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.