Nashville, TENN. – More than 750 electric co-op employees participated in the sixth annual Tennessee Electric Cooperative Day of Service on Thursday, Oct. 20. Forty-six individual service projects were completed across the state with 757 employees from 17 electric co-ops volunteering more than 1,581 hours in service to their local communities. This year’s projects included painting and repairing playground equipment, picking up litter and coordinating food, clothing and toy drives.

“This is one of my favorite days of the year,” says Trent Scott, TECA’s vice president of communications and organizer of the event. “Co-ops have an impact on their communities each day, but today is special. Co-op employees live, work and raise their families in these communities, and they get excited about these projects. Giving back is natural when you care about the place you call home.”

Sponsors for the 2022 Day of Service were Bass, Berry and Sims, Central Service Association, Ervin Cable Construction, Silicon Ranch, Tennessee811, TVA and The Tennessee Magazine.

In the six-year history of the Day of Service event, 2,705 employees have volunteered more than 6,520 hours to complete 153 individual projects in co-op communities across the state.

Co-ops participating in the 2022 Day of Service and the projects they completed were:

  • Appalachian Electric Cooperative – Support for coat and food drives in Jefferson County
  • Caney Fork Electric Cooperative – Coordinated Christmas toy drive for area children
  • Chickasaw Electric Cooperative – Hot line safety demonstration at a festival, supporting food and toy drive for Fayette Cares
  • Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation – Painted playground equipment for local schools
  • Fayetteville Public Utilities – Assisted Hands of Mercy Outreach’s mobile food pantry
  • Gibson Electric Membership Corporation – Provided classroom supplies for Samburg and Hornbeak areas of Obion County
  • Holston Electric Cooperative – Restoration work at Crockett Springs Park
  • Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooeprative – Multiple litter pick up projects in Hickman and Humphreys counties, food bank projects in Hickman and Lewis counties. Additional projects in Perry and Houston counties.
  • Middle Tennessee Electric – Habitat for Humanity build in Lebanon, Scholastic Book Fairs in Woodbury and Christiana, Discovery Center’s Lantern Parade in Murfreesboro
  • Pickwick Electric Cooperative – Assisted the Jesus Cares Thrift Store
  • Plateau Electric Cooperative – Volunteer work in Scott and Morgan counties
  • Powell Valley Electric Co-op – Lunch for first responders in New Tazewell and Jonesville
  • Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative – Provided meals for veterans, assisted with renovation of a senior center’s garden, building beds for Sleep in Heavenly Peace and work with local animal shelter
  • Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation – Support for Breast Cancer Awareness Day
  • Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association – Volunteering at local domestic violence shelter and The Store free community grocery
  • Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation – Beautification project in Livingston, lunch for front line workers and boxing and landscaping at a food bank
  • Volunteer Energy Cooperative – Donations to food banks in Spring City, Decatur, Georgetown, Benton, Cleveland, Crossville and White County

Chris Kirk has been named editor of The Tennessee Magazine, replacing Robin Conover who retired at the end of September.

Kirk joined the magazine team as field editor in May of 2005 and has served as associate editor since 2011.

“Chris is a journalist of integrity who has been an asset for the magazine for many years,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, publisher of the magazine. “He has shown tremendous skill, commitment and passion, and I know the magazine will thrive under his leadership.”

Kirk follows in the footsteps of his father, Jerry Kirk, who also served as editor of The Tennessee Magazine in the late 1980s.

“As far as I’m concerned, I step into this new role as a steward of the quality, informational, entertaining publication that for 65 years has been telling the stories of Tennessee’s electric cooperatives and the communities they serve,” says Kirk.

With more than 775,000 subscribers and 1.7 million monthly readers, The Tennessee Magazine is the state’s most widely circulated periodical. The magazine is published by the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives. Visit tnelectric.org or tnmagazine.org to learn more.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association has named Trent Scott vice president of communications. He joined the staff of the association in 2011 and was most recently vice president of corporate strategy.

Scott will lead the association’s internal and external communication activities, including the publication of The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated monthly periodical.

“Over the past decade Trent has been instrumental in positioning TECA as a nationally recognized leader in the electric cooperative community,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “His dedication has greatly improved our outreach and raised our visibility through programs such as the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Day of Service. The state’s co-ops and the consumers they serve will benefit from Trent taking ownership of all of TECA’s communication efforts.”

“I grew up around this industry,” says Scott, whose father was a lineman for Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation in Henderson. “From energy to broadband, this is a dynamic time for electric co-ops and the state’s rural and suburban communities. It is a privilege to help co-ops highlight the impact they have on the people and places they serve. Tennessee’s electric co-ops have a great story to tell.”

Electric cooperatives serve more than 2.5 million consumers and 72 percent of Tennessee. The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides leadership, advocacy and support for Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives and publishes The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated periodical. Visit tnelectric.org or tnmagazine.org to learn more.

 

NASHVILLE – Sixty-five volunteer lineworkers from six electric co-ops across Tennessee are heading to Florida, Georgia and South Carolina to assist with Hurricane Ian recovery efforts. Sixteen lineworkers from three additional electric co-ops are waiting to be assigned.

The Category 4 hurricane brought strong wind, historic storm surge, significant rainfall and widespread power outages to Florida. Tennessee electric 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 Edisto Electric Cooperative in Bamberg, South Carolina, are:

  • 12 lineworkers from Appalachian Electric Cooperative in New Market
  • Eight from Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation in Clarksville

Assisting Okefenoke Rural Electric Membership Corporation in Nahunta, Georgia, are:

  • Seven lineworkers from Fayetteville Public Utilities
  • 10 from Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation in Brownsville

Assisting Black River Electric Cooperative in Sumter, South Carolina, are:

  • Eight lineworkers from Holston Electric Cooperative in Rogersville

Assisting Palmetto Electric Cooperative in Hardeeville, South Carolina, are:

  • 20 lineworkers from Middle Tennessee Electric in Murfreesboro

Volunteered and waiting for assignment are:

  • Four lineworkers from Gibson Electric Membership Corporation in Trenton
  • Four from Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative in Centerville
  • Eight from Plateau Electric Cooperative in Onieda

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, electric vehicle (EV) sales doubled from 2020 to 2021, reaching a record high of 608,000 sales. Sales of internal combustion engine vehicles grew by only 3% the same year.

The number of EVs on the road will continue to grow over the next five to 10 years, and many brands have pledged to convert to manufacturing only EVs within the next three to 12 years.

Part of this sales growth stems from more choices in the EV market. Today, more than 80 base models of sedans, SUVs and minivans are available. The number of automakers that are exclusively manufacturing plug-in vehicles is also increasing, from recognizable brands like Tesla to growing brands like Rivian, Polestar, Karma and Lucid. Ford introduced its now sold-out F-150 Lightning in April and is already taking orders for 2023.

While the EV market is growing, it has some challenges to overcome before broader adoption takes place. The upfront cost of an EV is more expensive than a comparable gas-powered vehicle, and many EVs are limited to a driving range of 250 miles on average––though there are exceptions. Some automakers offer EV models with ranges over 300 miles and a handful are approaching 400.

Ford, Hyundai, Kia and Nissan offer EV models that are priced around $30,000, and available federal tax credits can bring the initial costs down considerably. EV range numbers are approaching those of a tank of gas, but EVs require more time to charge compared to a gas-powered vehicle’s quick fill-up. Even at the fastest charging level, it takes approximately 20 minutes to charge 80% capacity. This makes EVs suitable for daily driving needs like commuting or running errands but less suitable for longer road trips.

Access to publicly available charging stations is not as plentiful or as geographically accessible as gas stations, which makes using an EV for an extended road trip less straightforward. However, The Department of Transportation and the Department of Energy have teamed up to offer grants to help states and local partners, including electric cooperatives, to develop a national charging network with EV chargers located every 50 miles on interstates. The goal is to place EV chargers where they make the most sense in terms of business or recreational activities. National parks, convenience stores and local businesses could be popular stops for EV charging.

Compared to a standard wall outlet, charging times can be shortened by using a Level 2 charger. Level 1 chargers are the standard charger that come with an EV and provide about 40 miles of range after eight hours of charging. Level 2 chargers provide about 25 miles per charging hour. They consume a lot of power over a short amount of time and require local electric infrastructure to support the increased energy load.

If you’re considering a Level 2 charger, make sure your home’s electrical system is in good shape and give your electric co-op a heads up. This allows the utility to ensure the transformer in your neighborhood can safely and reliably provide power––and your neighbors will thank you.

Katherine Loving writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives

Stories of how critters and co-ops care for each other

One Monday morning last summer, a young male brown bear climbed to the top of an electric co-op utility pole in Arizona—presumably to see what he could see.

But when two co-op employees spotted the creature, they knew it was nothing to joke about. His arms were draped between the crosspieces, paws resting on the pole’s neutral conductor, head next to an energized 7,200-volt line. “If he touched it, he would have been dead,” said one of the workers.

So, they de-energized the line and called in 18-year co-op veteran Werner Neubauer. It wasn’t his first rodeo, er, animal rescue. He’d also saved cats, raccoons and even a bobcat.

A co-op bucket truck hoisted Neubauer, 8-foot-long fiberglass hot stick in hand, to meet the bear. The bear tucked his face under his front arm, covering his eyes.

“Alright, little bear. Time to get off this pole,” Neubauer encouraged. The bear nipped and grabbed at the stick, but Neubauer finally nudged him down, where he ran off into the desert.

Out in the country, animals are everywhere.

Animal encounters are nothing new for electric co-ops. Getting their start in the 1930s to serve rural areas that had no electricity, they’ve always been close to the land, and its creatures. From bears to butterflies and sheep to seabirds, electric co-ops have a track record of showing they understand the importance of caring for wildlife.

Janelle Lemen, regulatory director for environmental policy at the National Rural Electric Association (NRECA), describes how co-ops across the country take actions like building nesting platforms for ospreys and falcons, and modifying electrical structures to reduce potential electrocutions of birds. Co-ops coordinate those efforts nationwide though NRECA’s membership, since 1989, in an organization called the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee.

Co-ops also regularly work with other state, local and federal wildlife agencies to come up with the best ways to coexist with wildlife.

Lemen says, “Electric co-ops have a long history of implementing conservation efforts to benefit America’s wildlife and other natural resources.”

One part of that history is an annual week-long Pollinator Power Party. Co-ops know a lot of us love butterflies and bees, and that both are essential to the ecosystems that pollinate plants. So, several electric co-ops have become part of a group called the Pollinator Partnership to increase awareness of bee and butterfly habitats.

Grazing under solar panels

A more direct interest between co-ops and wildlife comes in the form of protecting birds from high-voltage equipment, both for the birds’ own safety and to keep animal electrocutions from causing power outages.

Co-ops in several states have built platforms to keep ospreys and other birds from nesting on power lines. An electric co-op in Hawaii has even experimented with a laser fence system to keep seabirds from colliding with power lines.

And it’s not always the co-ops protecting animals. Sometimes the critters help out the co-ops.

As solar energy use grows across the country, some co-ops are getting the grass under photovoltaic panels trimmed by goats and sheep. Well, maybe not goats so much. With co-ops and other utilities finding economic and environmental benefits to grazing under and around solar panels, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory actually conducted a study called Solar Sheep and Voltaic Veggies: Uniting Solar Power and Agriculture. Among its conclusions: “Sheep have often proven to be the best tenants of the land. Horses can be picky about what they eat, cows are large and require a lot of space, and goats tend to chew on wires and climb on panels.”

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.

David Callis

NASHVILLE – During a board meeting on Thursday, June 2, David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, announced that he would be retiring in March of 2023. Callis was appointed to this role in 2012.

“Under David’s leadership, TECA has continued its long tradition of advocating for rural communities and protecting the interests of Tennessee’s electric co-ops,” said Dave Cross, CEO of Plateau Electric Cooperative and chairman of TECA’s board of trustees. “He’s been a proponent for co-ops at the state and national levels, always highlighting the qualities that make co-ops unique – local ownership, local control and service to members. David believes in putting people first and leads with empathy. The Board thanks him for his service to the association and Tennessee’s rural and suburban communities, and we wish David and Amanda the very best in the years ahead.”

The TECA board of trustees has started a search to find a new leader for the association.

Robin Conover

Robin Conover, vice president of communications and editor of The Tennessee Magazine, also announced plans to retire in August of 2022. She joined the magazine team in 1988 and has served as editor since 2002.

“Hundreds of thousands of readers have been fortunate to experience Tennessee’s woods, waters and wildlife through the lens of Robin Conover’s camera,” says Callis. “She is the heart and soul of The Tennessee Magazine and has been rural Tennessee’s official storyteller for three decades. Her knowledge, skill and wisdom will be missed.”

Conover will remain an important freelance contributor to the magazine.

Dyersburg – Sen. Bill Hagerty met with Arkansas and Tennessee co-op leaders Monday at the ERMCO distribution transformer manufacturing plant in Dyersburg, Tenn., to discuss how global supply chain disruptions and labor shortages have impacted critical infrastructure.

Distribution transformers like the ones made by cooperative-owned ERMCO are an essential component to the power grid. Transformers convert high voltage power into something that can be safely managed inside a home or business. Every home, farm and business in Tennessee depends on transformers for the reliable and safe delivery of energy.

Global supply chain issues and labor shortages have created challenges for ERMCO to meet skyrocketing demand for their products. “Demand is simply outpacing our ability to manufacture transformers,” says Tim Mills, President and CEO of ERMCO. “2020 and 2021 were both record years in terms of production, but we are turning away about 40 percent of our orders because we don’t have the capacity to fulfill them.”

“Labor is our greatest need,” says Jeff Hammons, COO of ERMCO. “We have 70 unfilled positions on our production line now. We have space to add additional lines, but we are not confident that we could find qualified labor to run them.”

During his visit, Sen. Hagerty toured the ERMCO facility and participated in an extended conversation about supply chain issues and their impact on the power grid.

“As was made strikingly clear by my visit to ERMCO, stable supply chains are key to secure critical infrastructure, including electric distribution,” says Sen. Hagerty. “The gravity of the supply chain-electric distribution relationship affirms the need for legislative solutions that address today’s supply chain crisis and prevent new disruptions going forward.”

Thanks to the efforts of ERMCO and other suppliers, Tennessee’s electric co-ops have managed supply chain disruptions with limited impact to consumers. “We have been fortunate so far, but we are one ice storm or tornado outbreak away from real issues,” says Trent Scott, vice president of corporate strategy for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, “ It is a serious situation, and we appreciate Sen. Hagerty and our co-op partners at ERMCO for their efforts to develop meaningful solutions.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Tennessee’s electric cooperatives awarded $16,000 in scholarships to Washington Youth Tour delegates on Monday evening, June 20, in Washington, D.C.

Camden Robertson, a senior from Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation was awarded a $10,000 Cooperative Youth Ambassador Scholarship. Robertson was a 2021 winner of the Electric Cooperative Creative Writing Contest. Delegates who remain engaged with their sponsoring cooperative during their Senior year and complete certain community service requirements are eligible for the scholarship. Robertson’s name was randomly selected from among the 14 delegates from across the state who completed the requirements.

Trace Gearlds from Tri-County Electric Membership Corporation, Malcom Gora from Caney Fork Electric Cooperative and Brayden Rouse from Forked Deer Electric Cooperative were awarded $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000 Robert McCarty Memorial Scholarships for having the first, second and third place papers of the thousands of papers submitted across the state for this year’s contest.

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

Forty-nine high school Juniors from across the state are in the nation’s capital this week for the 2022 Washington Youth Tour. The annual event teaches students about public policy, history, leadership and electric cooperatives. The tour is coordinated by local electric cooperatives, the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

“Investing in these young people is a sound strategy that will pay dividends for rural Tennessee,” said David Callis, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “These are exceptional students, and our hope is that their youth tour experience empowers them to return home and make a difference in their communities.”

NASHVILLE – Seventy-two student-delegates, teachers and co-op advisors from across Tennessee are headed to Washington, D.C., as a part of the 2022 Washington Youth Tour. The annual event, which begins today, provides young leaders with an opportunity to explore the nation’s capital, learn about government and develop their leadership skills. This is the first youth tour since 2019.

The Washington Youth Tour is sponsored by the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and local electric cooperatives from across the state. Students were selected for the trip by writing a short story titled “Electric Cooperatives – Building a Brighter Tennessee” that explains how co-ops are investing in the future of their communities.

Delegates on this year’s trip will visit museums and monuments, including the Smithsonian museum complex, the White House and the Capitol Building. The group is also scheduled to meet with members of Tennessee’s Congressional delegation.

“We are very excited about the 2022 youth tour,” says Todd Blocker, vice president of member relations for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and tour director. “Our team, our co-ops and our youth tour partners have worked hard to put together a trip that will be both safe and memorable for this year’s delegates. Thanks to the flexibility and cooperation of our hotel, bus company, airlines and venues, this year’s itinerary looks very similar to that of previous years.”

President Lyndon Johnson inspired the tour in 1957 when he encouraged electric cooperatives to send youngsters to the nation’s capital. In the years since, more than 6,000 young Tennesseans have been delegates for the Washington Youth Tour. Politicians, business leaders, authors and athletes are Washington Youth Tour alumni, including Apple CEO Tim Cook.

“We all know the impact that youth tour can have on young people,” says Blocker. “We are thrilled to be able to help these delegates learn more about public policy, history, leadership and cooperatives.”

NASHVILLE – At a board meeting held Wednesday in Young Harris, Ga., Jeff Lyash, CEO of the Tennessee Valley Authority, discussed decarbonization plans one year after releasing the agency’s Strategic Intent and Guiding Principles framework.

David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, made the following statement:

“Affordable energy and a reliable and resilient power grid are critical to the families and businesses served by consumer-owned electric co-ops. Co-ops support robust decarbonization efforts, but we also recognize that the economic success of rural and suburban Tennessee depends on affordable and reliable energy. Environmental and economic needs must be carefully balanced as we move toward a carbon-free future. We support TVA’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions while protecting Tennessee’s electric rate payers and economic growth.”

Tennessee’s electric co-ops are leaders in balancing environmental and economic concerns. Tennessee’s electric co-ops’ residential electric rates at are 17 percent below the national average. At the same time, more than 55 percent of the energy distributed by Tennessee’s electric co-ops comes from carbon free sources, and statewide electric co-ops have built more than 2.5 megawatts of solar generation.

SEATTLE – NRECA and the Council of Rural Electric Communicators recognized the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association this week with the Spotlight on Excellence Silver Award for Best Total Communications Program. The award for TECA’s Brighter Tennessee campaign was presented at NRECA’s Connect Conference in Seattle.

“The Brighter Tennessee campaign was developed to help co-op consumers and community leaders better understand the impact electric co-ops have on the people and places we serve,” says Trent Scott, vice president of corporate strategy for TECA. “Co-ops are making significant investments in Tennessee’s future, and the Brighter Tennessee campaign tells that story in a compelling way.”

“We are honored by this recognition from NRECA and the Council for Rural Electric Communicators,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “We are very proud of our communications program, and it is exciting to be recognized at this level.”

The annual Spotlight on Excellence Awards program recognizes the best communication and marketing efforts by electric cooperatives and related organizations. Entrants competed with electric cooperatives of similar size in 18 categories. Electric cooperative communicators and marketing professionals submitted more nearly 600 entries in the Spotlight on Excellence program. Faculty members from the University of Missouri – Columbia and University of South Carolina, as well as noted professionals in the fields of marketing, web design and digital communications, and newspapers judged the event, which uses a finite scoring system to determine the winners.

In addition to TECA’s recognition for Best Total Communications Program, Appalachian Electric Cooperative and Middle Tennessee Electric also received Spotlight on Excellence Awards. AEC was recognized with a Gold Award for Best Internal Newsletter and a Gold Award for Best Photo. Middle Tennessee Electric received a Gold Award for Best Ad Campaign and a Gold Award for Best Individual Ad.

NASHVILLE – More than 45 high school juniors from across the state are in Nashville this week for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association’s annual Youth Leadership Summit.

Delegates to the event receive a hands-on look at state government, learn networking and leadership skills and develop a better understanding of their local electric cooperatives.

Tre Hargett, Tennessee Secretary of State, welcomed the students to the Capitol where they visited with legislators, sat in on committee meetings and debated and voted on a mock bill.

In addition to meeting lawmakers and experiencing the state Capital, students also developed their leadership and teambuilding skills at the Joe C. Davis YMCA Outdoor Center at Camp Widjiwagen, completed a leadership training course with leadership expert Amy Gallimore and met Trooper Shane Moore and K9 officer Sumo from the Tennessee Executive Protection Detail. Students also spent a morning at Middle Tennessee Electric in Murfreesboro for a behind-the-scenes look at an electric cooperative.

“Meeting our state representatives was amazing,” said Madison Gean, a junior from Hardin County High School and a Youth Leadership Summit delegate from Tennessee Valley Electric Cooperative in Savannah. “We’ve all learned so much. You can always grow and adapt and build leadership skills, and I am grateful for this opportunity. Please continue to do this for other young students.”

Delegates to the Youth Leadership Summit are encouraged to be leaders and use their talents to improve rural Tennessee. “The future is built on the investments we make today, and there is no greater investment that we can make than to prepare these young people to face the opportunities and challenges of tomorrow,” says Todd Blocker, vice president of member relations for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and director of the Youth Leadership Summit. “These students are selected by their local electric co-ops, school officials and guidance counselors, and they truly are the best and the brightest. The Youth Leadership Summit is an example of the many ways that electric co-ops are building a brighter Tennessee.”

NASHVILLE – More than 140 electric co-op leaders from across the state were in Nashville on Tuesday and Wednesday, Feb. 15 and 16, for the 2022 Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association Legislative Conference. During meetings with legislators on Capitol Hill, co-op members and employees stressed the important role that co-ops play in their communities and briefed lawmakers on issues that impact rural and suburban Tennessee.

Gov. Bill Lee welcomed attendees to Nashville on Wednesday morning. “The services you provide to rural Tennesseans are incredibly important,” said Lee.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives maintain a visible presence in Nashville and Washington, D.C., to protect the interests of co-ops and their consumer-owners. “Electric co-ops are complex and heavily regulated businesses, and the decisions made by legislators can have a significant impact on the affordability and reliability of the energy they provide to millions of families across Tennessee,” says David Callis, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “We must tell the electric cooperative story and educate lawmakers about the impact of proposed legislation.”

“Advocating for our members doesn’t stop at the edge of our service territory. It is critically important that our elected leaders keep cooperatives in mind when crafting laws and regulations that impact us,” says Dave Cross, president of TECA’s board of trustees and CEO of Plateau Electric Cooperative, headquartered in Oneida. “We have a responsibility to our communities to tell their story.”

Broadband was a topic discussed during visits with legislators. “We’ve invested heavily in broadband expansion, and you’re key to that,” said Gov. Lee. “Unless every Tennessean has access to opportunity – every kid in the urban center and every kid in the farthest-reaching rural communities – then we have not done our job. The ways we do that in large part is through the services and technology that you make possible.”

More than 100 legislative visits were made during the conference, and many legislators from across the state attended a reception honoring members of the Tennessee General Assembly.

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION
Trent Scott | Vice President of Strategy | 615.515.5534 | [email protected]

NASHVILLE – Electric co-ops across west and middle Tennessee today are preparing for a significant winter storm that is expected to impact the Volunteer State overnight and Thursday.

“Damage caused by ice can be widespread and create extended power outages,” says Trent Scott, vice president of corporate strategy for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Co-ops are closely monitoring forecasts and preparing crews and equipment to respond quickly if outages occur, and we encourage our members to get ready for the potential of power outages, especially in the hardest hit areas.”

When ice builds up, the added weight can break trees, poles and wires leading to power outages. Co-ops crews will work to restore power, but there are a few things you can do to prepare.

Stay warm

Plan to use a safe alternate heating source, such as a fireplace or wood-burning stove during a power outage. These are great options to keep you and your loved ones warm, but exercise caution when using, and never leave the heating source unattended. If you are using gasoline-, propane- or natural gas-burning devices to stay warm, never use them indoors. Remember that fuel- and wood-burning sources of heat should always be properly ventilated. Always read the manufacturer’s directions before using.

Stay fed

The CDC recommends having several days’ supply of food that does not need to be cooked handy. Crackers, cereal, canned goods and bread are good options. Five gallons of water per person should also be available in the event of an extended power outage.

Stay safe

When an outage occurs, it usually means power lines are down. It is best not to travel during winter storms, but if you must, bring a survival kit along, and do not travel alone. If you encounter downed lines, always assume they are live. Stay as far away from the downed lines as possible, and report the situation to your local electric co-op. Take caution when using generators. Follow all directions and do not connect a generator to your home’s electrical system without proper equipment and inspections. Check on the welfare of neighbors, especially the elderly.

Vanderbilt University, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Nashville Electric Service (NES), Duck River Electric Membership Corporation (DREMC), and Silicon Ranch Corporation broke ground today on a new solar farm that is now under construction in Bedford County, Tennessee. The 35-megawatt (MWAC) Vanderbilt I Solar Farm is expected to begin producing power before the end of 2022, bringing new renewable generation to the Tennessee Valley.

Originally announced in January 2020, the partnership was the first of its kind under TVA’s nationally-recognized Green Invest Program, which matches demand for green power from diverse business, industrial and organizational customers with new utility-scale solar projects located within the Valley. The award-winning renewable energy program offers customers an effective, timely, and cost-competitive solution to meet their sustainability goals in a way that benefits the broader community.

“Today marks a milestone for the Tennessee Valley as we break ground on the first project ever developed under TVA’s Green Invest program, and we are thrilled to be doing so with Vanderbilt University, our long-term partners NES and DREMC, and our local renewable energy partner Silicon Ranch,” said Jeannette Mills, TVA Executive Vice President and Chief External Relations Officer. “Together with 153 local power company partners, TVA is building the energy system of the future.  Green Invest has positioned us to bring together customers and renewable energy partners who are all investing in our communities.”

In 2019, Vanderbilt announced its goal to power the campus entirely through renewable energy and become carbon neutral by 2050. The renewable generation from the Vanderbilt I will offset approximately 70% of Vanderbilt University’s annual Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions, or the equivalent of enough power to help serve more than 6,000 homes for one year.

“We are excited to partner with TVA, NES, and Silicon Ranch on this landmark solar project, which we hope will provide a model of collaborative, forward-thinking solutions that can be adopted by other organizations in our region and across the country,” said Daniel Diermeier, Chancellor of Vanderbilt University. “The Vanderbilt I Solar Farm will generate new jobs and tax revenues for the local community and also yield new educational and research opportunities for our faculty and our students—setting a bold precedent for how we can continue to work together on behalf of our shared future.”

Nashville-based Silicon Ranch is funding the project and plans to hire more than 250 craft workers, the majority of whom will be recruited from the Bedford County area and the military veteran community, to install the facility. Silicon Ranch will also own, operate, and maintain the Vanderbilt I Solar Farm, a disciplined approach the company takes with every project it develops.

“Several of our colleagues and I are proud Vanderbilt alumni, and all of us at Silicon Ranch applaud this world-class institution for its bold and thoughtful leadership,” said Matt Kisber, Co-Founder and Chairman of Silicon Ranch. “Thanks to Vanderbilt’s commitment and the vision of our friends at TVA, NES, and DREMC, Silicon Ranch is on pace to invest well over $1 billion in renewable energy projects across the Tennessee Valley, and we are proud to expand this legacy to Bedford County.”

To facilitate the Vanderbilt I Solar Farm, Vanderbilt entered into an agreement with TVA and NES, the university’s local power company. The solar project will interconnect to the electric grid through the distribution system of another local power company, DREMC.

“NES is proud to partner with TVA, Vanderbilt, DREMC and Silicon Ranch to reduce carbon emissions in our region,” said Decosta Jenkins, President and CEO of NES. “We are committed to providing safe, reliable, and affordable power while continuing to listen to our customers’ needs.”

“Duck River Electric is thrilled to support this project and our friends at Vanderbilt, NES, TVA, and Silicon Ranch on this journey,” said Scott Spence, President and CEO of DREMC. “It is a privilege to be part of helping Vanderbilt achieve their sustainability goals, while ensuring the members of Duck River Electric do not incur any of the expense.”

The Vanderbilt I Solar Farm will utilize Silicon Ranch’s transformative Regenerative Energy® land management model, a holistic approach to design, construction, and operations that co-locates renewable energy production with regenerative agriculture practices. The innovative platform delivers valuable environmental, social, and economic outcomes above and beyond the significant positive impacts a solar facility alone can generate, creating additional value for the surrounding communities and project stakeholders. Once the project is operational, Silicon Ranch will restore the land to a functioning grassland ecosystem while keeping the project in agricultural production through managed sheep grazing using regenerative land management practices.

Murfreesboro, Tenn. – Middle Tennessee Electric (MTE) President and CEO Chris Jones has received the 2022 J.C. Brown CEO Communication Leadership Award. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) presented Jones the award at the organization’s CEO Close-Up Conference Jan. 10 in Phoenix. 

According to NRECA, the J.C. Brown Award “recognizes an electric cooperative or public power district CEO/general manager who is committed to advancing communication at the cooperative and in the electric cooperative industry.”  

Jones has an extensive background in the communications field, graduating from the University of Tennessee with a degree in communications and starting his career as a journalist and editor. He went to work at MTE in 1999, serving as communications coordinator and the VP of communications and member services before being named CEO in 2013. 

“We should understand, yet not be intimidated by, the reality that communication is work that is never finished and demands intentionality and continuous improvement,” Jones said. “I have been studying communication since college and attempting to execute it throughout my professional career, and I know I still have much to learn and improve upon. However, I am humbled by and appreciative of this recognition from NRECA.” 

Jones emphasizes the importance of clear, simple and repeated communication across multiple channels to all of MTE’s audiences, always striving to meet the goal of making the lives of MTE members better. In recent years, his leadership and robust communication efforts have navigated the organization through a major tornado in its service area, several severe weather events, the acquisition of United Communications, the merger with the Murfreesboro Electric Department, the continued impacts of COVID-19 and a complete brand refresh. 

His nomination was given a perfect score by one of the three judges who helped select this year’s winner and another mentioned his “notable” use of a strategic plan to communicate the organization’s mission and goals with both employees and members. 

Weather impacts us all. And this past December was no exception, bringing severe weather to our region. The losses were devastating. My heart goes out to everyone who was affected by the storms. I truly hope that things are on the mend and life is improving. While we all do our best to be aware of severe weather and keep our families safe by hunkering down in an interior closet or a concrete bunker as tornadoes pass, protecting the electric grid is another story entirely.

Storms can severely impact businesses and different industries in a variety of ways. For example, several years ago, I participated in an educational conference that was primarily attended by people involved in agriculture. At that time, there was a large storm system packing hurricane-force winds moving into the Southeast. I was concerned about the effects it would have on the electric grid. The other attendees were concerned about their crops and livestock. All of us were concerned — but for very different reasons. That was an eye-opener for me.

While weather impacts us all, for those of us in the electric utility industry, what happens to our systems affects everyone. In our industry, we keep a close eye on the weather, depending on the National Weather Service, local and national meteorologists, private weather and climate experts, and our own in-house specialists. In early December, we knew the potential for damaging storms existed at least two days before the storms hit on the 10th and 11th.

But no matter what precautions we take to limit loss of life, we can’t do anything about the infrastructure that keeps our homes comfortable and the economy moving.

The December storm was one of the most devastating to hit our region in more than a decade. Not only were many lives lost and homes and businesses destroyed, but the infrastructure that provides power to all of us was also severely damaged.

Your cooperative depends on wholesale delivery of power by the Tennessee Valley Authority, which generates the power and then uses its transmission system to deliver electricity to your local utility.

The destruction to TVA’s transmission system was the worst since 2011; the storm damaged 97 TVA power structures (towers and poles), and 29 transmission line sections were downed. Some towers were destroyed. The result was that even if local utility lines were intact, there was no power to the substation to be able to serve those people.

Compounding this disaster was a lack of materials available to effect repairs. Transformers, which are required to bring the electricity safely into your home at voltages you can use, have been in short supply for months. In recent years, multiple storms have affected numerous utilities, resulting in limited inventories. Manufacturers and suppliers have yet to meet increased demand after being sidelined during the pandemic.

Like always, we pulled together. TVA, Tennessee’s electric co-ops, municipal power providers and contractors restored power as quickly as possible to the communities impacted. Even in the face of tragedy, it was encouraging to see how many rushed to provide assistance when neighbors needed help.

We’ve done this before, and we’ll do it again. We can’t prevent disasters; we can only plan on how we respond. Hopefully, it will a long time before we have to do it again — at least on this scale.

Please click here to learn how you can help recovery efforts.

Columbia, Tenn. – Duck River Electric Membership Corporation (DREMC), an electric provider serving 2,500 square miles of middle Tennessee, and United Communications, Middle Tennessee’s leading provider of fiber and fixed wireless internet services, announced today that they are collaborating to expand broadband access to underserved areas across Middle Tennessee.

Industry data indicates that while average household demand for internet data has grown over 38 times in the past decade, approximately 18% of Tennesseans live in unserved areas for broadband internet. The lack of broadband infrastructure in rural areas has resulted in a digital divide, subjecting those without high-speed internet to a significant disadvantage in career development, telemedicine, and social engagement opportunities.

DREMC reinforces its commitment to the members they serve by advancing high-speed internet connectivity. Through the development of a robust fiber backbone that enhances service dependability, DREMC is not only delivering safe and reliable electricity at the lowest possible cost but also supporting United in building a reliable fiber and fixed wireless network in the region.

United is a subsidiary of Middle Tennessee Electric (MTE), and that partnership supports the effort to deliver high-speed internet to underserved areas in Middle Tennessee, the mission of United’s Project UNITE initiative. By collaborating to bridge the digital divide, United, MTE, and now DREMC can expedite the delivery of high-speed internet to areas of need. Specific to DREMC, the relationship solidifies expansion for broadband, especially for many communities that lack adequate internet access.

Project UNITE was initiated by United to focus on rural communities to connect unserved homes and businesses, partner with local stakeholders, companies, and governments seeking grant support, and deliver industry-leading customer experience.

The announcement was made by Scott Spence, President and CEO of DREMC, and William Bradford, President and CEO of United Communications, in conjunction with Chris Jones, President, and CEO of MTE, at the DREMC Office in Columbia, TN, on December 10, 2021.

“DREMC is proud to be part of the solution to the internet needs of members in underserved areas. The first step in this journey began in 2018 with the initial work needed to develop a 386-mile fiber backbone that allows DREMC to better serve members and provide important infrastructure for established internet providers to utilize,” said Spence. “Today, we are excited to partner with United Communications to further leverage what DREMC has built for the benefit of the members we serve. This is a key step in being part of the solution to deliver reliable, competitively priced internet with a focus on customer care.”

The effort to build out the southern Tennessee network is greatly enhanced by DREMC’s foresight and proactivity in establishing a fiber ring throughout their service area that is expected to be complete in mid-2022. United’s expertise in fiber and fixed wireless, combined with DREMC’s assets and permits, provides an effective and efficient way to enter the next phase of delivering broadband and a world-class smart grid.

“United is a local company that serves our customers with the same focus and care that Duck River Electric delivers to their members,” said Bradford. “This relationship creates a powerful bond between two companies that can benefit from each other’s resources and expedite the pathway to internet access, speed, and reliability that everyone deserves. For example, in partnership with MTE, we have been able to build and offer connectivity to over 12,000 unserved locations,” added Bradford. “We understand the special relationship cooperatives have with their members and believe we can apply the knowledge and experience we gained with MTE’s success and leverage that for the benefit of DREMC members.”

“A fundamental cooperative principle is cooperatives supporting cooperatives.” Added MTE President and CEO Chris Jones. “I’m so pleased to see MTE’s broadband company, United Communications, in a position to support our sister cooperative in expanding important service to DREMC members.”

As more planning develops, DREMC members will be able to check if their address is serviceable by United and register their interest by visiting https://united.net.

Additional information on the partnership can be found at www.United.net/DREMC or learn more about Project UNITE at www.United.net/project-unite.

Nonprofit, fully online university will provide $50,000 in scholarships through its “Power Your Future” initiative for new students who are electric cooperative members 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Oct. 28, 2021) – In an effort to empower residents in rural areas of Tennessee to go back to school and further their education, WGU Tennessee, an affiliate of Western Governors University, has announced it has partnered with Tennessee’s electric cooperatives to provide $50,000 in scholarships to residents who are served by an electric cooperative and are interested in pursuing a degree from the online, nonprofit university. The “Power Your Future” scholarship is open to new students in rural areas of Tennessee who are consumers of, or live in a household served by, one of the 23 rural electric co-ops that power rural Tennessee.

Learn more about the Power Your Future scholarship

“Electric co-ops and WGU share a mutual goal of supporting and investing in the future of rural communities,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “This partnership with WGU will provide new opportunities for the 2.5 million Tennesseans served by electric co-ops in Tennessee to pursue a degree in higher education without the barrier of cost. We are excited to be on the front lines of building a brighter Tennessee.”

WGU is a leader in providing fully online, affordable, competency-based education to working adults who are interested in furthering their skillset but need the flexibility of online education to fit their busy lives. Through the “Power Your Future” scholarships, WGU aims to empower students in rural Tennessee who are committed to going back to school to complete their undergraduate or graduate degrees. Each scholarship is valued at up to $3,000 and will be applied at a rate of $750 per six-month term.

To be eligible, scholarship applicants must be officially admitted to WGU and enrolled in one of the university’s more than 60 accredited bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in business, information technology, K–12 teacher education, and health professions, including nursing. Students must also complete the scholarship application at wgu.edu/power and be interviewed by a WGU scholarship counselor. Recipients will be selected based on academic records, financial need, readiness for online study, and current competency, among other considerations.

“We are delighted to partner with Tennessee’s electric cooperatives in this important venture, making education more accessible and affordable for working adults across Tennessee,” said Kim Estep, chancellor of WGU Tennessee and vice president, Southeast Region of WGU. “Together we seek to provide a streamlined approach and expand access to higher education, particularly for rural residents served by electric cooperatives who do not have easy access to high-quality higher education in their communities.”

Over 4,000 Tennesseans are currently enrolled at WGU Tennessee, which has conferred more than 7,000 degrees in the state.

For more information about WGU or the Power Your Future scholarship, visit wgu.edu/power.