NASHVILLE – Today Tennessee becomes the first state in the nation to formally adopt a standing Lineworker Appreciation Day. The second Monday of April of each year has been codified into state law as a day to show appreciation for the state’s 3,500 electric lineworkers.

Dozens of lineworkers from across the state were at the State Capitol today to be honored by members of the Tennessee General Assembly. They were welcomed by Sen. Paul Bailey and Rep. Clark Boyd, sponsors of the legislation creating the day of appreciation, along with Secretary of State Tre Hargett in a special ceremony in the Old Supreme Court Chambers. Later they were recognized from the floor of the House of Representatives.

“You should be honored and appreciated for what you do on a daily basis,” said Sen. Paul Bailey.

“Today we’re being recognized at the State Capitol for what we do, and I consider that to be a great honor,” said Greg Allison, a lineworker for Middle Tennessee Electric. “I love this career, I love the management that I have had in this industry, and I am very appreciative for what it has given me and my family.”

Electric lineworker is consistently ranked among the most dangerous jobs in America. “Safe and reliable energy is a critical part of Tennessee’s economy,” says Mike Knotts, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, “and lineworkers are the guardians of that infrastructure. Their tireless efforts, often in the face of extreme weather conditions and challenging environments, keep the lights on and our homes, businesses, and communities powered. We owe a debt of gratitude to these brave men and women who work so hard to ensure our safety and well-being.”

NASHVILLE – Forty-three high school students were in Nashville this week for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association’s annual Youth Leadership Summit. The juniors were chosen by school guidance counselors and sponsored by their local electric cooperatives.

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

While in Nashville, the students visited the State Capitol Building where they were welcomed by Secretary of State Tre Hargett and members of the Tennessee General Assembly. Summit attendees held a mock legislative session in the Senate Chambers, debating and voting on a bill they developed. In addition to lawmakers, students heard from leaders like Miss Tennessee’s Outstanding Teen, Jane Marie Franks, and trooper Shane Moore and K-9 Officer Sumo with the Tennessee Executive Protection Detail.

The Youth Leadership Summit also included a day of leadership training at the Joe C. Davis YMCA Outdoor Center and a behind-the-scenes tour of Bridgestone Arena prior to a Nashville Predators game.

Delegates to the Youth Leadership Summit are encouraged to be leaders in their hometowns and use their talents to improve rural Tennessee.

“The Youth Leadership Summit gives the brightest students in rural and suburban Tennessee the opportunity to expand their leadership skills,” says Todd Blocker, Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association vice president of member relations and director of the Youth Leadership Summit. “These young people will be the next generation of leaders in rural Tennessee, and I commend electric co-ops for supporting this effort to prepare young people for the future.”

NASHVILLE – This week Mike Partin, president and CEO of Sequachee Valley Electric Membership Corporation in South Pittsburg, was elected secretary-treasurer of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Board of Directors.

NRECA is a trade association that represents more than 900 electric cooperatives across the nation. The association’s mission is to promote, support and protect the community and business interests of electric cooperatives.

Partin is the first NRECA board officer from Tennessee to be elected in more than 25 years. As an officer on the NRECA board, he will influence policy-making that impacts electric cooperatives as well as the direction of the industry on a national scale.

“Tennessee’s electric co-ops congratulate Mike on this extraordinary accomplishment,” says Mike Knotts, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “He has been a leader among the state’s electric cooperatives for many years, and we’re excited to learn that he will now be representing Tennessee on a national level. NRECA will benefit from his knowledge of our industry and his passion for rural communities.”

ONIEDA – A group of utility officials from the African nation of Zambia visited Plateau Electric Cooperative in Onieda on Wednesday to learn more about electric cooperatives.

Representatives of the Zambian Electric Cooperative Development Program visited PEC to gather vital information as part of their five-year initiative to support increased electric utility access in rural Zambia. The visit was coordinated by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s International Program.

“The Cooperatives formed by the ZECDP will contribute to the country’s goal of increasing the current 4% rural electrification rate to 51% by 2030,” says Rajeena Shakya, Business Development Specialist for NRECA International. The Zambian study tour hopes to increase awareness of the electric co-op development process and key technical assistance needed to support emerging co-ops.

“Our CEO Dave Cross led the group during their time here, showing them our facilities, discussing operations, statistics, and logistics,” said Rachel Human, communications director for Plateau Electric Cooperative. “It was important to us to show them how electric co-ops are managed and governed.”

The Zambian delegates were given an overview by Cross and PEC board president Tim Freels on the history of the cooperative, billing information, the board election process, as well as the cooperative’s service area and organizational structure. The group wrapped up their visit by taking a tour of the cooperative’s Scott County facility.

The Zambia Electric Cooperative Development Program will receive funding from multiple national and international sources, but the first step in the process was to view a successful electric co-op in action and gather information. “We wanted to demonstrate the community-based electric co-op model and how local community is not only a priority, but supported by investing which generates income for growth,” Shakya said.

“This meeting was very beneficial to our group,” said Dr. Chimuka Francescah Chisangano, Permanent Secretary and Zambian Ministry of Energy official, at the conclusion of the visit. “I believe the success that PEC has had can be duplicated in Zambia. It’s all about bringing equal access to electricity to our people.”

“We’re really pleased that we got to host you all today,” said Dave Cross, CEO of Plateau Electric Cooperative, at the conclusion of the visit. “All of us here at PEC are honored to have been chosen to work with this outstanding group.”

 

 

 

 

Before a joint session of the 113th General Assembly, Gov. Bill Lee delivered his fifth State of the State Address on Monday, Feb. 6. In what was the longest of his career as governor, Gov. Lee delivered a robust plan that is perhaps one of the most ambitious we have seen from his administration. The speech lasted 55 minutes, and was just shy of 5,000 total words. As is tradition, it was interrupted a number of times by applause, even once by an outburst.

It is evident from the governor’s presentation, his team will be focusing on a large number of subject areas this legislative session. One of which is his proposal to establish what his administration calls a “nuclear fast track fund” to recruit companies to Tennessee that will specifically establish a nuclear development and nuclear manufacturing segment within the state. “No other state in the country comes close to Tennessee’s legacy, resources, and potential to be a leader in nuclear energy, and there is no long-term national strategy that doesn’t include nuclear energy. We cannot pass up this opportunity. Tennessee can, and should be a leader in nuclear energy for America,” said Gov. Lee. The proposal is slated to cost $50 million and will presumably be housed within economic and community development. TECA will provide more detailed information about the proposal soon.

Also of note, Gov. Lee will be placing significant emphasis on transportation and infrastructure modernization, allocating $3 billion. His administration will also be targeting economic and business tax relief, workforce, family programs, children services, teacher minimum wage, public safety, and conservation. He also proposed placing an additional $250 million in the state’s rainy day fund.

The total spending package will be the largest in state history, just over $55 billion. See below for a more detailed summary of Gov. Lee’s 2023 legislative package.

Notable Highlights from Gov. Lee’s FY23-24 Agenda

Transportation and Infrastructure Modernization

  • $3 billion to the Transportation Modernization Fund to alleviate urban congestion and fund rural road projects across the state
    • $750 million allocated to each of Tennessee’s four TDOT regions
  • $300 million to expand the State Aid Program for local road projects
  • Proposing new comprehensive legislation centering on Alternative Delivery Models, Public-Private Partnerships, Electric/Hybrid Vehicle Fees

Economic Opportunity and Tax Relief

  • $288.3 million for a one-time three-month sales tax holiday on food from August 1 to October 31, 2023, providing tax relief for Tennessee families
  • Beginning a three-year transition to Single Sales Factor for franchise and excise taxes to improve TN’s ability to compete for jobs and investment
  • $64 million to simplify tax administration and conform with the federal bonus depreciation provisions of 2017 Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, allowing businesses to more quickly recover costs and further incentivize investment in Tennessee production
  • $37.8 million for Small Business Excise Tax Relief, establishing a standard deduction from excise tax for up to $50,000 of reported net income, earning taxpayers a maximum of $3,250 in direct savings for Tennessee businesses
  • $20.3 million for Small Business Franchise Tax Relief that exempts up to $500,000 of property from the franchise tax, giving small- and medium-sized businesses that own property in Tennessee up to $1,250 in tax savings on their annual franchise tax liability
  • $7.9 million for Small Business Relief from the Business Gross Receipts Tax, increasing the filing threshold for business tax from $10,000 to $100,000 to ensure that only businesses with $100,000 of gross receipts or more will be subject to the business tax. This includes funding to hold local jurisdictions harmless.
  • $7.3 million to establish a state paid family leave tax credit against franchise and excise tax for a two-year pilot period that will mirror the federal tax credit

Workforce

  • $370.8 million to update outdated facilities in seven Tennessee College of Applied Technology campuses state-wide
  • $386.2 million to invest in new buildings, expansions and improvements to sixteen current TCAT campuses
  • $147.5 million to build six new TCATs to better serve more students across Tennessee

Family Initiatives

  • $18.7 million to increase the income threshold for pregnant women and caregivers to expand access to TennCare Services
  • $5.2 million to provide 12-month continuous TennCare eligibility for low-income children
  • $4.7 million to permanently extend postpartum health coverage under TennCare
  • $100 million for Crisis Pregnancy Provider Support Grants supporting crisis pregnancy centers statewide, improving access to healthcare and information for expecting mothers
  • $10.25 million for Tennessee Fosters Hope grant funding to elevate high quality care for children and families impacted by foster care and adoption, allowing providers to expand their services to foster and adoptive families
  • $27 million to expand programming for children with complex or special needs that face challenges being placed in a traditional foster or adoptive home by further developing the provider network and providing respite and long-term care
  • $15 million to fund the Summer Youth Employment Program to connect youth and young adults ages 14 to 24 with career exploration opportunities and paid work experiences

Education

  • $350 million in additional funding to local education agencies through Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA), including $125 M for teacher pay raises
  • $60.8 million to extend summer learning camps and expand eligibility age from 4th grade to Kindergarten through 9th grade
  • $10 million for summer bus transportation
  • $20 million in School Safety Grants to enhance school security
  • $29.7 million for the Tennessee School Safety Initiative, expanding staffing to place at least one Homeland Security Special Agent in each of the state’s 95 counties to provide threat assessments and collaborate with local law enforcement
  • Expanding the Grow Your Own apprenticeship program to help solve teacher shortages, serving 600 new apprenticeship candidates per year
  • Five percent salary pool increase for higher education employees to ensure they attract and retain the best employee base possible

Public Safety

  • Adding 100 Highway Patrol troopers and related support staff and 25 Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Forensic Services staff
  • $30 million addition to the Tennessee Law Enforcement Hiring, Training, and Recruitment Program (year 2)
  • $50 million expansion of the Violent Crime Intervention Fund
  • $357 million for network expansion of the Tennessee Advanced Communication Network (TACN) to transition remaining state agencies into TACN, improve coverage and provide infrastructure grants for local agencies to join TACN
  • $10 million to support successful re-entry by expanding Evidence-Based Programming Grants in prisons and jails with a focus on mental health

Conservation and State Parks

  • $66.5 million for the Natchez Trace Recreation Area, establishing a sportsman’s themed park with a lodge, cabins, campgrounds and a shooting range
  • $28.3 million to create Scott’s Gulf State Park, a 9,000-acre park uniting Virgin Falls State Natural Area with surrounding nature areas into a single wilderness park
  • $30 million to revitalize the Heritage Conservation Trust to support public-private partnerships through a matching grant program
  • $15.4 million for trail infrastructure and development of the Cumberland Trail
  • $10.3 million to address critical gaps along the Wolf River Greenway, a 26-mile paved trail meandering from the Mississippi River to Germantown
  • $6.3 million to expand the Tweetsie Trail in Carter County, connecting four communities, two bike parks and a pedestrian bridge
  • $70 million to TN Clean Initiative, cleaning up state Superfund sites, Oak Ridge and all 47 known dry cleaner sites
  • $6.3 million for the Rural Brownfields Investment Act to revitalize 175 known brownfield sites, creating a new state-administered grant and technical support program for remediation and economic development of existing brownfields
  • $4.7 million grant funding to improve local water quality by optimizing wastewater treatment plants, collaborating with agricultural partners to practice best management principles and supporting cities with reduction of nutrients in stormwater

Asset Management

  • $1.7 billion to address capital improvements and maintenance, including Tennessee State Parks and TCATs
  • Ensuring more than $2.8 billion of recurring revenue is allocated to one-time expenditures, allowing the return of these resources for review and budgeting next fiscal year

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.