When thunderstorms are rolling your way, stay safe with these helpful tips from the American Red Cross:

  • Listen to local news or NOAA Weather Radio for emergency updates. Watch for signs of a storm, like darkening skies, lightning flashes or increasing wind.
  • Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are likely to occur. Many people struck by lightning are not in the area where rain is occurring.
  • If a severe thunderstorm warning is issued, take shelter in a substantial building or in a vehicle with the windows closed. Get out of mobile homes that can blow over in high winds.
  • If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger from lightning. If thunder roars, go indoors! The National Weather Service recommends staying inside for at least 30 minutes after the last thunder clap.
  • Avoid electrical equipment and telephones. Use battery-powered TVs and radios instead.
  • Shutter windows and close outside doors securely. Keep away from windows.
  • Do not take a bath, shower or use plumbing.
  • If you are driving, try to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle.
  • If you are outside and cannot reach a safe building, avoid high ground; water; tall, isolated trees; and metal objects such as fences or bleachers. Picnic shelters, dugouts and sheds are NOT safe.

Source: American Red Cross

NASHVILLE – Eighteen lineworkers from co-ops across Tennessee are heading to Virginia to assist with power restoration after a strong storm system moved through the region overnight and early Friday morning. Widespread wind, rain and snow has left more than 900,000 people without power in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states.

Six lineworkers from Appalachian Electric Cooperative in New Market are traveling to Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative in Gainesville, Va.; six lineworkers from Holston Electric Cooperative in Rogersville will assist Central Virginia Electric Cooperative in Arrington, Va.; and six lineworkers from Plateau Electric Cooperative in Oneida will assist Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative in Gretna, Va.

Central Virginia experienced sustained winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour with gusts approaching 70 miles per hour as the storm moved through, toppling trees and damaging power lines.

“I am always impressed by how quickly our co-ops respond to requests for assistance,” said Todd Blocker, vice president of member services and mutual aid coordinator for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Just a couple of hours after receiving the request from Virginia, these guys were loading up and heading out. Their willingness to leave home and serve others is admirable.”

File photo – Duck River EMC crews respond to storm damage in Florida. Photo by Robin Conover.

Lay meets with FLEC representatives from FLEC backstage after his speech.

Nashville – Aaron Lay, a senior at Sequoyah High School and Washington Youth Tour delegate from Fort Loudoun Electric Cooperative, addressed more than 6,000 co-op leaders assembled in Nashville today for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s annual meeting. Lay was selected by his peers as spokesperson for the 2018 Washington Youth Tour delegation and NRECA’s youth leadership council.

Lay talked about the importance of co-ops and the impact that the Washington Youth Tour had on his life.

“We are all blessed and incredibly lucky to live in such a time where it is as simple as flipping a switch to say, ‘let there be light,'” said Lay during his speech. “Upon applying for the Youth Tour I realized I had nothing to lose, but everything to gain. I made a decision to invest my time into the application, and I appreciate the people behind the Washington Youth Tour for matching that investment into me and my future.”

“Aaron stood out on Youth Tour as a leader among leaders,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “He did a phenomenal job addressing the NRECA annual meeting, and I am excited to see how he uses his talents to tell the story of rural Tennessee.”

Aaron’s full speech is below.

“You have to find what sparks a light in you so that you in your own way can illuminate the world.” – Oprah Winfrey

Let there be light……..

Ohhh, the story of electricity. You know, The one we learned about in elementary school and will be taught to generations to come.  Benjamin Franklin and his urge to play with lightning.

Thomas Edison with the invention of those things called light bulbs that I’m positive every person in this room has had the pleasure of replacing a time or two. In 1880- Small electrical station based on Edison’s design were in a number of U.S. cities.

Life as they once knew it was beginning to change drastically.  I said U.S. cities, the hustle and bustle, when most people think of the United States cities like Atlanta, New York City, and Washington come into the picture.

But ladies and gentleman the heartbeat of this great country is its rural areas. President Roosevelt agreed.

In 1935, 82 years ago, the Rural Electric Administration was created to bring electricity to rural areas such as those that the majority of us in this room come from.

I recall the stories of my great grandfather milking cows by hand and then carrying the milk in cans down to the spring house to keep it cold until the truck came to pick it up for processing. Imagining such a time without electricity is inconceivable.

For today’s society, especially today’s youth, a phone without a phone charger, a Pop Tart without a ten second microwave ride or an early morning shower without hot water would be considered unbearable.

We are all blessed and incredibly lucky to live in such a time where it is as simple as flipping a switch to say, “let there be light.”

“Nothing can dim the light that shines from within” –Maya Angelou

Let there be light for inspiration within yourself…

Like any person in my position, I was a bit skeptical of getting on a bus and traveling to a large city where the only three people that I knew were me, myself, and I.

Little did I know that the multiple people traveling from all across the state and nation to Washington D.C. would soon become some of my closest friends.

From meeting our state’s congressional delegation, visiting the sights and memorials of our Nation’s history in D.C., to fellowshipping with new-found friends aboard the top level of the Spirit of Washington on the Potomac River, this trip to our Nation’s capital had quickly turned into a trip of a lifetime.

Having the opportunity to stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the famous “I have a Dream” speech inspired me that I too, a rural farm kid from East Tennessee have a dream as well.

Visiting the homes of former presidents, honoring the service men and women who gave their life during World War II amidst the water fountain- it is these moments throughout the trip that were truly life changing.

The humbling experience of the laying of the wreath and changing of the guard of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery gave me great pride of the sacrifice of our fallen.

You see, it isn’t the places we went or the food we ate but the inspiration drawn, friendships created, and memories made during the Washington Youth Tour that I will cherish forever.

Let there be a light of gratitude…

“Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.” – William Faulkner

These experiences reminded me of how this amazing trip to Washington was even possible. The vision of the leaders of the NRECA and our respective state and local cooperatives know how important young leaders are.

Young people have been coming to Washington, D.C. for years because of the commitment they have made to their communities, state, and nation, and I am forever grateful for that commitment.

The Washington Youth Tour is much more than seventeen-hundred teens from across the country coming together to tour Washington. It is about discovering and inspiring the young leaders of tomorrow individually.

Taking time to encourage and polish young people like myself is not always as simple as it sounds, but I think I can speak for every person on the trip when I express a sincere Thank you.

“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future”- Franklin D. Roosevelt

Let there be light for youth leadership…

I have always been taught that a leader is meant to empower, not overpower and that with ability comes responsibility. There is a Japanese proverb that goes “None of us is as smart as all of us.”

Working together in groups of people can become somewhat chaotic at times but one principle always shines through, and that is that working together will always take you forward.

While walking the streets of Washington, D.C. it could be viewed as just a bunch of large buildings made of marble and granite, but after attending the tour I have gained a new appreciation for the individuals who work in these buildings as they are the ones that make this country great.

Upon applying for the Youth Tour I realized I had nothing to lose but everything to gain. I made a decision to invest my time into the application and I appreciate the people behind the Washington Youth Tour for matching that investment into me and my future.

I want to thank Ms. Amy Kirkland and Mr. Jared Bracket of my local coop, Fort Loudoun Electric, the Tennessee Electric Cooperatives Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association for giving me, as Oprah Winfrey would say, a “light bulb moment.”

You see, there would not be any young leaders without the forethought of the leaders in front of them. After all, the universal symbol of a good idea is a light bulb. Let there be light.

[NASHVILLE] – Electric co-op leaders, including one from Tennessee, appeared today on RFD-TV to discuss the important role that co-ops play in rural communities.

During an interview on the network’s Market Day Report, Mike Partin, CEO of Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative in South Pittsburg, Tenn., discussed the role that electric co-ops can play in rural broadband expansion.

“It makes a lot of sense for co-ops to be a part of the solution,” said Partin. “We have the people and the equipment needed to do this, but most importantly, we have the passion to do this. We are talking about areas that don’t have broadband because there is not a lot of money to be made there. If it were highly profitable, some other company would have already built it. We are doing this because it is the right thing to do. We are a part of rural America, we have been for decades, and we are not willing to stand by and watch the communities we love be left behind.”

Partin also discussed the important role that broadband has in economic development, a topic that is very important to rural communities and electric co-ops.

“Rural America has a lot to offer,” said Partin. “We have low overhead. We have a skilled workforce. There are a lot of reasons that businesses would want to locate to rural America. In Tennessee last year, 45 percent of all new jobs created in the state were created in rural counties. That’s remarkable. Businesses have an appetite for rural America. But if they cannot connect to the outside world, it doesn’t matter how great the site or how talented the workforce, they’ll walk away and go somewhere else. That’s truly unfortunate. We need jobs and investment to have robust and sustainable communities.”

RFD-TV is a national network that features programming devoted to rural issues, concerns and interests. The network can be found on DirecTV, Dish Network and most cable TV companies. Co-op leaders from across the country are in Nashville this week for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s annual meeting, and Monday’s segment was filmed at the network’s studio in Nashville.

Mike Partin, president of Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative, addressed the TVA board during its quarterly meeting today in Chattanooga. Partin challenged TVA to work alongside local power companies to address the challenges and opportunities facing the Valley.

“Our industry stands at a crossroads, and together with a commitment to all the people of the valley, we will continue to be a leader in innovation and energy solutions,” said Partin. “We fully support TVA and it’s ongoing, 80-year commitment to the Tennessee Valley. The partnership between TVA and Tennessee’s local power companies has delivered both power and opportunity to the Valley. Together, we have an unmatched record of improving this area and the everyday lives of the people who call it home.”

Video of today’s board meeting will soon be available on TVA’s website.

The unusually cold weather in December and January has created some unusually high electric bills for members of electric co-ops. Many are asking the question, “Why does my bill go up when it is cold outside?”

The infographic below helps explains the relationship between electric rates and energy consumption.

If you are concerned about your electric bill, contact your local co-op to learn more about programs and services that can help you save energy and money the next time the weather gets cold (or hot).

 

CHATTANOOGA – Today the Trump administration released the Legislative Outline for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America, a framework to address improvements to the nation’s transportation, energy, utility and healthcare needs. Among the items included in the plan was a proposal to sell the Tennessee Valley Authority’s transmission assets.

In response to the administration’s proposal, the Tennessee Valley Public Power Association, the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and the Tennessee Municipal Electric Power Association share the following response:

  • We strongly support the public power model and are fearful divestiture of transmission assets would have a negative effect.
  • We recognize the importance of TVA’s transmission assets to 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.
  • It is important to note that Congress has not appropriated money to TVA since 1992, and customers have paid back the initial investment plus interest.
  • According to a 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. Source of these funds are the Valley’s ratepayers.
  • 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.
  • Divestiture of part or all of TVA assets has been proposed in the past. Each time, Congress has vehemently rejected such privatization.
  • Proceeds from the sale of TVA’s transmission assets would go to the U.S. Treasury and would not benefit Valley ratepayers.

A complete copy of the Legislative Outline for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America is available on the TECA website.

Evolving technology is changing how energy is generated and distributed through the electric grid to homes and businesses. These changes have brought new challenges and opportunities to electric co-ops working to keep pace with the evolving landscape.

Within the electric cooperative workforce, new skills and experience are needed to help co-ops meet shifting market and consumer demands. This is why electric co-ops are recruiting fresh talent to help us provide even greater value to our members.

Co-ops are owned by the people we serve. This subtle fact impacts everything that happens at the cooperative.

People – the consumers we serve – always come before profits, and our employees are serious about the responsibility that we have to provide power to our communities. The work that we do not only makes life more comfortable and convenient, but we also make the hospitals operate, the factories run and the cell phones, computers and other technology that we rely on each day function.

Our employees power everyday life for our region. It is a serious – and sometimes hazardous – job that is incredibly rewarding and full of opportunity.

There is a broad range of highly-trained professionals working behind the scenes at your local co-op.

Lineworkers are the most visible and identifiable employees of the co-op, but their responsibilities go far beyond climbing poles and repairing lines. They can also pinpoint an outage from miles away and restore power remotely.

Experts in information technology are increasingly important to safeguard the grid and protect data and other sensitive cyber assets. Engineers provide ongoing expertise and guidance on the operations side of the utility, particularly as system upgrades and more renewable energy choices become available.

Professionals in business administration, communication and digital media help co-ops deliver messages through multiple platforms and keep members informed of critical information in today’s 24/7 media environment.

Electric co-ops are looking for people with technical skills who also understand our mission to serve our communities and members.

Simply put, we believe co-ops build a better world, and we are looking for talented people to join us. Contact your local co-op to learn more about a career that is close to home, but far from ordinary.

More than 200 electric co-op leaders from across the state were in Nashville on Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 29 and 30, for the 2018 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.

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally opened the meeting on Tuesday morning. “I’d like to welcome you here to Nashville,” he said. “I appreciate the job you do.”

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives maintain a visible presence in Nashville and Washington, D.C., to protect the interests of co-op and their consumer-owners. “We are here to give a voice to rural Tennesseans,” 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,” said Michael Watson, president of TECA’s board of trustees and CEO of Duck River Electric Membership Corporation. “It is critically important that our elected leaders in Nashville keep cooperatives in mind when crafting laws and regulations that impact us. We have a responsibility to our communities to tell their story.”

Co-ops addressed three specific issues during their visits this year:

  • Co-ops asked lawmakers to support Senate Bill 1646 and House Bill 1591 that will speed the deployment of broadband by allowing co-ops to utilize existing easements for nonelectric purposes such as telecommunication services.
  • Co-ops expressed support for Senate Bill 1752 and House Bill 1773 that will elevate the charges of assaulting a utility worker and makes them consistent with penalties already in place to protect other first responders.
  • While legislation has not yet been filed, a final issue discussed was an effort by the Department of Revenue to apply sales tax to fees paid by utility consumers. Co-ops asked the General Assembly to enact legislation to protect utility consumers from these additional taxes.

“Educated and informed legislators are necessary for us to provide low-cost, reliable power, and our legislators listen when we come to visit,” said Callis. 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.

[NASHVILLE] – On Friday, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development announced that two electric cooperatives will receive grants to support the deployment of broadband in rural Tennessee. Gibson Electric Membership Corporation in Trenton will receive $1,353,148 million and Tri-County Electric Membership Corporation in Lafayette will receive $1,350,000.

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

“We are pleased that the state recognizes the vital role co-ops can play in the expansion of broadband,” said Callis. “Modern healthcare, education and commerce depend on access to fast, reliable internet, and co-ops are uniquely positioned to bring this service to rural and suburban Tennessee. Today, we celebrate with Gibson EMC, Tri-County EMC and the communities they serve.”

In 2017, the Tennessee General Assembly, bolstered by strong support from Gov. Bill Haslam, passed the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act. This landmark legislation removed restrictions that prevented electric cooperatives from providing retail internet access and established a grant fund to encourage broadband expansion.

Tennessee’s electric co-ops serve more than 2.5 million Tennesseans, many of whom do not currently have access to broadband.