Month: November 2018

United we stand: Statewide association for electric cooperatives updates name

Kentucky Electric Cooperatives is the new identity of our statewide association, which represents and supports all 26 electric co-ops in the Bluegrass State. These locally owned co-ops provide power to more than 1.5 million people across 117 of the state’s 120 counties.

Chris Perry, President and CEO, Kentucky Electric Cooperatives

Our services to your local co-op include safety and management training, communications support led by our flagship publication, Kentucky Living, and public advocacy before the state legislature and state agencies.

We work to ensure that legislation and regulations won’t adversely affect your local co-op’s ability to provide safe, reliable and affordable electricity. That’s why we need your help to speak up for your co-op to your local elected leaders.

Our new name reflects the unity and collective strength of Kentucky co-ops. When we work together and present a unified front, our co-ops can achieve much more than we can as separate entities. This is an important collaboration to help your local co-op continue to efficiently and effectively serve you.

Though the commitment of the statewide association to its member co-ops has remained constant since we formed 75 years ago, every generation has had to adapt to its own unique circumstances and make careful and conscientious choices.

We continue to evolve, just like your local electric co-op. Kentucky Rural Electric Cooperatives Corporation (KRECC) was officially incorporated in 1948, and in 1974 we became Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives (KAEC).

At Kentucky Electric Cooperatives, each co-op brings its unique experience to the table. Your co-op was built by, belongs to, and is led by people in its home communities. Yet one of our principles is cooperation among cooperatives, and our unity has never been more important than in this era of co-op history. 

Making dreams come true and saving lives

Holiday traditions


Traditions are an essential part of the holidays, and that is certainly true at the Pendergraft home in Henderson.

Each Thanksgiving the Pendergrafts savor a big meal and then pull out their lists. It’s time to go shopping—for some 600 children.

Larry Pendergraft, his brother Richard and their siblings are the heart of the Henderson Goodfellows, a local organization that for 57 years has provided children with clothes, toys and a party to celebrate Christmas.

They get the names of needy children from local schools and the money to care for their needs from local people—mostly in the form of $5, $10 and $20 donations, which “although small, really add up,” according to Larry.

“When I was very young, a little girl was sitting on the steps of the school crying because she had never gotten anything from Santa,” Larry recalls. “I was able to pick out a tea set from our stock and give it to her. I’ve never forgotten how happy it made her.”

Larry has joined in every holiday season since, raising funds then making Christmas dreams come true for local children ages 4-11.

“We owe the Ewing Volunteer Fire Department’s success to the people who donate to us and support us at fundraisers, along with the great fire department, law enforcement officers and EMS who work with us,” says Grover Money, shown with son, Sam. Photo: Fleming-Mason Energy

Family of firefighters


Before the days of 911 in Fleming County, the community of Ewing had a phone tree for emergencies. One person called the next until everyone got the information. Young boys such as Grover Money grew into men by watching their forefathers collectively handle emergencies. They saw lives rescued and homes saved from ruin.

When he matured, Money began volunteering for the Ewing Volunteer Fire Department, and at 61, he is still a volunteer firefighter.

“Nationwide, 85 or 95 percent of firefighters are volunteers,” notes Money. “We are the first line of help available. Saving someone’s life is the No. 1 priority, and saving property is second. Many of our neighbors don’t have insurance, so it is rewarding to save their belongings as well.”

Money is also in the business of saving lives in his job for Fleming-Mason Energy. He has worked at the co-op since May 2, 1977, currently as the safety coordinator and staking engineer.

Money’s work ethic and volunteer spirit will live on another generation. Son Sam, 28, is a professional firefighter with Florence Fire EMS and also volunteers in Ewing with his dad.

Gates selected as Pennyrile Electric’s President and CEO

Pennyrile Electric’s Board of Directors selected Alan Gates as the cooperatives new President & CEO. Gates, who has most recently filled the role of vice president of operations and technical services, has held several positions throughout his tenure. Gates was hired in 1989 as an engineering aide. He soon moved to the position of substation technician and later promoted to manager of technical services. 

Jimmy Futrell, chairman of the board of directors, says, “We knew, with the strength of our internal employees, we could find our next CEO from within the cooperative. Alan has been instrumental in several positive changes the cooperative has made over his years of employment. We are confident in his ability to lead the cooperative in the years ahead.” 

“I want to thank the board of directors for giving me such a great opportunity,” Gates said. “Pennyrile Electric is a strong organization with great employees. I look forward to serving our membership and continuing our mission to provide safe reliable electricity.” 

Alan resides in Hopkinsville, Kentucky with his wife, Ashley. They have two children, Marley, 21, and Latham, 17. 

First 72 On You – Be Prepared to Stay Safe and Healthy in Cold Temps

FRANKFORT (Nov. 15, 2018) – As part of the year-long First 72 On You campaign, the Department for Public Health (DPH), within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS), is spotlighting cold weather preparedness efforts to remind Kentuckians of the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, hypothermia and foodborne illness from possible power outages and cold weather conditions.

A Facebook Live discussion on this important topic will be held on Friday, Nov. 16 at 1 p.m. (Eastern). Watch on the Cabinet’s Facebook page:

“When temperatures drop significantly below normal such as during a cold spell or during a long-term power outage, staying warm and safe can become a challenge,” said Jeffrey Howard Jr., M.D., DPH commissioner. “Carbon monoxide poisoning and hypothermia are deadly and should be taken seriously. We urge Kentuckians to take steps to prevent exposure to both cold temperatures and carbon monoxide by avoiding using alternative heating sources like propane heaters, gas-powered stoves and charcoal grills while indoors. It can be a matter of life or death.”

Officials at DPH strongly encourage residents to follow these guidelines below to prevent injury, illness or death:

Carbon Monoxide Safety

  • Avoid using alternative heating sources such as portable generators, kerosene heaters, propane gas stoves and ovens heated with gasoline indoors because this can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Don’t use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, garage or near a window.
  • Don’t run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open.
  • Don’t burn items in a stove or fireplace that isn’t properly vented.
  • Don’t heat your house with a gas oven.
  • Don’t place a portable heater within reach of children or pets and don’t use a power strip or extension cord. Look for the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) label and carefully read instructions before use.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home and replace batteries as required. If the detector sounds, leave your home immediately and dial 911.
  • Seek immediate medical attention by calling 911 if you are experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Initial symptoms include headache, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. If recognized early, carbon monoxide poisoning is treatable.
  • If you are experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning or if you have questions, call the Kentucky Poison Control hot line at (800) 222-1222.


Hypothermia occurs when the body’s temperature drops below what is necessary to achieve normal metabolism and other bodily functions. In severe cases or when the body is not warmed properly, death can result. People exposed to and not sufficiently prepared for cold weather also are at an increased risk for hypothermia.

Important steps to prevent hypothermia include:

  • Wear appropriate clothing. Layer clothes made of synthetic and wool fabrics, which are best for keeping warm. Always remember to wear hats, coats, scarves and gloves.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol if outdoors. Alcohol can speed the loss of heat from the body. Avoid overexertion from activities that cause excessive sweat, which can lead to damp clothing, causing chills. Stay as dry as possible.
  • Outdoor workers should make sure they are dressed appropriately and take frequent breaks to warm up and ensure their clothes are sufficient to keep them warm and dry.
  • Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, altered speech pattern, abnormally slow rate of breathing; cold, pale skin; and lethargy. Seek medical attention if you experience signs of hypothermia. Individuals experiencing these symptoms should call 911 or seek medical attention immediately.

Food Safety

  • Refrigerated foods should be safe as long as power is out for no more than four hours.
  • If an appliance thermometer was kept in the freezer, read the temperature when power comes back on. If the thermometer stored in the freezer reads 41 degrees Fahrenheit or below, the food is safe and may be refrozen.
  • Throw out any perishable food in your refrigerator, such as meat, poultry, lunchmeats, fish, dairy products, eggs and any prepared or cooked foods that have been above 41 degrees Fahrenheit for four hours or more. If the food still contains ice crystals or is 41 degrees Fahrenheit or below, it is safe to refreeze.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables are safe as long as they are still firm and there is no evidence of mold or sliminess. Raw meats, poultry, cheese, juices, breads and pastries can be refrozen without losing too much food quality. Prepared food, fish, vegetables and fruits in the freezer can be refrozen safely, but food quality may suffer.
  • To remove spills and freshen the freezer and refrigerator, DPH recommends washing with a solution of two tablespoons of baking soda dissolved in one quart of warm water. To absorb any lingering odors, place an open box or dish of baking soda in the appliance.

Questions for the First 72 On YouFacebook Live discussion with state public health officials can be emailed in advance to chfs.communications@ky.govor posted in the comments section during the event at

More information about how to stay safe and healthy in cold weather can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at


The flip of a switch

Electric reliability depends on big plans and small fixes 

Next time you flip a switch and the light comes on, think about the time it didn’t in a spectacular way for nearly 4,000 Kentucky electric co-op members.

Around 1 a.m. on a day in May 2011, a snake slithered into a Berea-area substation—that’s one of those fenced-in areas full of wires and transformers where high voltage gets stepped down for use in your home.

A snake is shaped a bit like a wire, and the last act for this reptile connected a couple of conductors not meant to be connected. Metering equipment shorted out, rupturing the voltage regulator and sparking a fire that destroyed most of the equipment in the substation.

Lights came back on for the co-op members less than 24 hours later. But the snake and the substation tell a larger tale of what it takes to keep electricity flowing. That larger story is that while building and maintaining a reliable electric grid calls for billions of dollars and thousands of miles of power lines, you also have to sweat the small stuff.

To find out what it takes to make sure you have electricity whenever you want it, we went to the source of the power.

For co-op members in Kentucky, that power comes from one of three large organizations, called generation and transmission cooperatives (G&Ts), because, of course, they make sure that electricity gets generated, then transmitted to your local electric cooperative. Your local co-op is called a distribution co-op because it distributes that power to the homes and businesses in your area.

East Kentucky Power Cooperative, which is based in Winchester, supplies 16 distribution co-ops in primarily the eastern half of the state; Big Rivers Electric Corporation is the Henderson-based G&T for the three distribution co-ops along the northwest Kentucky border; and the Tennessee Valley Authority, which technically is not a cooperative G&T, but instead is a federal corporation, provides electricity to 154 local power companies in seven states, including five distribution co-ops in southwest Kentucky.

Representatives from all three tell similar stories about the enormous job of keeping the electricity flowing 24/7. And they all talk about critters—woodpeckers for Big Rivers and buzzards for TVA.

“Woodpeckers love our poles; they’re apparently delicious,” says Mike Chambliss, Big Rivers’ vice president of system operations. Big Rivers developed a mesh covering to prevent the woodpeckers from weakening the poles. TVA installs buzzard shields to keep the birds off its power lines and transmission towers.

Nick Comer, the external affairs manager with East Kentucky Power, says it began using an attachment to go around the base of a substation fence, with a lip sticking out at the top so snakes can’t crawl up, over and in.

Planning and security

Preventing interference from varmints is just part of running the electric grid, which the National Academy of Engineering calls the most important engineering achievement of the 20th century. Comer, Chambliss and Ernie Peterson, the Kentucky general manager for TVA customer delivery, all describe
their mission as providing reliable, affordable and safe electricity—and they say each of those is critically important.

“You start with the fuel source,” says Peterson, which in Kentucky is mostly coal and natural gas, as well as some hydroelectricity, nuclear power and, increasingly, solar energy and other renewable power sources. “You’ve got to get that fuel to the power plant and then the plant’s got to be able to reliably convert that fuel into electricity, and then you’ve got to have all the proper transmission equipment in place so you can get the electricity to the distribution cooperative where they have all the right transformers and wires and communications equipment to get those electrons to the individual homes, businesses and industry.”

One key to getting all that done is planning. Massive, detailed planning. Every few years the three G&Ts produce a document of more than 200 pages called an integrated resource plan. In between are annual planning sessions.

East Kentucky Power is in the middle of its several-monthlong strategic planning session, involving dozens of staff and board members. They’ll analyze and talk through markets and finances for the different fuels they use, the future of renewable energy, environmental and other regulations, the status of their power plants and what the future cost of electricity might be.

All that planning results in power being off for only about two hours a year for the average utility customer in the United States. And the trend is improving. According to one standardized measure (a measure that excludes both extremely short outages and especially long and widespread outages), the average American was without power for just 127 minutes in 2016, down from 144 minutes 10 years earlier. The number of outages per consumer declined slightly as well, from 1.33 a year in 2007 to 1.3 in 2016. The length of each of those outages declined from 109 minutes in 2007 to 99 minutes 10 years later.

That reliability doesn’t happen without a lot of work. At Big Rivers, quarterly meetings of maintenance, engineering and operations staff review and find solutions for any problems.

Richard Easton is a maintenance leadman with Grayson RECC and part of the all-important team that keeps the lights on. Photo by Tim Webb

And they make up practice problems to solve.

“You have to anticipate that things are going to go wrong,” says Chambliss. “If a car hits a pole you have to have a plan and you have to revise that plan frequently and you have to drill on that plan. You have to create scenarios and put your people to grueling exercises.”

How do they get the ideas for the grueling scenarios?

“We come up with scenarios like you have this huge rain event where the roads are flooded and closed, then just as the rain stops, you have a major windstorm,” says Chambliss. “We blow everything down and now tell people to figure out how to get the lights back on. Last year we used an earthquake.”

Physical security and cybersecurity add another ingredient to reliability. The G&Ts talk about installing cameras to prevent theft of copper wire from substations. They describe protections from the thousands of electronic threats every day to the electricity network. Reliability involves working with state, regional and federal groups, especially the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, which develops and enforces standards to keep the lights on.

So electric utility reliability requires steps as big as building firewalls against internet hackers to as small as developing barriers for snakes. Entire departments are tasked with keeping trees and other vegetation away from where they can interfere with power lines.

For TVA’s Ernie Peterson, that broad and varied work and expertise is worth the attention it gets.

“I’ve spent some time on mission trips in other countries where having electric power, if you had it at all, is certainly not reliable,” says Peterson. “We’re blessed here to have electric power available to us anytime we want, truly at the flip of a switch. That doesn’t just happen.”

By Paul Wesslund, from Kentucky Living, October 2018.


Toasty tips to stay warm

We’ve added insulation to our home, but what else can we do to make the house more comfortable this winter?—Emily

There’s more to a comfortable temperature than where the thermostat is set. Radiant heat is an important piece of the comfort puzzle. It transfers heat from a warm surface to a colder one. Even long after the walls warm, a person sitting in a room that’s 70 degrees can still feel chilly if there’s a cold surface nearby, like a single-pane window, a hardwood floor or an exterior wall. Try covering these cold surfaces with area rugs, wall quilts or tapestries, bookcases and heavy curtains to help prevent heat loss.

Keep in mind, radiant heat also can work in your favor. A dark-colored tile floor that receives several hours of direct sun can retain heat during the day and radiate it into the room during the evening.

Take a look at your home’s heating system. Is it distributing heat evenly and efficiently? If your house has a forced-air system with ducts and registers, check to see whether some supply registers are blowing too much warm air and others too little. Ideally, every room should have return air registers. You may need to get help from a certified contractor who knows how to improve ductwork.

Schedule an annual inspection to be sure your furnace is running at peak efficiency. Check your filter monthly and replace or clean it as needed. If you heat your home with radiators, bleed them (release trapped air) at the beginning of the season so they flow more efficiently.

Plug those leaks

On average, a typical home loses about half its air every hour, and that amount can increase when it’s cold and windy outside. In this case, the best way to keep your home toasty is to minimize air leaks. You can easily locate air leaks in your home with a blower door test, which can be done by an energy auditor.

Some common sources of leaks are cracks around windows and doors, plumbing and wiring penetrations, and mail slots and pet doors. Products like caulk, weather stripping, outlet cover gaskets and dryer vent covers can be used to seal these leaks.

PAT KEEGAN and BRAD THIESSEN write on energy efficiency for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Kentucky’s electric co-ops focus on safety of elderly community


With the elderly community expected to grow to one in five Americans by the year 2050, Kentucky’s electric cooperatives are looking to decrease the deaths in those 64 and older due to electrical dangers. The U.S. Fire Administration statistics note that approximately 1,000 seniors die each year in fires.  

“Our older members are especially vulnerable when they’re cooking or if they aren’t using auxiliary heaters correctly,” says Chris Perry, president and CEO of the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives.  

A number of factors increase their risk for danger, including slower reflexes, which may also be impacted by medication, thinner skin and other health issues.  

“One of the easiest ways to improve your chances of surviving a fire is to make sure the smoke alarm in your home is working,” Perry says. “Change the alarm’s batteries twice a year—once in the spring and once in the fall.” 

Some other quick tips to remember are never leave pots and pans unattended to avoid creating a fire hazard, and never open the oven door if something catches on fire. If the fire does not go down on its own, leave the house and call 911. When handling electrical cords, they shouldn’t be secured on walls or floors with nails, staples or tacks because it could risk damaging the cords. Following these at-home tips can decrease electrical dangers. 

Electric co-ops urge Kentuckians to vote

By Chris Perry
President & CEO
Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives

“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”

That quote, attributed to President Abraham Lincoln, is tinged with the regret of someone on the short end of a vote tally. Though Lincoln’s election sentiments are as relevant today as in the 19thcentury, let’s remember that the consequences of elections can also be positive.

Chris Perry, KAEC President and CEO, KAEC. Photo by Brian Bohannon

The recognition of the consequences of elections is the motivation behind Co-ops Vote, an initiative led by electric cooperatives here in Kentucky and across the nation, to remind rural Kentuckians that the best way for your interests and concerns to be represented in government is to express them at the ballot box.

Co-ops Vote is non-partisan; it does not advocate or endorse a particular party or candidate. Instead, Co-ops Votetaps into the democratic DNA of rural electric cooperatives that serve their consumer-members in 117 of Kentucky’s 120 counties. A cooperative is uniquely suited to understand and serve a community because it literally belongs to the people it serves and was built by people in that community.

When Co-ops Vote was launched two years ago, it aimed to reverse a downward trend in rural voting. And, this effort appears to have had a positive effect. Compared to the previous national election cycle in 2012, 500,000 more rural voters went to the polls in 2016.

According to an analysis of voter turnout by the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives, rural voter turnout in Kentucky accounted for an increase of about 85,000 voters between 2012 and 2016.

Despite the increase in voters, Kentucky’s turnout as a percentage of registered voters slightly decreased in 2016, down from about 60 percent in 2012 to 59 percent.

We now face another opportunity. On November 6, all 100 Kentucky state representative seats and all six of the Commonwealth’s U.S. House seats are on the ballot, as well as half of Kentucky’s state senators, in addition to local races.

Elections matter, and the communities we serve are facing challenges that require attention and respect. To ensure that these issues remain part of the discussion, I encourage you to join me in making the commitment to vote.

Anyone who can vote, no matter where you live or whether you are a co-op member, can participate in Co-ops Vote and take advantage of its resources. Just visit take the pledge to vote in this year’s elections. Once you’ve registered, you’ll have access to information on registering to vote, where to vote, and background on all the candidates.

As Lincoln suggested, it’s up to you. It’s your decision. That’s the beauty of the vote.