NASHVILLE – Gov. Bill Lee announced Monday that five electric co-ops in Tennessee will receive more than $6.2 million in broadband accessibility grants. Electric co-ops received nearly half of $14.8 million in state grants awarded by the state.

“Rural and suburban Tennessee cannot grow and prosper without access to reliable, high-speed connectivity,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Tennessee’s electric co-ops are responding to this need and making significant investments to bring this service to the homes and businesses they serve. The state’s broadband accessibility grant program speeds the process of expanding high-speed internet to communities that have no other options.”

“I am pleased to announce that we are getting our rural areas up to speed and expanding broadband in the areas that need it most,” said Lee. “I am committed to ensuring connectivity in every corner of our state as broadband impacts our goals for health care, education, economic development and beyond.”

According to the FCC’s 2018 Broadband Deployment Report, nearly one in four rural Tennesseans lack access to broadband. In addition to the $20 million included in Gov. Lee’s recommended budget for fiscal year 2020, these grants will continue to close the access gap ensuring rural Tennesseans have the tools needed for growth and prosperity.

The six Tennessee co-ops receiving a total of $6,296,177.61 in this round of state grants include:

  • Appalachian Electric Cooperative: $1,739,581 serving parts of Jefferson and Grainger Counties
  • Gibson Electric Membership Corporation: $588,974 serving the Gadsden Community in Crockett County and part of Gibson County
  • Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative: $1,832,728.16 serving part of Humphreys County
  • Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative: $817,406 serving the Griffith Creek community in Marion County
  • Volunteer Energy Cooperative: $1,317,488.45 serving the Spring Creek community in McMinn County

Learn more about electric co-op broadband in Tennessee on our Co-op Broadband page.

NASHVILLE – Today the White House delivered its 2020 budget proposal to Congress. Among the items included in this year’s budget was a proposal to sell federally-owned utility assets.

The Tennessee Valley Public Power Association released a joint statement today co-signed by David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.

The statement reads in part:

Congress has repeatedly voted against privatization of part or all of TVA assets, most recently in the FY19 appropriations process.  We hope our elected representatives will once again reject this misguided proposal.

Local power companies that distribute TVA power strongly support the public power model, and divestiture of transmission assets would have a negative effect.  TVA’s transmission assets have been paid for by the ratepayers of the Tennessee Valley, and we believe they should not be sold to interests who may not place a priority on public power or the Valley’s interests.

Our respective organizations will pursue all options to protect electric ratepayers and the TVA assets they have paid to build as well as the public power model, which is as relevant today as it was 80 years ago.

For more than 50 years electricity sales, not government appropriations, have paid for the operation and maintenance of TVA’s assets. According to 2013 study by the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy, TVA has returned to the U.S. Treasury more than $3 billion on the government’s original investment of $1.4 billion.

NASHVILLE – Forty-six high school juniors from across the state are attending the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association’s annual Youth Leadership Summit this week in Nashville.

Delegates to the annual event get a hands-on look at state government, build networking and leadership skills and develop a better understanding of energy generation and their local electric cooperative.

Delegates visited the State Capitol Building today to meet members of the Tennessee General Assembly. A house staff member explained the process required to pass legislation, and students debated and voted on a mock bill. Delegates also had an opportunity to sit in on committee hearings.

In addition to lawmakers, students also heard from Tennessee leaders like Christine Williamson, Ms. Tennessee 2018; Adam Hammond, anchor for Nashville’s NewsChannel5; and Trooper Jeffrey Buchanan with the Tennessee Executive Protection Detail.

Delegates to the Youth Leadership Summit are encouraged to be leaders and use their talents to improve rural Tennessee. “Electric co-ops want to see the places we serve grow and prosper, and these young people are important to their communities,” says Todd Blocker, vice president of member relations for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and director of the Youth Leadership Summit. “Small towns and rural communities need talented and engaged young people who are invested, and that is what we are doing with our Youth Leadership Summit delegates. We want them to leave this experience with a new appreciation for where they live, prepared to be the leaders of their generation.”

Each of Tennessee’s 23 electric co-ops sponsored two delegates to participate in this year’s Youth Leadership Summit.

Jeffrey Lyash

NASHVILLE  – The TVA board of directors today announced the appointment of Jeffrey “Jeff” Lyash as the utility’s new President and Chief Executive Officer.

Lyash, current President and CEO of Ontario Power Generation, will join TVA in April.

In response to today’s announcement, David Callis, executive Vice President and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, issued the following statement:

“Tennessee’s electric co-ops welcome Mr. Lyash to TVA. For more than seven decades co-ops have worked with TVA to bring energy, economic growth and abundant opportunity to Tennessee’s rural and suburban communities. We look forward to working with Mr. Lyash as we continue our mission to improve everyday life for the people and communities we serve.”

TVA is the wholesale energy provider for all 23 of Tennessee’s consumer-owned electric cooperatives. Tennessee’s co-ops serve more than 2.5 million consumers in 84 of the state’s 95 counties.

Gov. Bill Lee

NASHVILLE – On Wednesday, Gov. Bill Lee, in his first executive order, instructed all state agencies to examine and improve the way they serve Tennessee’s rural communities. The order emphasizes the need to coordinate efforts to better serve the state’s rural and economically disadvantaged counties.

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

“Tennessee’s rural and suburban communities matter. Thirty-seven percent of the state’s population – some 2.4 million people – call rural Tennessee home, and these residents account for nearly 30 percent of personal incomes for the state. The contributions these families make to the overall success of Tennessee are significant. A healthy and vibrant rural economy is critical to the state’s overall growth and prosperity. Electric co-ops have deep roots in these communities, and we support the governor’s focus on issues that impact rural Tennessee.”

According to a release from the governor’s office, the executive order is the first step by the administration to accelerate plans to address 15 distressed counties, which are all rural. The order requires each executive department to submit, no later than May 31, 2019, a statement of rural impact explaining how the department serves rural Tennesseans. Departments must then provide recommendations for improving that service by June 30, 2019.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives serve 71 percent of the state and more than 2.5 million consumers. The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides leadership, advocacy and support for Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives. The association also publishes The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated periodical. Visit tnelectric.org or tnmagazine.org to learn more.

Last week, the 111th General Assembly of the state of Tennessee began its two-year session, and operative word for all Capitol-watchers is “new.” With so many first time members of the Legislature who are still learning about the legislative process and how best to represent their districts, Tennessee’s electric co-ops have work to do.

The upcoming TECA legislative conference, day on the hill, and legislative reception offer co-op Boards and staff a great opportunity to interact with legislators, both new and old, and engage in important public policy discussions. If your cooperative has not yet registered to attend, please do so. We look forward to seeing you there.

TECA’s public policy partner is the law firm of Bass, Berry, and Sims. They recently published a helpful and concise overview of the beginning of this General Assembly.

With the new session comes change not seen in Tennessee government in recent history, as over 30 new lawmakers were sworn in on the first day. Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) was again elected as Speaker of the Senate, and Glen Casada (R-Franklin) was elected to replace outgoing House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville). Harwell served as Speaker of the House for eight years.

Governor-elect Bill Lee (R-Franklin) will be sworn in on January 19, 2019. Lee’s first major task of the start of his first year will be to finalize his commissioner appointments and present his budget. Lee is expected to give his first State of the State address and release his budget on March 4, 2019.

Tennessee House Committee Updates

As Lee begins his work he will be working with all new leadership in the House. In addition to the new Speaker, Majority Leader and Caucus Leader, the House has brand new committees and committee chairs. There is sure to be an extended learning curve this session with so many new legislators and committee chairs. The list of committees and committee chairs for the House can be found here.

Tennessee Senate Committee Updates

In the Senate, there were fewer changes. No new committees were created in the Senate, but there are five new chairs of committees. The list of committees and committee chairs for the Senate can be found here.

After the inauguration, the Senate will take an additional week to organize before returning to business on January 28, 2019. The House will return sooner to resume its business on January 23, 2019. The bill filing deadline will be the first week of February. House members will continue to have 15 bills unless they chair a committee. In that instance, a chairman will have an additional five bills that must be related to the subject matter of his or her committee.

111th General Assembly App

General Assembly App

The 111th 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. The app 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.

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.

Michael Watson

The Board of Directors of Duck River Electric Membership Corporation (DREMC) today has accepted the retirement request of Michael Watson, President and CEO. Watson will relinquish his duties as CEO and President on Jan. 11; he will serve in an advisory capacity for the cooperative until June 30, 2019. 

Watson also served as president of the board of directors for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.

“We are grateful for the 27 years of service that Michael has dedicated to Duck River Electric,” said Barry Cooper, Chairman of the Board. “He has led DREMC through an important period of change in the cooperative business, including implementing an advanced meter infrastructure and installing a fiber backbone that is preparing the cooperative for broadband options.” 

He has also demonstrated valuable leadership within the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and the Tennessee Valley Public Power Association, Cooper said, as well as with the TVA Rates and Contracts process. 

Cooper said that the board has taken action to employ Charles McDonald as an interim CEO. McDonald retired from DREMC in 2011 as Director of Member Services after 37 years of service with the cooperative. McDonald will begin his interim service effective Jan. 11, 2019. 

The board will begin a thorough search for a CEO as soon as is feasible. 

[NASHVILLE] – Tennessee lawmakers will return to Nashville on Jan. 8 for the 111th Tennessee General Assembly. During the four to five-month session, they 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. Tennesseans interested in government and politics now have a powerful tool for connecting with lawmakers.

The 111th 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. The app 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 lots of information on legislators, and we want that to be available to as many people as possible,” 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.

State’s electric cooperatives gather in Nashville to explore the opportunities facing co-ops

NASHVILLE – “Power and Opportunity” was the theme of the 77th annual meeting of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, held Sunday, Nov. 18, through Tuesday, Nov. 20, in Nashville. More than 350 electric cooperative leaders from across the state attended the event where they explored the impact of co-ops and challenged one another to meet the needs of their communities.

“Each day, electric co-ops enable the communities we serve to prosper,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Rural and suburban Tennessee is well positioned to grow, and our role in that success has been and continues to be significant. The powerlines we build carry more than power. They deliver power and opportunity.”

Elections were held for three positions on the association’s board of trustees. John Roberts, a director for Pickwick Electric Cooperative in Selmer; Jimmy Gregory, manager for Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation in Carthage; and Dave Cross, manager for Plateau Electric Cooperative in Oneida, were elected to four-year terms.

“We congratulate those selected to serve on the TECA board of trustees,” says Callis. “Their talents and ideas will be valuable as we work to serve Tennessee’s electric cooperatives and their consumers.”

The fourth annual TECA Top Tenn Communications Awards were presented during the event. Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative received an award for Best External Newsletter or Magazine Section; Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation, Best Internal Newsletter; Duck River Electric Membership Corporation, Best Website; Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative, Best Use of Social Media. Duck River Electric Membership Corporation, Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation and Gibson Electric Membership Corporation each received Awards of Excellence in the Wild Card category, with Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation, Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative and Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative earning Awards of Merit.

“It is important for electric cooperative consumer-owners to be educated and informed,” says Robin Conover, TECA’s vice president of communications and editor of The Tennessee Magazine. “We honor these winners for telling the electric cooperative story in a professional way.”

NASHVILLE – More than 400 electric co-op employees participated in the 2018 Tennessee Electric Cooperative Day of Service on Thursday, Oct. 18. Twenty-five individual service projects were completed across the state with 13 co-ops allowing 425 employees to volunteer more than 1,000 hours in service to their local communities.

“It’s amazing what giving hearts and willing hands can do!” says Vanessa Clayborn, manager of member services at Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative in Centerville, Tenn. “We had 53 employees participate in this year’s Day of Service, and the results are staggering and life-changing for those who participated and those we helped.”

“It is really incredible to see the passion that co-op employees have for their communities,” says Trent Scott, vice president of corporate strategy and organizer of the event. “We frequently talk about service to community, and this event puts words into action in very real and tangible ways.”

Service projects completed for this year’s event include four energy efficiency workshops or safety demonstrations, five parks and playgrounds cleaned and refurbished, seven food and clothing drives, four luncheons for local veterans or first responders and two home building projects.

This is the second Day of Service event conducted by Tennessee co-ops. In its two-year history, 756 employees have volunteered more than 2,000 hours in service to their communities.

Photos from the 2018 Day of Service event: