Nashville – Today the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development announced that five Tennessee electric co-ops will receive a total of $5.3 million to expand access to broadband in rural Tennessee. Now in its fourth year, the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Grant Fund has invested more than $100 million in state and federal dollars to bring fast and reliable internet access to all Tennesseans.

“Every Tennessean should have access to the same high-speed broadband, no matter what ZIP code they live in,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “Our continued investment in internet connectivity will help level the playing field for rural communities across our state, and I thank these 13 providers for partnering with us to help nearly 18,000 more Tennesseans get connected.”

Since the Broadband Accessibility Act passed in 2017, 14 of Tennessee’s 23 electric co-ops have launched broadband projects.

“Broadband access is an essential service for  families and businesses alike, and that is just as true on the farm as it is on Main Street,” said Mike Knotts, vice president of government relations with the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “We appreciate Gov. Lee and ECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe’s commitment to bring high-speed connectivity to rural Tennessee, and we are honored that they have once again turned to co-ops to get the job done.”

Electric co-ops and their partners receiving grants are:

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Six major utilities today announced a plan to ensure that electric vehicle drivers have access to a seamless network of charging stations connecting major highway systems from the Atlantic Coast, through the Midwest and South, and into the Gulf and Central Plains regions.

The Electric Highway Coalition – made up of American Electric Power, Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Entergy Corp., Southern Co., and the Tennessee Valley Authority – announced a plan to enable EV drivers seamless travel across major regions of the country through a network of DC fast chargers for EVs. The companies are each taking steps to provide EV charging solutions within their service territories. This represents an unprecedented effort to offer convenient EV charging options across different company territories and allow EV travel without interruption.

The Edison Electric Institute estimates 18 million EVs will be on U.S. roads by 2030. While many drivers recognize the benefits of driving an EV, such as the ease of low-cost home charging, some are concerned with the availability of charging stations during long road trips. With efforts like the Electric Highway Coalition, electric companies are demonstrating to customers that EVs are a smart choice for driving around town as well as traveling long distances.

This effort will provide drivers with effective, efficient, and convenient charging options that enable long distance EV travel. Sites along major highway routes with easy highway access and amenities for travelers are being considered as coalition members work to determine final charging station locations. Charging stations will provide DC fast chargers that are capable of getting drivers back on the road in approximately 20-30 minutes.

“TVA and the local power companies we serve are focused on being innovative transportation leaders, and we’re pleased to collaborate with neighboring utilities such as American Electric Power, Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Entergy Corp. and Southern Company on this initiative,” said Jeff Lyash, TVA president and CEO. “Together, we can power the electric road trip of tomorrow by ensuring seamless travel across a large region of the U.S. This is one of many strategic partnerships that TVA is building to increase the number of electric vehicles to well over 200,000 in the Tennessee Valley by 2028.”

Lyash believes that electrifying transportation can spur the same innovative transformation that electrifying the Tennessee Valley did back when TVA was founded. He said, “EV adoption will spur jobs and economic investment in the region, keep refueling dollars in the local economy, reduce the region’s largest source of carbon emissions, and save drivers and businesses money.”

TVA is leading the charge to increase EV adoption in its seven-state service area with the recently announced EV Initiative, which is based on building partnerships with LPCs, state agencies and other organizations. TVA is making investments and coordinating partner funding that could bring up to $40 million in programs to support EV adoption in the next five years. This initiative is a multi-year plan to accelerate the electrification of transportation through programs to reduce or eliminate the market barriers that currently prevent more people from choosing EVs. By addressing the barriers to EV adoption, the anticipated outcome is:

  • Well over 200,000 EVs on Valley roadways by 2028.
  • $120 million reinvested in the local economy per year from electric refueling.
  • $200 million in consumer fuel savings per year.
  • Almost 1 million metric tons of CO2 saved per year (or the equivalent of the carbon sequestered by 1 million acres of U.S. forests in one year).

This announcement comes on the heels of the recently announced partnership between TVA and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to develop and fund a fast charging network across the interstates and major highways of Tennessee. TVA plans to work with state agencies in other states to develop a fast charging network across the Tennessee Valley.

“Tennessee is on the forefront of the electric vehicle revolution thanks to its robust automotive manufacturing sector, supply chain capabilities, its highly trained workforce and its commitment to developing a reliable, fast-charging network,” said TDEC Commissioner David Salyers. “TVA’s participation in this coalition is a critical step in ensuring Tennessee’s fast charging network connects regionally and nationally, providing efficient transportation for future travelers while improving air quality in our state.”

The Electric Highway Coalition welcomes interested utilities to join as it seeks to extend the reach of network. Additionally, it supports, and looks forward to working with, other regional utility transportation corridor electrification initiatives.

The Arbor Day Foundation has named Middle Tennessee Electric a 2021 Tree Line USA®utility to honor its commitment to proper tree pruning, planting and care in the utility’s service area. This marks the third consecutive year MTE has earned this recognition.

“I am proud Team MTE has once again received this honor,” said MTE President and CEO Chris Jones. “I would like to congratulate the hard work and dedication of our Vegetation Management Team. The job they do greatly enhances the reliability of our system.”

Tree Line USA is a national program recognizing public and private utilities for practices that protect and enhance America’s urban forests. A collaboration of the Foundation and the National Association of State Foresters, Tree Line USA promotes the dual goals of delivering safe and reliable electricity while maintaining healthy community trees.

“Trees are a critical part of urban landscapes all across the United States,” said Dan Lambe, president of the Arbor Day Foundation. “They provide important benefits to residents, including clean air, clean water and a tolerable climate. Service providers like Middle Tennessee Electric demonstrate it’s possible for trees and utilities to co-exist for the benefit of communities and citizens.”

MTE achieved Tree Line USA by meeting these five program standards:

  • Utilities must follow industry standards for quality tree care
  • Provide annual worker training in best tree care practices
  • Sponsor a tree planting and public education program
  • Maintain a tree-based energy conservation program
  • Participate in an Arbor Day celebration.

For more information on MTE’s Vegetation Management Program, please visit www.mtemc.com/VegetationManagement.

If you’d like to know more information about Tree Line USA, please visit  www.arborday.org/TreeLineUSA.

About Middle Tennessee Electric (MTE)
Founded in 1936, MTE is the largest electric cooperative in the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) region and the second largest in the United States, serving more than 600,000 Tennesseans via 310,000+ accounts covering nearly 2,200 square miles in 11 Middle Tennessee counties, primarily Rutherford, Cannon, Williamson and Wilson. Municipalities served include Murfreesboro, Franklin, Brentwood, Smyrna, Lavergne, Lebanon and Mt. Juliet. MTE employs 510 people in 7 local offices and its Murfreesboro corporate headquarters.

For more information, please visit www.mtemc.com.

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For more information, please contact:
Amy Byers at 615-494-0407 or Amy.Byers@mtemc.com

NASHVILLE – The 112th Tennessee General Assembly app gives Tennesseans interested in government and politics a powerful tool for connecting with lawmakers.

Tennessee legislators will return to Nashville on Jan. 12 for the first session of the 112th Tennessee General Assembly. During this year’s session lawmakers will consider legislation that can have an impact on Tennessee families and businesses. That makes it important to stay informed and, at times, reach out to your elected officials.

The Tennessee General Assembly app features a continually updated, searchable database of contact, staff and committee information as well as district maps, photos, leadership roles and social media profiles for members of the Tennessee House and Senate. It also contains information on the governor and his cabinet and the Tennessee congressional delegation.

The app was developed through a partnership between the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and Bass, Berry & Sims PLC. TECA has published an annual directory of the General Assembly for more than 50 years. “Each year, we collect and maintain information on legislators, and we believe that all Tennesseans should have easy access to this information for their lawmakers,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “The app makes it easier than ever to connect with your elected representatives.”

The free app is available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices and can be found by searching for “Tennessee General Assembly” in the Apple App Store or Google PLAY Marketplace.

Tradition and pride create effective outage restoration teams

By Paul Wesslund

When a big storm knocks out power for you and your neighbors, there’s a good chance help is already on the way from electric cooperatives near and far.

That lightning-fast response comes from a combination of a centuries-old co-op tradition, the latest in weather-forecasting technology, an ingenious contract between electric cooperatives and municipal utilities, and lineworkers’ spirit of dedication, pride and adventure.

When a power outage is caused by an especially severe natural disaster, the devastation can be more than your local electric co-op can quickly repair on its own. That’s when other co-ops swoop in, from next door and sometimes, from other states.

Perhaps you’ve seen them. They arrive in caravans of utility vehicles with military-like precision as part of a plan called a “Mutual Aid Agreement.”

The origins of the Mutual Aid Agreement can be traced back to 1844, even before there were electric utilities, when the first formally organized cooperative created a set of operating principles that included “Cooperation Among Cooperatives.”

When electric co-ops were formed in the 1930s, they used that handshake-style working arrangement to help each other with repairs after severe storm damage. But in the early 1990s, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requested a more legalistic accounting for the aid it provided electric cooperatives after natural disasters.

So electric co-ops, represented by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), got together with FEMA and the organization for city-owned utilities, the American Public Power Association, and produced a stunningly short contract—it’s exactly one page long. The contract says when one co-op goes to help another, it will charge reasonable rates for the crews and equipment.

The simplicity of that arrangement fits the tradition of co-ops cooperating with each other, says Martha Duggan, senior director for regulatory affairs with NRECA.

“It is a natural extension of who we are,” she says. “Helping each other is something we do naturally as part of our co-op family and our culture.”

A contract is one thing, but success means carrying it out effectively. To that end, Duggan says electric co-ops rely on their decades of experience. They share that experience with each other, and they meet regularly to keep procedures updated.

The response to your power outage can start days before it even happens, with co-ops tracking weather patterns that could knock down poles. They organize themselves under their own state associations, planning for how many line crews might be needed and where they will come from, and even making hotel reservations to house crews.

One recent, crucial update of the mutual aid procedure was in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Duggan explains that keeping lineworkers safe from the virus can mean more time and more expense. She asks co-op members for extra patience as social distancing requirements mean changes––for example, only one lineworker per truck rather than two, and no more bunking multiple lineworkers in a hotel room.

In addition to the careful planning and procedures, there’s another secret ingredient to why co-ops come together in a crisis so effectively—the lineworkers. When they head out to a storm-ravaged area, it’s with a serious kind of excitement as they get ready to use their skills for a cause they passionately believe in—restoring electricity.

“It is a pride of workmanship,” says Duggan. “There is this sense of adventure to it, but there is also the sense of responsibility that this is what we do. We get the lights back on.”

Paul Wesslund writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape.

FBA Recognizes Gibson EMC’s and Gibson Connect’s Charles Phillips

TRENTON, Tenn.—  The Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) recently awarded the Dr. Charles Kao Award for Community Broadband to Charles Phillips, Gibson Electric Membership Corporation VP of Technical Services and Gibson Connect VP of Operations.  The award recognizes individuals, organizations, or companies that honor Dr. Kao’s innovation and connect communities with fiber optic technology.  In its communication, the FBA said Philips is receiving the award in recognition of his work with Gibson EMC and Gibson Connect to build a fiber network throughout the cooperative’s 12-county service area.”

“We are delighted to award Charles Phillips with this honor,” said Fiber Broadband Association President and CEO Gary Bolton. “In a time when connectivity is more important than ever, we commend Charles’ commitment to providing high-speed internet to his community through state-of-the-art fiber broadband.  Congratulations to Charles and the entire Gibson EMC cooperative.”

In his time with Gibson EMC, Phillips has worked extensively with neighboring utilities to create an interconnected regional fiber network that connects 20 distribution systems. This network of independently owned and maintained fiber systems has provided the backbone for a high-speed and low latency network for intra- and inter-utility traffic, as well as inter-utility fiber contracts.

“We are extremely proud of Charles and we appreciate his excellent leadership as Gibson EMC and Gibson Connect work to provide reliable, high-speed internet access to our consumer-members,” said Dan Rodamaker, President and CEO of Gibson EMC and Gibson Connect. “Making this essential service available creates exciting opportunities for our members and communities,” said Rodamaker, “and Charles has been instrumental in the successful implementation of this project.”

Phillips has been with Gibson EMC since 1997.  In addition to his role in the broadband buildout and telecommunications business, Phillips also manages the cooperative’s technical services division.

Gibson Connect is a wholly owned, not-for-profit subsidiary of Gibson EMC formed to provide high-speed internet access to Gibson EMC’s members.  Gibson EMC is a local, not-for-profit, member-owned and member-controlled cooperative serving almost 39,000 homes and businesses in eight west Tennessee counties (Crockett, Dyer, Gibson, Haywood, Lake, Lauderdale, Obion and Madison) and four west Kentucky counties (Carlisle, Fulton, Graves and Hickman).

Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association holds virtual annual meeting

NASHVILLE – “Building a Brighter Tennessee” was the theme of the 79th annual meeting of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association held Monday, Nov. 23. Though the event was held online, it allowed co-op leaders from across the state to receive industry and legislative updates and hear from Sen. Lamar Alexander and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.

“I would like to thank each one of you for all you do for the 2.5 million homes, farms and businesses in rural and suburban Tennessee,” said Alexander in a video address to Tennessee co-ops. “Because of you, the lights stay on, our homes stay warm and cool and Tennesseans have even more access to the internet. You provide Tennesseans with electricity and service that are both reliable and affordable.”

Lee commended electric co-ops for their service to rural Tennessee. “The success of rural Tennessee is a priority that I share with you, and I see electric cooperatives playing a key role in accelerating the transformation of rural communities,” said Lee. “Thank you for your continued innovation and partnership as we work together to build a brighter Tennessee.

Also addressing the membership during the virtual meeting were Phillip Fulmer, athletic director and former head football coach for the University of Tennessee, and David Wasserman, house editor for the non-partisan Cook Political Report.

Co-ops are “building a brighter Tennessee” through investments in energy, broadband, education and community that create a solid foundation for future growth, development and prosperity. Rural Tennessee is stronger, more resilient and better prepared for the future thanks to the work of electric co-ops.

Addressing the membership during the President and General Manager’s Report, Kevin Murphy, CEO of Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation and board chair of TECA, highlighted the impact that co-op investment has on the people and places they serve. “Despite the uncertainties we face, it is safe to say that Tennessee’s future looks bright, and the work we do will play an important role in that future.”

TECA General Manager David Callis thanked electric co-op employees for their service during this difficult year. “As so much of the country shut down, co-ops went to work,” said Callis. “To each co-op employee who stepped up and did what needed to be done this year – possibly putting the well-being of yourself and your family at risk in the process – we salute you. In a time of darkness and fear, our employees provided light, hope, comfort and connection when it was needed most.”

Prior to the virtual meeting, an online business session and election was held to appoint new members to the association’s board of trustees. Elected to four-year terms were Richard Lacher, director for Tennessee Valley Electric Cooperative; Paul Thompson, CEO of Tri-County Electric Membership Corporation; and Hugh Rogers, director for Tri-State Electric Membership Corporation.

“We congratulate those selected to serve in leadership positions,” said Callis. “Your input, feedback and guidance help the association better meet the needs of our co-ops, and we are grateful for the board’s service.”

The TECA Top Tenn Communications Awards were also announced during the event. Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative received an award for Best External Newsletter or Magazine Section; Appalachian Electric Cooperative, Best Internal Newsletter; Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative, Best Website; Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation, Best Use of Social Media; and Fayetteville Public Utilities, Best Video. Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative, Appalachian Electric Cooperative  and Gibson Electric Membership Corporation received Awards of Excellence in the Wild Card category.

“We are the people who build stuff,” said Callis. “We build infrastructure. We build connections. We build hope and opportunity. Electric co-ops build a brighter Tennessee.”

The virtual meeting and additional content will be available on the TECA website through the end of December. Visit tnelectric.org/am2020 to learn more.

Across Tennessee there are 3,500 electric lineworkers who put their lives on the line to bring power to homes, farms, hospitals, schools and factories across the state.

In 2019 the Tennessee’s electric cooperatives worked with state lawmakers to introduce a specialty license plate to honor the important work that Tennessee’s electric lineworkers do each day.

Funds raised through the sale of the Powering Tennessee specialty plates go to the Tennessee Lineworker Lifeline Fund, a nonprofit foundation established to support lineworkers and their families in the event of a serious injury or fatality while on the job.

While we hope that the funds never have to be used, but the foundation is ready to assist lineworkers and their families when tragedy strikes.

The Powering Tennessee specialty plates have been available for just over a year, and already hundreds of motorists in our service area are using the plates. You don’t have to be a lineman to order a plate, and we encourage you to join us in supporting Tennessee’s electric lineworkers. You can learn more about the Powering Tennessee specialty license plate, or learn how to order your own, at poweringtennessee.org.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives contributed $1.65 million to assist their communities during the COVID-19 public health crisis. An additional $388,000 in matching grants was secured through the Tennessee Valley Authority’s COVID-19 Community Care Fund, resulting in total community support of more than $2 million.

The contributions were made to a variety of projects, including support of local nonprofits and food banks, construction of community Wi-Fi hotspots and utility bill assistance.

Throughout the spring and summer, electric co-ops committed to keep the lights on for Tennesseans impacted by the pandemic, and co-ops continue to work with consumers who are struggling to pay their energy bills. Unfortunately, the overall impacts of the pandemic in much of rural and suburban Tennessee have been deep and lasting.

“From financial struggles to health concerns, COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of life,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Co-ops are in a unique position to see and respond to the specific needs of their communities. They care deeply about the people and places they serve.”

More than $1.4 million went to support local food banks and other nonprofits already working in co-op communities to address emergency needs such as food and shelter, but co-ops also found other ways to help.

As the pandemic pushed school, church, work and other activities online, several co-ops utilized their existing broadband networks to develop community Wi-Fi hotspots for their communities.

“The pandemic presented challenges for healthcare, education and commerce, especially in rural areas where internet access is limited,” said Paul Thompson, CEO of Tri-County Electric. “The five Wi-Fi hotspots we installed will ensure that everyone in Trousdale County can take advantage of online educational and healthcare services.”

“Every community that we serve has been affected,” said Keith Carnahan, CEO of Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative. “ We know that the impacts of the pandemic will stretch far into the future, and we are committed to serving our members and meeting the needs of our communities.”

 

The best way to celebrate democracy is by encouraging full participation in public life. That’s why Tennessee’s electric co-ops are supporting National Voter Registration Day on September 22, 2020.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, less than 70% of eligible American citizens of voting age – 18 and over – were registered to vote in 2018. That means that up to 30% have not filed the required applications with their counties, parishes or states of local voter registrar’s offices, which are essential for making our voices as meaningful in American life as they might be.

We’re among thousands of organizations committed to making September 22 the most successful National Voter Registration Day in history, because we believe its goals are more important than ever before. Here’s why:

Unusual Year-Unexpected Changes

While 2020 began as a very active political year, disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic concerns altered the campaign plans of many candidates. They also dramatically reduced overall access to voter registration forms through department of motor vehicle offices, public libraries and schools.

Suspension of on-site classes at many high schools prevented guidance counselors and government teachers from passing out registration applications to students who reached voting age this spring and summer.

Voter education efforts by churches or by state and local officials who normally would have booked space at community events to encourage community outreach found many of those events scaled back or canceled throughout spring and summer.

Lingering concerns about a resurgence of COVID-19 cases this autumn continue to fuel uncertainties on exactly how polling locations will operate or just how states and other jurisdictions will handle absentee and mail-in balloting.

The Challenge Ahead

“According to the PEW Charitable Trust’s state-by-state comparison of voter turnout for the 2014 midterm elections, Tennessee was dead last at just 28.5 percent,” said Trent Scott, vice president of corporate strategy with the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Increasing overall participation in the election process begins with registering as many eligible voters as possible.”

That’s the goal of National Voter Registration Day. Recognized as a civic holiday since 2012, the annual event has served as a rallying point for voter registration initiatives supported by a network of nonpartisan organizations committed to increasing overall participation in the electoral process.

“Voting is central to American democracy,” said Laura Vogel, a senior political affairs advisor at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. “That’s why many electric cooperatives and their statewide associations are committed to making this year’s National Voter Registration Day the most successful event ever.”

Vogel, who represents electric co-ops on the National Voter Registration Day steering committee has worked with co-ops in [State] and throughout the nation to help develop new and effective ways to encourage co-op members to participate in local, state and national politics.

“Since 2012, National Voter Registration Day awareness efforts have helped to register more than 3 million voters,” said Vogel. “This year, we’re putting even more emphasis on digital engagement, because 41 states and the District of Columbia allow voters to register online.”

Many electric co-ops are using their social media pages to promote voter registration, and encouraging political engagement with articles in their newsletters, on their websites and with bill attachments or point of contact brochures and leaflets.

“More than 20,000 volunteers are committed to promotion of National Voter Registration Day,” said Vogel. “In the weeks ahead, electric co-ops will be promoting webinars on digital organizing and working closely with community organizations and businesses that are likely to remain open even if a resurgence of COVID-19 pandemic concerns occurs this autumn.”

“National Voter Registration Day is a great opportunity for us all to begin focusing on the most important aspects of this political season,” said Scott.  “This nonpartisan program promotes participation, and that includes ensuring that those who are registered to vote stay abreast of any changes that we might see in how to legally cast ballots in our state on election day.”

Remember to mark your calendar for National Voter Registration Day on September 22, and together, let’s enjoy the rights and opportunities we all share as Americans and celebrate our democracy. To learn more about National Voter Registration Day, visit www.nationalvoterregistrationday.org.

Derrill Holly writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape.

NASHVILLE – Sixty-eight volunteer lineworkers from seven electric co-ops across Tennessee are heading to Alabama to assist with Hurricane Sally recovery efforts.

The Category 2 hurricane brought strong wind, significant rainfall and widespread power outages to the Alabama Gulf Coast. Tennessee co-ops are assisting with efforts to reconstruct the severely damaged electric infrastructure in the region.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association in Nashville coordinates requests for mutual aid and makes travel and lodging arrangements for crews who respond.

Assisting Baldwin Electric Membership Corporation in Summerdale, Alabama, are:

  • Seven lineworkers from Chickasaw Electric Cooperative in Somerville
  • Five from Ft. Loudoun Electric Cooperative in Vonore
  • Five from Mountain Electric Cooperative in Mountain City
  • 21 from Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation in Murfreesboro
  • Five from Pickwick Electric Cooperative in Selmer
  • 13 from Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation in Carthage
  • 12 from Volunteer Energy Cooperative in Decatur

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Sept. 9, 2020) – Seventy-nine lineworkers from across Tennessee are traveling to Louisiana today to assist with recovery and reconstruction following Hurricane Laura, a powerful Category 4 storm that struck the Gulf Coast on Aug. 27. These workers will replace workers from two Tennessee co-ops who have been in Louisiana since shortly after the storm hit.

“The current recovery is going to be long,” said Jeffrey Arnold, CEO of the Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives. “We cannot give co-op members an estimate of time other than ‘weeks’ at this moment because of the number of transmission poles and towers that are down and the time and effort it will take to rebuild the power grid.”

Returning home are 18 lineworkers from Plateau Electric Cooperative and Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation who have been assisting Jeff Davis Electric Cooperative in Jennings, Louisiana.

Traveling to assist Jeff David Electric Cooperative in Jennings, Louisiana, are:

  • 10 lineworkers from Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation in Brownsville

Assisting Beauregard Electric Cooperative in DeRidder, Louisiana, are:

  • 11 lineworkers from Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation in Clarksville
  • Five lineworkers from Duck River Electric Membership Corporation in Shelbyville
  • 10 lineworkers from Holston Electric Cooperative in Rogersville
  • Five lineworkers from Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative in Centerville
  • 21 lineworkers from Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation in Murfreesboro
  • Six lineworkers from Mountain Electric Cooperative in Mountain City
  • 10 lineworkers from Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative in South Pittsburg

 


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Aug. 31, 2020) – Eighteen lineworkers from two Tennessee electric cooperatives are in Louisiana to assist with Hurricane Laura recovery efforts. The powerful hurricane left massive amounts of destruction after it made landfall last week.

“Our crews have a reputation for responding quickly, working safely and showing compassion to those who are in need,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Associaiton. “We commend their desire to serve and wish them well in the days to come.”

Crews will be assisting Jeff Davis Electric Cooperative in Jennings, La. Following the storm, JDEC reported that 100 percent of the co-op’s 11,000 meters were without power and more than 1,000 poles had been broken. Tennessee crews are expected to be in Louisiana for seven to 10 days before being replaced with additional Tennessee crews.

“Hurricane Laura left catastrophic damage in its wake,” said Mike Heinen of JDEC. “In response, we’ve launched a massive storm recovery and power restoration effort, assisted by hundreds of personnel from other states. Even so, a full recovery could be weeks away.”

Please keep the people of coastal Louisiana, as well as our volunteer lineworkers and their families, in your thoughts and prayers in the days ahead.

Below is a list of Tennessee co-ops providing assistance. This information is likely to change as crews are replaced in the coming weeks.

  • Plateau Electric Cooperative in Onieda, Tenn. – eight lineworkers
  • Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation in Brownsville, Tenn. – 10 lineworkers

 

 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today the TVA Board of Directors approved a special $200 million Pandemic Relief Credit for the coming fiscal year. The 2.5% base rate credit will begin in October and remain in effect through most of 2021 for local power companies – including electric cooperatives – served by TVA.

“On behalf of Tennessee’s electric cooperatives, we applaud TVA’s decision to provide $200 million in Pandemic Relief Credits,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Electric co-ops and the homes, businesses and communities we serve face extreme challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The region’s economy is fragile, and the future remains uncertain. Today’s announcement is a positive move that will provide needed relief for many. Co-ops exist to provide power, but in reality, we exist to serve our consumers and our communities. As our wholesale power provider and public power partner, it is essential that TVA shares our vision for reliable power, affordable rates and a vibrant Tennessee economy. We appreciate TVA for providing these resources that will assist the entire region.”

“The continued impact of this pandemic on our communities is unprecedented and creates continued economic uncertainty,” said Jeff Lyash, TVA president and CEO. “Because of the TVA team’s strong operational and financial performance under challenging circumstances this past year, we have an opportunity and responsibility to use TVA’s resources and expertise to provide continued support for customers, businesses and communities.”

Nashville – State officials on Friday awarded $61 million in emergency broadband grants, with $40 million going to Tennessee’s electric co-ops. The grants were awarded through the recently created Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us that broadband is essential for modern life,” said Mike Knotts, vice president of government affairs with the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “From telemedicine and distance learning to telecommuting and e–commerce, Tennessee’s rural communities must have reliable and affordable access to high–speed internet. Families and businesses in rural communities unfortunately understand what life is like without internet access, so today’s announcement is welcomed news.”

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development worked with the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and other stakeholders to develop the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund using a portion of resources allocated to Tennessee through the Coronavirus Relief Fund. Recipients must utilize the funds before the end of 2020.

Nearly 70 percent of the funds awarded went to electric cooperatives. “When the state asked ‘Who can build rural broadband quickly?’ they turned to electric co-ops,” said Knotts. “Tennessee’s co-ops are demonstrating their ability to expand access quickly and leverage grant funds for maximum impact. We appreciate the trust and confidence Governor Lee has placed in us through today’s announcement.”

Tennessee’s electric co-ops will immediately begin construction on 29 separate projects to bring broadband to locations that currently do not have access. These projects will enable tens of thousands of people in some of the most remote parts of the state to participate in modern work, education and commerce. Broadband expansion will also improve Tennessee’s ability to respond to current and future public health emergencies.

The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was approved by Congress on June 4, 1919, but it took more than a year for the measure granting women the right to vote to gain ratification by 36 states. On Aug. 18, 2020, the nation marks the centennial of this human rights milestone.

Rural America was built on and owes much of its success to family-run farms and businesses. While dads and husbands are often celebrated throughout history and heritage, wives and mothers have been full partners in creating thousands of communities. In fact, electric cooperatives have served as incubators for the leadership skills that guide co-op-served communities today.

“Historically, rural wives were always isolated and only had interaction with their husbands and children, but they helped run farms and ranches and ran their homes,” said Betsy Huber, president and CEO of the National Grange.

Founded in 1867, the Grange chapters took root as fraternal community organizations committed to promoting sound agricultural concepts in the North, South and the expanding West.

“From the very beginning, women could hold any office in the Grange,” said Huber. “We have 13 offices, including four that are only open to women.”

By the early 1900s, organizations like the Grange were providing rural women with meaningful leadership opportunities and fueling passions for full engagement in public life that included political participation.

With the rise of suffragist sentiments, the Grange in the early 20th century routinely included women in governance decisions, said Huber. “One of our national agriculture committees early in the last century had six members, three men and three women who reviewed and discussed the resolutions submitted by local Grange chapters that ultimately set policy for the National Grange.”


The Woman Suffrage Monument in Nashville’s Centennial Park features five women who were actually in Nashville during the final ratification effort: Anne Dallas Dudley and Frankie Pierce of Nashville, Sue Shelton White of Jackson, Abby Crawford Milton of Chattanooga and Carrie Chapman Catt, the national suffrage leader who came to Nashville during the summer of 1920 to direct the pro-suffrage forces and stayed at the Hermitage Hotel.

Among the tarm women embracing the suffragist cause was Febb Ensminger Bum, a widow from Tennessee’s McMimi County who ultimately played a decisive role in earning women die right to vote and forever changing U.S. history.

“Suffrage has interested me for years,” Mrs. Bum once told a reporter.

Between miming her farm and caring for her family, she followed news accounts from Nashville and was turned off by harsh opposition speeches against ratification in the summer of 1920. In August, she penned a seven-page letter to her son, Henry T. Burn, a freshman representative in the House of the Tennessee General Assembly.

“Vote for suffrage and don’t keep them in doubt,” wrote Mrs. Burn to her 24-year-old son. “Don’t forget to be a good boy and help.”

With the letter from his mom in his pocket, Rep. Burn broke a 48–48 deadlock by changing his vote to pass the measure, and women nationwide were guaranteed the right to participate in all national elections.

“I spend a lot of my time encouraging co-op members to contact their legislators, and mother-son influence is a great example of true grassroots activism,” said Amanda Wolfe, a National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) senior political advisor who lives in Nashville.

The area where Mrs. Burn once farmed and raised her family is still served by Decatur-based Volunteer Energy Cooperative, said Wolfe, adding that voters there are still inspired by the state’s role as being the 19th Amendment’s “Perfect 36” — a reference to its decisive ratification role.

“Voting is so much more than just a right; it is a privilege,” said Wolfe. ‘The Suffragettes fought for generations to finally win that privilege 100 years ago, and every time we cast a ballot, we honor their memories.”

When electric cooperatives were organized years later, many of the same principles honored by rural organizations, including recognition of property rights, were among the fundamental tenets included in co-op charters. Family memberships were vested in heads of households, regardless of gender, and women were among the founding members of many electric cooperatives.

When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration in 1935, farm magazines quickly published stories about the news. Maye Shaw of Quitman, Texas, was a former teacher and regular reader who knew life on the farm would be easier with electric power.

She wrote Rep. Morgan G. Sanders for information and persuaded her husband, Virgil Shaw, to look into it. By 1937, they both were riding through the surrounding countryside, recruiting members and collecting $5 sign-up fees. Mr. Shaw eventually became the founding general manager of Wood County Electric Cooperative, which now serves nearly 36,000 meters and is still headquartered in Quitman.


Erected in 2018, the Burn Memorial depicts Rep. Harry Burn of Niota and his mother, Febb, and honors each of their roles in the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

“Though it was men who signed their names to charter Taylor EMC (in 1937), women have played a vital role in the cooperative’s development and success,” wrote authors of a 75th anniversary book on the history of Flint Energies. The Reynolds, Georgia-based co-op, originally founded as Taylor Electric Membership Corp., has enjoyed an active female membership since its early days.

Beulah Taylor and Ruby McKenzie became the cooperative’s first female board members in 1938 and helped lead the co-op through some of its formative years.

“Homemakers living in rural Taylor County spurred the cooperative’s early membership growth,” wrote authors. “Eager to bring the benefits and conveniences of electricity to their homes and farms, they held neighborhood meetings and took applications to further the cooperative cause.”

In 1939, when the Rural Electrification Administration approved its first loans for electric cooperatives in South Carolina, women were actively involved in the formation of Darlington-based Pee Dee Electric Cooperative.

Mrs. E.S.J. Evans, the home demonstration agent for the Darlington County Agricultural Extension Service Office, was an organizer, and Miss Sue Coker and Mrs. E.A. Gray were elected to the founding board.

America’s electric cooperatives support Co-ops Vote, a grassroots movement designed to encourage voter registration, political engagement and participation in local, state and national affairs.

“We provide the information to co-op consumer-members to find out how, where and when to vote and information on the issues that affect rural communities,” said Laura Vogel, an NRECA senior political advisor. “We do not tell people who to vote for, and we don’t endorse candidates.”

Many electric co-ops are supporting National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 22 to encourage political participation leading up to the November elections.

“With so many uncertainties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic fueling concerns about how voting will proceed this fall, electric co-ops can play vital roles in reminding members of important dates and explaining rule changes,” said Vogel. “There will be great opportunities to meet community needs on information about mail balloting or changes in precinct operations, ensuring healthy turnout and widespread voter participation.”

Derrill Holly writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for NRECA, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives that serve 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape.

Nashville, TENN. – Today Gov. Bill Lee announced that a portion of Tennessee’s aid from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund would be used to expand access to broadband service. The newly created Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund will expand broadband access to better facilitate participation in telemedicine, distance learning and telecommuting.  

“The coronavirus pandemic has underscored the digital divide that exists in Tennessee,” said Mike Knotts, vice president of government affairs with the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Never before has the need for broadband access been greater or the limitations for Tennesseans who can’t access the internet been more obvious. The Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund will help bring this essential service to many of the homes and businesses that need it most.” 

Since the passage of the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act in 2017, 14 of Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives have launched broadband projects, and Tennessee’s electric co-ops have proven their ability to maximize state and federal funds. For every dollar of grant money received, Tennessee co-ops are investing $15 of their own money. This multiplier means that Tennessee electric co-ops are stretching grant funds further to have the greatest impact. 

“The Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund can position Tennessee to better respond to the current pandemic and be better prepared to face the challenges that will come our way in the future,” said Knotts. “The impact of this investment will be felt for years. We appreciate the vision of Gov. Bill Lee and Commissioner of Economic and Community Development Bob Rolfe as well as Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, Speaker Cameron Sexton, Senate Finance Chair Bo Watson and House Utilities Chair Pat Marsh. Their allocation of these funds will positively impact tens of thousands of Tennesseans. 

Learn more at tnelectric.org/broadband.

FOR MORE INFORMATION
Trent Scott | Vice President of Corporate Strategy | 615.515.5534 | tscott@tnelectric.org 

Your vote matters! Early voting for the Tennessee State and Federal Primary and County General Election begins today and runs Monday to Saturday until Saturday, August 1. Election Day is Thursday, August 6.

By voting early you can avoid Election Day crowds and take advantage of the flexibility of evening and Saturday hours and multiple polling locations in many counties.

During early voting and on Election Day, Tennesseans are encouraged to do their part. This includes wearing a face covering and maintaining a six-foot distance from poll officials and other voters. You should expect to see signs with further safety instructions at your polling locations. All poll officials will be wearing face coverings and are trained to take appropriate protective measures.

Find your polling location, view and mark sample ballots and much more with the free GoVoteTN app or online at GoVoteTN.com. You can also update your registration on GoVoteTN.com. Reviewing your sample ballot and making sure your registration is up to date will reduce the time you will need to spend at your polling location.

Remember to bring your ID to the polls. Information about what types of ID are acceptable can be found on GoVoteTN.com.

Make your voice heard. Vote Early!

Gibson Electric Membership Corporation and its not-for-profit subsidiary, Gibson Connect, have announced their boards have approved moving forward with Phase III of their broadband network buildout.  Phase III work will begin in the Rutherford, Kenton and Newbern zones.  These zones have met their participation goals using Gibson Connect’s registration website, join.gibsonconnect.com.

“A start date for Phase III has not been set, but board approval will enable us to soon begin the engineering step of the buildout,” says Dan Rodamaker, President and CEO of Gibson EMC and Gibson Connect.  “We plan to start Phase III with these three zones and add more zones a little later, based on join.gibsonconnect.com registrations, as well as engineering and grant/loan requirements,” he said.

Charles Phillips, Gibson EMC VP of Technical Services and Gibson Connect VP of Operations, explains, “Gibson Connect provides its internet service through Gibson EMC’s substations, meaning work must be completed in the substation and the fiber network must be built from the substation to the zone before Gibson Connect can begin construction in the zone.  A grant or loan can impact the order of our buildout because it is typically for an area that has met grant eligibility requirements and may have deadlines by which we must complete the work to receive the funding.”

“Gibson EMC is actively seeking out and taking advantage of every grant opportunity in order to save our members’ money on construction costs,” Rodamaker says.  “Where grants are not available, we’re applying for low-interest loans.”

Rodamaker says the ReConnect loan Gibson EMC was awarded by the USDA will ultimately help construct the fiber network in certain parts of Obion County in Tennessee and in Gibson EMC’s Kentucky counties.  ReConnect also has a deadline by which Gibson EMC must complete the work, but Rodamaker says, “it allows a five-year period as opposed to the shorter deadlines of the grants.  Utilizing grants and low-interest loans will make the fiber network construction more affordable for Gibson EMC’s entire membership,” he says.

More than 4,700 consumer-members have been connected since construction started in February 2018.  “We’ve completed the initial construction in Phase I zones, and we are diligently working to connect those who have more recently signed up for the service,” Phillips says.  “Phase II is well underway, but there is still considerable work to do.  Board approval for Phase III zones will enable us to begin the initial step of the build in those areas,” Phillips said.

“We plan to ultimately provide high-speed internet access to all of our eligible members, but the buildout is a massive project that is time-intensive, he says.  “With about 3,100 miles of the fiber network to engineer and build, we knew from the time we started construction in August 2018 that it would take at least five years to provide access to all of our members.  Even so, we understand how urgently this service is needed and we are doing everything within our power to provide it as quickly as possible.”

“We began this project because our members told us they needed this service,” Rodamaker said, “and after experiencing the necessity to work and learn from home during the pandemic, we are more convinced than ever that we are doing the right thing for our members and our communities,” he said.  “Those who have already been connected are extremely pleased with and grateful for this service.”

Nashville, TENN. – Tennessee’s electric cooperatives recently awarded $16,000 in scholarships to young people from across the state.

Kelsey Bizzell, a recent graduate of Rossville Christian Academy, was awarded a $10,000 Cooperative Youth Ambassador Scholarship. Bizzell was a 2019 delegate of the Washington Youth Tour, an annual leadership and education event sponsored by the state’s electric cooperatives. In the year following the tour, delegates who remain engaged with their sponsoring cooperatives and complete certain community service requirements are eligible for the scholarship. Bizzell was randomly selected from among the delegates from across the state who completed the requirements.

“When I found out I won the scholarship, I was shocked and excited,” said Bizzell. “I was shocked that out of 186 people, my name was chosen! Writing the paper was fun. I didn’t think I would win, and getting the opportunity to go on the trip was fantastic. I learned so much on the trip, and this scholarship is just the cherry on top of the entire experience.”

“The Youth Tour and Cooperative Youth Ambassador Program are great opportunities to help students learn about public policy, cooperatives, and leadership,” says Andrea Kee, communication specialist for Chickasaw Electric Cooperative, Bizzell’s sponsoring co-op. “We are proud to help prepare Fayette County’s next generation of leaders, and we are excited to see the impact Kelsey will have on our community.”

Students are selected for the Washington Youth Tour by writing winning short stories about electric co-ops. While public health concerns forced the 2020 tour to be cancelled for the first time in the program’s 55 year history, TECA judged more than 10,000 short stories submitted from across the state. Lily Durbin from Pickwick Electric Cooperative, Zoe Clever from Caney Fork Electric Cooperative and Leah Brewer from Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative were awarded $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000 Robert McCarty Memorial Scholarships for having the first, second and third place papers.

McCarty, an employee of Volunteer Energy Cooperative and long-time chaperone on the annual Youth Tour, lost a battle with cancer in 2015, and sponsoring cooperatives renamed the scholarships in honor of his love for young people.

“We were heartbroken to cancel the 2020 event, but Youth Tour has always been about more than a trip to D.C.,” said David Callis, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Electric co-ops share the belief that the communities we serve are truly special places, and we are confident that these young people will have an impact on the world. An investment in them is an investment in the future of Tennessee, and we think that is a sound strategy that will pay enormous dividends.”

 

Murfreesboro, TENN. – Having just completed its merger with the Murfreesboro Electric Department, Middle Tennessee Electric (MTE) announced today $100,000 in donations to three Murfreesboro-based charitable organizations. Rutherford County Area Habitat for Humanity will receive $50,000 while Wee Care Day Care and Community Helpers will receive $25,000 each.

“We think it’s fitting and appropriate to mark our first official day of service to Murfreesboro by investing in those who are serving in such an impactful way,” said MTE CEO Chris Jones. “One of the seven cooperative principles is ‘Commitment to Community,’ and we plan to live this out consistently as we serve in our home city.”

Jones said the donation to Habitat will support construction of a subdivision in East Murfreesboro, while the donations to Wee Care Day Care and Community Helpers will support their ongoing missions.

“We have a long-time relationship with Community Helpers, as they assist electric customers who are having difficulty paying their electric bills” he said. “Wee Care Day Care is an inner-city organization that we’ve never been able to assist before, but with the merger opening that door, we are honored to aid their worthy mission.”

While MTE features a charitable arm of its own called, SharingChange, these are one-time donations facilitated by the cooperative in recognition of July 1 being day number one for the merged utility.

“We’re very excited to call our brothers and sisters from MED teammates…officially,” Jones said. “We have an incredibly bright future in front of us.”