet search reveals many ways to save energy around your home—and a lot of them are too good to be true. Scams generally center around misstatements of science or confusion over utility programs. That’s why it’s always a good idea to call your electric co-op to verify or ask questions about any energy-saving program you see advertised.

The most popular scam right now involves a device that promises to save energy without requiring you to make any changes in behavior, turn anything off, or adjust the thermostat. People who sell these “little boxes” often claim outrageous energy savings—sometimes as much as 30 percent or more―couched around legitimate utility terms like power conditioning, capacitors, and power factor.

The bogus marketing spiel usually goes something like this: The model being sold will control alternating current power factor and reduce electric bills. It will condition your power and make appliances last longer. It uses no power and has no moving parts. It will make motors in your home run better.

Accompanying materials often caution “your utility doesn’t want you to know about this device.” That last part is true—because these boxes are a rip-off.

What’s the reality? While electric co-ops use various components to correct power factor for commercial and industrial consumers, power factor correction is not a concern with homes.

Engineers at the University of Texas-Austin concluded that one of the units could produce no more than a 0.06 percent reduction in electric use in an average house. The Electric Power Research Institute, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based non-profit research consortium made up of electric utilities, including electric cooperatives, recently tested one of the most popular residential power factor correction products and found that it generated average power savings of just 0.23 percent—far from the 30 percent claimed by its manufacturer. At that rate, it would take a typical homeowner more than 70 years to recoup his or her investment.

In short, these devices are nothing more than ordinary capacitors employed in electronic circuits to store energy or differentiate between high- and low-frequency signals. Companies selling these products change names quickly and often, and move from town to town looking for new victims.

There are several questions you should ask a sales representative when reading an ad for the next magical cure-all:

Does the product violate the laws of science? For example, does it claim to be capable of “changing of the molecular structure … to release never-before tapped power.” If true, the invention would quickly be sold in every store across nation, not marketed through fliers or a poorly designed website.

Was the product tested by an independent group? If the performance of the product was not tested and certified by a lab or entity not connected to the company selling it, be very skeptical. Don’t allow a salesman to verify claims. One popular trick is to hook up the little box to a motor and a power meter. When turned on, the meter records a drop in what appears to be power consumption. This is a trick—the meter is actually recording reactive power. This is not the same type of meter hanging on the side of your home.

Is it too good to be true? If so, it probably is. A video getting play on the Internet shows a consumer reporter for a television station testing one of these little boxes. By looking at electric bills before and after installation, he concludes the device is a good buy. However, an excessively hot or unusually cool day can cause one month’s electric bill to run significantly higher or lower than the previous month. Wise consumers always ask to see electric use for the same month from the previous year(s), not previous month, and factor in weather anomalies for any savings claims.

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

Additional research provide by ESource.

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

Filmed as a fictional docudrama, National Geographic Channel’s “American Blackout,” premiering tonight, depicts the first 10 days immediately following a nationwide blackout caused by a cyber attack that takes down the entire electric power grid. The movie focuses on several different storylines of how people deal with the blackout. The movie is presented in “real time” by using video clips from recent events, like Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, the 2003 Eastern US blackout, and footage of President Obama addressing the nation.

While the movie is an excellent reminder to be prepared for routine power outages and natural disasters, the current design and operation of the American power grid makes a total electric grid failure, as depicted in the movie, highly unlikely in the real world.

Electric cooperatives take cybersecurity seriously; they have and will continue to take significant steps to protect the reliability and security of the electric system – transmission, generation and distribution. We also partner with federal agencies, including the Department of Energy and Homeland Security, to research threats, strengthen security measures and mitigate risk.

To help your family be better prepared for inevitable, routine power outages, visit

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association will be fielding the National Survey on the Cooperative Difference statewide beginning in October. The Co-op Difference project is conducted annually by Touchstone Energy and TSE Services, a subsidiary of the North Carolina statewide.

Five hundred telephone interviews will be conducted with co-op members across the state, and our goal is to better understand how different generations of electric cooperative members view their electric provider and how cooperatives can better communicate the value of cooperative membership.

Survey results will help cooperatives:

  • identify overall satisfaction and value propositions by member segment
  • measure the impact of rising energy prices on value and conservation efforts
  • determine the strength of the relationship between members and the co-op
  • understand the dynamics of developing trust and engagement with co-op members
  • examine uses of new technology (smart phones, tablet computers)
  • evaluate impact of community programs on member engagement and satisfaction
  • understand the awareness, use and impact of the Co-op Connections card on value and satisfaction

Additionally, TECA will use the results to craft future communication messages and support legislative activities.

At the conclusion of the research project, TECA and its member systems will each receive a report summarizing the regional study.

Contact Trent Scott for additional information.

John Bowers was selected by the PEC Board of Directors to fill the position of President upon the retirement of Karl Dudley.

Bowers started his career at PEC in 1992 as an electrical engineer after graduating from Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville. He received his Professional Engineering license in 1996. In 1997, Bowers was promoted to substation superintendent and shortly thereafter he assumed the manager of operations position. In 2010 he was named vice-president of operations.

John and his wife Karen live in Ramer and have two children, Seth and Sophie. The family attends the Fourth Street Church of Christ in Selmer.

Fayetteville Public Utilities (FPU) has received high marks after an exhaustive audit performed by Tennessee Valley Authority’s Distributor Compliance Group.

During a presentation to FPU’s board of directors, Walter Haynes, representing TVA, told board members that FPU’s compliance audit was “one of the cleanest” he has seen since TVA began performing compliance assessments of each of TVA’s local power companies.

“The compliance audit that TVA does is an audit that looks at the operations of Fayetteville Public Utilities to determine if you are in compliance with the wholesale power contract that you have with the Tennessee Valley Authority,” he explained.  “The compliance audit looks at 14 different areas that are required by the wholesale power contract we have with FPU.”

According to Haynes, each of TVA’s 155 power companies will be assessed on a recurring four-year cycle, with testing focused on contract areas of billing, discriminatory practices and uses of revenue. And, while FPU was scheduled to have its compliance audit performed next year, CEO and General Manager Britt Dye requested TVA perform the audit this summer.

“Because of some not-so-favorable publicity that another utility had from a comptroller’s audit from the state of Tennessee, Britt (Dye) asked us to come on in and do the compliance audit,” Haynes explained, referring to the scathing audit handed down on Lincoln County Board of Public Utilities last year.

Of the 14 areas of focus on TVA’s compliance report, FPU was in full compliance in eight of those areas, Haynes said.

“FPU had a terrific compliance audit,” Haynes told the board. “Fayetteville Public Utilities exhibits a culture which promotes compliance with the TVA contract.

“Fayetteville Public Utilities is very, very fortunate to have the experience and knowledgeable staff that’s here. It’s something you should be very proud of,” he said. “I can tell you in working with a total of eight distributors, that’s not always the case with all utilities.

“…this is the sixth compliance audit I’ve seen, and this is the cleanest compliance report of those six.”

The compliance audit revealed six reportable results, all of which are minor issues, Haynes said. The issues identified – none of which had a financial impact – have been corrected or have a plan in place to be corrected and include such actions as adopting written documents to specify TVA-approved rate codes, installing a demand meter for one customer required to have such a meter and refunding 51-cents to a customer for an incorrect adjustment.

“When we get down to the meat of what has to be corrected,” he said, “it’s almost nothing in all areas. None of these are bad.”

Following Haynes’ presentation, Dye expressed his appreciation to the FPU staff for their work and said he is pleased with the results.

“We were scheduled to have a compliance audit from TVA in 2014 but requested that audit in 2013,” Dye said after the meeting. “This was a detailed audit that checked compliance with our TVA contract, and the results were very good. We are working to provide the proper documentation in the few issues noted in the audit, and there was no financial impact associated with those issues.”

Janine Wilson, chairman of FPU’s board of directors, praised Dye and the FPU employees after the board was informed of the audit results.

“It was no surprise to me or the other board members that FPU had extremely high marks on the recent compliance report,” Wilson said after the meeting. “Mr. Dye and the employees at FPU go above and beyond the call of duty to make sure that things are done correctly and report to the board each month on compliance issues.

“We are all proud of the job that they do, and this community should be proud of such a well-run organization,” she added. “Congratulations to the entire staff at FPU.”

Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative recently completed their Live Line Safety demonstration trailer.

“We have already hosted a few safety demonstrations for volunteer fire departments, two for CRC co-op camp in Dunlap and a contractor’s meeting hosted by Lowe’s,” says SVEC’s Shelby Potterfield.

The trailer was built by district operations manager Jarvis Wooten and line foreman Dean Cartwright. In the photo, Dean Cartwright shows a group of volunteer fire fighters from Dunlap the importance of a lineman’s personal protective equipment.