Forty-six high school juniors from across Tennessee attended the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association’s 2014 Youth Leadership Summit March 24-26 in downtown Nashville. Two students from each of the state’s 23 electric cooperatives attended the annual event.

“The Youth Leadership Summit teaches these exceptional students how important electric cooperatives are to Tennessee’s communities and provides them an opportunity to see the legislative process in the Capitol,” said Todd Blocker, TECA director of member relations. “Local electric co-ops, school officials and guidance counselors chose these deserving students to attend the summit based on their interests in government and strong leadership abilities.”

The summit began Monday evening, March 24, with dinner at the group’s hotel, the Millennium Maxwell House. Get-acquainted activities and an introduction to cooperatives followed, led by electric co-op leaders, and the night ended with a leadership development presentation by Amy Gallimore of TRI Leadership Resources LLC.

Students rose early on Tuesday, March 25, for breakfast and preparations for a visit to Legislative Plaza. TECA Director of Government Affairs Mike Knotts introduced Sen. Mike Bell of Riceville and Rep. Cameron Sexton of Crossville, who welcomed the students to Nashville and answered their questions about legislative issues. The 11th-graders then toured the Capitol and saw state government in action at Senate and House committee meetings before posing for photos in front of the historic building.

Following the visit to Capitol Hill, the group enjoyed lunch and leadership activities at a Nashville-area YMCA camp, where the students were also treated to a hot-line trailer demonstration by Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative and Sunbelt Rentals. SVEC employees showed that electric power does a tremendous amount of work for us, but because it is such a powerful force, we must be careful around it and always exercise safety around power lines. The fun continued with dinner and games at Dave & Buster’s, and the busy day was capped off by special guest speakers Miss Tennessee Shelby Thompson and Tennessee Titans cheerleader Anne Peterson.

Wednesday morning, the students were divided into teams and formed their own co-ops and worked together to “buy” and “sell” power distribution supplies and resolve day-to-day issues local electric co-ops face like power outages and rights-of-way conflicts. Then they got an overview of the history of electric cooperatives and answered trivia questions about electric co-ops and the state in the “Energy Battle” competition.

“These students will soon be our community leaders — and electric cooperative member-owners,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “We want them to see what makes their electric cooperative special, appreciate all their co-op provides for their communities and understand why it was so important to form electric co-ops in the first place.”

(NASHVILLE, TENN.) — The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) today awarded the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association (TECA) its Paul Revere Award. NRECA recognized the association for its ability to mobilize cooperative consumer-members on behalf of the electric cooperative industry.

Tennessee electric cooperatives faced an expensive and difficult fight with the cable industry in 2013 over the issue of pole attachments. The cable industry spent hundreds of thousands of dollars pushing legislation that would have created a $13 million subsidy paid by co-ops to the cable companies and stripped local co-op boards of control.

Cable’s attacks were countered in typical co-op style. TECA’s Government Affairs Director Mike Knotts deployed a grassroots strategy to activate advocates across the state, urging them to contact state legislators, share information on social media channels and write letters to local papers in support of more reasonable legislation. Ultimately neither party prevailed, which amounted to a win for co-ops and a setback for the cable industry.

“The power of a well-implemented grassroots campaign cannot be overstated, and TECA demonstrated that in spades. Against a well-funded opponent, they thoughtfully and effectively tackled the issue legislator by legislator,” said Jo Ann Emerson, CEO of NRECA. “TECA’s approach provides a road map for co-ops across the country on how to organize, educate and execute a plan for a victory.”

“We are honored to receive the award,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of TECA. “Protecting the pocketbooks of our members is our most important mission. We share this award with the co-op members across the state who picked up the phone, sent letters and emails, or otherwise took action to defend their co-op when it was threatened.”

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association is a trade group representing the interests of 23 electric distribution cooperatives and the 1.1 million members they serve across rural and suburban Tennessee.

More than 8,500 representatives from cooperative electric utilities across the nation are attending the NRECA Annual Meeting March 2-5, during which they will set NRECA’s legislative and organizational agenda for 2014. In addition to considering and acting upon policy resolutions, delegates receive reports from NRECA officials, hear addresses by key public figures and business experts, and attend educational forums on major issues affecting electric cooperatives and their consumer-owners.

More than 120 volunteers from Touchstone Energy (TSE) electric cooperatives across the country are participating today in a project to build two energy efficient Habitat for Humanity homes in Fairview, Tenn.  Jo Ann Emerson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and a former Member of Congress from Missouri, will be one of those volunteers.

In order to participate in the project, volunteers from 35 co-ops will be coming to Nashville prior to the start of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s 2014 Annual Meeting, which kicks off on Monday, March 3.  More than 8500 electric co-op leaders will be attending, making this meeting the largest event yet in Nashville Music Convention Center.

“It’s a privilege for me to work alongside so many dedicated co-op volunteers,” said Emerson. “A concern for community differentiates not-for-profit, member-owned cooperatives from other utilities, and for us today that community is Fairview.  We’re not only going to be building houses, we’re going to be spreading the message about the value of energy efficiency,” Emerson said.

“Middle Tennessee Electric’s mission is to provide affordable, reliable, safe electricity and outstanding member service,” said Chris Jones, President of MTEMC. “We are honored to have our cooperative colleagues volunteering their time to help grow and promote energy efficiency in our service territory, building on the core principles of a not-for-profit member-owned cooperative,” Jones said.

The volunteers will be building one home starting from a concrete slab and finishing a second home. While the volunteers hold a variety of jobs at their co-ops, in general these volunteers have a higher than average skill-level in wielding caulking guns and installing insulation. And those who can’t caulk will be walking through the neighborhood handing out Touchstone Energy’s “101 Easy Ways to Save Energy and Money” to the neighbors.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provided lunch for the volunteers.

Saying goodbye to an old friend can be daunting. But pulling the plug on an outdated refrigerator or dishwasher might save you money; new appliances are often considerably more energy-efficient.

A new refrigerator consumes 75 percent less energy than a 1970s model. Replace a vintage clothes washer and save $60 on utility bills and nearly 5,000 gallons of water a year, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. Not every new appliance is a good bet; always look for the ENERGY STAR label. It signals energy-efficient models.

Ready to save? Walk through your home to find opportunities to pull the plug!

Cleaning Kitchen, Laundry Costs

In the laundry room, a full-sized ENERGY STAR-certified clothes washer uses 15 gallons of water per load, compared to the 23 gallons used by a standard machine. During the machine’s lifetime, this saves 27,000 gallons of water.

Replace your kitchen’s classic refrigerator with an ENERGY STAR-certified model to save between $200 and $1,100 in lifetime energy costs. Today’s average refrigerator uses less energy than a continually lit 60-watt light bulb. Resist the urge to move the old refrigerator to the basement or the garage. Instead, say goodbye and recycle the energy-guzzler.

Was your dishwasher built before 1994? If so, you’re paying an extra $40 a year on your utility bills compared to neighbors with an ENERGY STAR-qualified model.

Screen Savings

Televisions might be a little more baffling. As screen sizes increase, energy consumption may also rise. You can still be a savvy shopper. ENERGY STAR-certified TVs are about 25 percent more efficient than conventional models. LED screens use 20 percent less energy than LCD TVs.

Once you purchase a TV, calibrate it by adjusting the contrast and brightness to a moderate level. By default, new televisions are set to dynamic, high-contrast settings. This consumes more power than standard, lower-contrast settings.

Smart Settings

Attached to old appliances? You can still save with smart settings. For example, heating water creates the greatest expense when washing dishes or clothes. Set your water heater at 120 degrees and be sure your clothes washer or dishwasher is full whenever used.

Here are a few other ways to save without buying new appliances:

  • NOT TOO COOL FOOD: In the kitchen, don’t keep your refrigerator or freezer too cold. Recommended temperatures are 37 to 40 degrees for the fresh food compartment and 5 degrees for the freezer section.
  • TOAST, DON’T ROAST: Use toaster ovens or microwave ovens for small meals rather than your large stovetop or oven.
  • AIR DRY DISHES: Use the dishwasher’s “eco” option or use a no-heat air dry feature. Scrape food pieces off the plates, rather than rinsing them.
  • COLD CLOTHES: In the laundry room, wash your clothes in cold water using cold-water detergents whenever possible. Adjust load settings for smaller loads.
  • LOSE LINT: Clean the lint screen in the dryer after every use to improve the dryer’s efficiency.

Find out how little changes add up to big savings at

Sources: Energy Star, Consumer Electronics Association, Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, U.S. Department of Energy, Natural Resources Defense Council

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

Mike Knotts, director of government affairs for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association

Several months ago, I attended a speech given by U.S. Agriculture Secretary and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. While most of the speech was geared toward the federal government’s involvement in farm policy and agricultural interests, he quoted some statistics that have really stuck with me. He said that while only 16 percent of America’s current population lives in areas that are considered rural, more than 40 percent of our nation’s military personnel come from those rural areas. That disproportionate level of enlistment says a lot to me about the culture of America’s farms and small towns and the values that permeate those communities.

Don’t forget that this is the Volunteer State, a moniker that’s not just a nickname for sports teams at a certain university in Knoxville. We have a well-deserved reputation of providing huge numbers of recruits to fight our nation’s battles, especially in wartime. If you’ve visited the Alamo in Texas, you’ve seen the many state flags that commemorate the fallen from that famous battle. And it is the Tennessee flag that shows the highest price paid.

That tradition continues today. One of the most frequently deployed brigades in the Army calls Tennessee its home. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) is based at Fort Campbell, straddling the Tennessee and Kentucky state line. The “Rakkasans” have spent as much time on the other side of the planet pursuing their “Rendezvous with Destiny” over the past 10 years as they have spent training at Fort Campbell.

Many of you reading this page simply call these folks your neighbors, as Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation provides electric service to so many of these hometown heroes. Fort Campbell is not just home to the 101st but also to numerous other Army and even some Air Force assets. So while we may just think of them as our neighbors, these men and women do some pretty awe-inspiring things.

Few are as impressive as the Night Stalkers, the best helicopter pilots in the world. I have loved aviation since I was a kid and have some experience flying small aircraft in daytime, visual conditions. However, helicopter-flying requires a level of skill I have not mastered. The warriors of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) fly the world’s most advanced helicopters, on the most dangerous missions, usually at night, often without lights, and always under the stress of battle. While the Navy SEALs may get the spotlight of the public’s admiration for high-profile missions (like the assault that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden), the Night Stalkers frequently give them their rides to and from work. I am in awe of what they do, and they are right here in our backyard.

So it was only fitting that Dr. Mark Green spoke to electric cooperative leaders in Nashville in early February about the important role that electric co-ops play in our communities. I will leave the details about the specific public policy and legislation that were discussed that day to a future column because I found his comments to be more inspiring.

Dr. Green’s path to politics is different from that of any elected official I’ve met. A medical doctor who was raised in rural Mississippi and graduated from West Point, Dr. Green came to Tennessee after being assigned to Fort Campbell as a special operations flight surgeon in the 160th SOAR. He examined Saddam Hussein the night he was captured, and during his speech to co-op officials, Dr. Green spoke of that experience as well as the personal relationships he had with many of his fellow Night Stalkers who perished in the mission now immortalized by the book and movie “Lone Survivor.” He noted from firsthand experience that those in the special operations community pay an especially high price for their service.

When Dr. Green’s time in the Army ended, he found Tennessee to be the place he wanted to start a business and raise his children. Now, he is further serving his community by representing them in the legislature as a state senator from Clarksville. In just his first term in the Senate, he serves as vice-chair of the Committee on Commerce and Labor.

The men and women Dr. Green described in such detail serve with dignity and have asked precious little of us in return. They simply feel a duty to make the world, this country and their local communities better. It is my hope that by reading these words you and I may live each day in such a way that we honor the sacrifices they have made for us. God bless them.

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