The award is the brand’s highest honor, presented annually to a co-op employee or director who has made outstanding contributions to building the brand.
Touchstone Energy Cooperatives represents a nationwide alliance of member-owned electric co-ops. Collectively, it delivers power and energy solutions to more than 750 local electric cooperatives across 46 states, forming the largest electric utility in the country.
Ryan serves as a brand ambassador, educating new employees on the value of Touchstone Energy and Nolin RECC’s unique role as one of the founding members in 1998.
“It’s very significant, and it’s heartbreaking to be honest,” says Neil Chatterjee in an interview at his office in Washington, D.C. “We saw firsthand the devastating impact in these communities and what’s felt amongst the people when the power plants and the mines that feed them close.”
In 2009, coal accounted for 58% of the fuel mix used by electric co-ops across America. By 2016, coal’s share had been reduced to 41%. Meanwhile inexpensive natural gas has increased its share from 12% to 26%.
While the natural gas boom has resulted in cheaper energy
generation, it has also raised questions about the nation’s energy security. Though FERC rejected a proposal advocated by U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry that would have provided federal assistance to prop up coal and nuclear plants, Chatterjee tells Kentucky Living that FERC and the Department of Energy continue to examine how grid reliability and resilience are affected when coal and nuclear plants shut down. As a quasi-judicial body, FERC relies on a body of evidence to make its decisions.
“What does the term resilience really mean?” Chatterjee asks. “How do we evaluate resilience? Is there a threat as evidenced by the record to the resilience? And if the answers to all these questions are ‘Yes, there is a threat to resilience,’ what actions can we take that are going to be legally defensible and hopefully within markets to address it?”
Chatterjee says while federal officials consider those complex questions, he has a sense of urgency and a concern that some coal plants will close as the commission completes its analysis.
“Because once they’re gone, you can’t get them back. But I also want to get this right. And so, we are trying to work as quickly and as diligently as we can,” he says.
Chatterjee’s focus on grid reliability includes the reality that as the grid has gotten smarter, it’s also become more vulnerable to cyber attacks.
“People sometimes squirm when I say this,” Chatterjee says, “but we’ve all got to focus on our cyber hygiene.”
Amid climate change concerns, Chatterjee is vocal about nuclear power’s distinction as a source of carbon-free baseload generation.
“But in the same way that I can’t take into account the struggle of coal communities as I evaluate things, because the Federal Power Act doesn’t allow for it, I also can’t take the climate considerations regarding the shuttering of nuclear plants into my decision making. I’ve got to make decisions based on reliability, what our resilience docket shows, and those attributes.”
Regulatory and PURPA
With most Kentucky utilities regulated by the Kentucky Public Service Commission, Chatterjee was asked whether FERC and the PSC can continue to find common ground where there is regulatory overlap.
“I think cooperative federalism is incredibly important,” Chatterjee says, describing a good relationship with the PSC. “And it’s something that we strive to work toward every day.”
“We at (FERC), we actually don’t have a position on what is a superior model, competitive wholesale markets or regulated retail markets,” he says. “We just want to ensure that the lights come on and that customers are protected, and that electricity is delivered in a safe and clean way.”
The nation’s energy picture looked much different in 1978 when Congress passed the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA). The U.S. was concerned about running out of natural gas and renewable energy sources were in their infancy.
“I just think it’s time to bring PURPA into the 21st century and better align it with today’s marketplace,” Chatterjee says.
With a divided Congress unlikely to achieve any significant PURPA reform, Chatterjee says FERC may be able to implement some reform through the commission’s own regulations to better align PURPA for today’s market.
“Because of the consumer-centric nature of electric co-ops, because of the focus on affordability and reliability, since my time working in the energy space, I have had an appreciation for maintaining that sort of four-legged stool of safety, environmental integrity, affordability and reliability.”
Legislators represent local consumer-members in key votes
Being a legislator can be a thankless job.
No matter how they vote or the many factors that affect their approach to an issue, Kentucky state lawmakers are often the targets of name-calling or worse, their very honor questioned as they grapple with challenging and complicated legislation.
As Kentucky Electric Cooperatives advocates on behalf of the more than 1.5 million Kentuckians who are served by electric co-ops, we understand the pressures lawmakers face and believe they deserve respect and appreciation for their public service.
Make no mistake, at times we are forceful in our arguments to protect the interests of the people we serve. We are proud to have earned the trust of elected leaders so that as we educate them on how policies affect co-ops’ ability to provide safe, reliable and affordable electricity, they know we are honest brokers of that information.
Yet, we need to say something else to lawmakers who take the time to hear us out, and who remember local co-op consumer-members when they cast their votes.
Thank you for standing up for co-ops when you vote to protect our ability to serve Kentucky. Thank you for understanding that each of Kentucky’s local electric cooperatives is locally owned and controlled by the consumer-members who are served by that local co-op. Thank you for realizing that your constituents are the same people who own and operate your local co-op, and that co-ops are uniquely suited to understand the hometowns they serve and advocate for them.
The Kentucky Electric Cooperatives 2019 Kentucky General Assembly Honor Roll salutes legislators who consistently supported electric cooperatives in Frankfort, including during sometimes contentious and difficult debates. See the list.
In particular, we would like to recognize the stewardship of the Senate and the House leaders: Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker David Osborne. Accepting the mantle of legislative leadership is more than a title; it involves a great deal of effort and discipline, and Kentucky’s legislative leaders exemplified those values.
In addition, the leaders of two key committees were effective and articulate defenders of co-op interests during the 2019 General Assembly. Thank you to Sen. Brandon Smith, chairman of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee; and Rep. Jim Gooch, chairman of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee. Both lawmakers stood up for co-ops when it mattered most.
Co-ops know cooperation when we see it. We work together to develop new technologies and infrastructure, learn from one another, and keep the power grid secure. When disasters strike, co-ops are always ready to lend a hand.
Thank you to elected leaders who stand up for co-ops and the local consumer-members we serve.
As a volunteer small group leader with Celebrate Recovery of Calvary Christian Church, Ken Bickham, a pricing analyst for East Kentucky Power Cooperative, headquartered in Winchester, knows that everyone experiences life’s hurts.
So, when Ken and his wife, Alisa, got to know Preston, above shown at right, they offered to let him live with them while he worked to get back on his feet financially because of a past addiction that he is in recovery from.
Preston is now working in a job that pertains to his college degree and he is giving back to the community through several different venues.
“It has been a joy to be a small part of someone’s journey,” Ken says.
Most know Ted Hampton as the president and CEO of Cumberland Valley Electric, Gray, where he is deeply involved in the Knox and Whitley County chambers of commerce and participates in the Tri-County Industrial Commission. His work for the co-op is designed to help the community grow and attract jobs.
Ted also has another job—that of beekeeper.
After a friend asked Ted to help him with his bees one day, Ted bought beehives and took up the trade himself. Soon his bees were producing 60-100 gallons of honey each year.
This is where you can’t tell CEO Ted from Beekeeper Ted. Hampton wanted his honey to help others just as his work at the co-op helps others. A young boy with asthma needed honey but couldn’t afford to buy it. Ted gave it to him. Older people in the community were in the same situation, and Ted provided honey to serve their needs.
Award was given in recognition of the 527,923 production hours worked by the employees at the plant without a lost-time incident
FRANKFORT (April 15, 2019) – Danny E. Davis, Executive Advisor for the Kentucky Labor Cabinet’s Department of Workplace Standards, visited Big Rivers Electric Corporation – Wilson Station in Centertown, Kentucky to present a Governor’s Safety and Health Award.
The award was given in recognition of the 527,923 production hours worked by the employees at the plant without a lost-time incident at Wilson Station. Businesses and their employees earn this award for achieving outstanding safety and health records across the Commonwealth.
“I am pleased to recognize Big Rivers Electric Corporation – Wilson Station for their continued outstanding success in creating an environment of workplace safety and health,” said Labor Cabinet Secretary David Dickerson. “The issuance of yet another Governor’s Safety and Health award for Big Rivers, speaks directly to the dedication and achievement of Big Rivers’ hard-working men and women and their commitment to promoting a safe workplace. They set an example for the Commonwealth.”
Big Rivers Electric Corporation is an electric generation and transmission cooperative headquartered in Henderson, Kentucky. Big Rivers delivers retail electric power and energy to more than 116,000 residential, commercial, and industrial customers in portions of 22 western Kentucky counties. Big Rivers’ Wilson Station has been the recipient of the Governor’s Safety and Health Award on sixteen (16) separate occasions. This is the forty-ninth Governor’s Safety and Health Award given to Big Rivers overall.
“We are honored to receive our 49th Governor’s Safety award,” said Bob Berry, President and CEO of Big Rivers. “Each award is an affirmation that our workforce is dedicated to working safely, and we take great pride in having our efforts recognized by Governor Bevin.”
“Kentucky is committed to workplace safety and health,” added Secretary Dickerson. “It is always a good day in the Commonwealth when you get to witness the dedication of businesses toward the well-being and protection of their employees.”
For more information on the Governor’s Safety and Health Award, click here. Follow the Kentucky Labor Cabinet on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest updates
The era of the electric vehicle is upon us, and Kentucky’s electric cooperatives are gearing up so their local consumer-members are ready to take the wheel.
To help explain the advantages of driving an EV, several teams of drivers are hitting the road across Kentucky this spring and summer, starting with a travel blogger who perhaps knows Kentucky’s roads better than anyone.
Cory Ramsey, the force behind Map Dot Kentucky, has visited every Kentucky county (twice!) to document the commonwealth’s backroad treasures. “If you point to any spot on a Kentucky map, we have been to within 20 miles of any given spot,” Ramsey says. In June 2013, Kentucky Living featured Ramsey in a cover story about his travels. On Saturday, April 13, Ramsey will take the wheel of one of the ChargeChange electric vehicles owned by Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives, to help raise awareness about how the future is now for EVs.
Kentucky Living will be sharing Ramsey’s social media posts and EV facts as he travels to several iconic destinations in western Kentucky, including Farm Boy Restaurant in Morgantown, the homeplace of Bill Monroe in Rosine, and the International Museum of the Bluegrass in Owensboro. Watch for a special feature story about the Great EV Road Trip in the October 2019 issue of Kentucky Living.
Electric vehicles are a growing market for new car purchases with more and more people making the switch from the gas station to an electrical outlet to fuel their vehicles.
Electric vehicles use electricity as their primary fuel or use electricity along with a conventional engine to improve efficiency (plug-in hybrid vehicles). Drivers are purchasing the vehicles for all kinds of reasons. Many decide to buy when they hear about the savings. Drivers see around $700 in savings a year in gasoline expenses when they drive an average of 12,000 miles. They also can realize substantial tax credits that encourage low-emission and emissions-free driving. Additional benefits include environmental improvements because of reduced vehicle emissions, energy independence by way of using locally-generated electricity and high-quality driving performance.
With the influx of electric vehicles comes a need for charging infrastructure. Throughout the country, businesses, governments and utilities have been installing electric vehicle charging stations. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center, there are tens of thousands of vehicle charging outlets across the country.
This trend toward electric vehicles is expected to continue, especially with the billions of dollars that auto manufacturers are investing in these new vehicles. The list of manufacturer support is long with almost every large automobile manufacturer currently developing or selling an electric vehicle.
For more information about electric vehicles and a special rebate available for local consumer-members and employees of Touchstone Energy Cooperatives, visit togetherwesaveky.com.
Kids are our future,” says Justin Weaver. “The more you teach them and work with them, the better adults they will make when they get older.”
Justin is a father of two—Bennett, 9, and Ansleigh, 5. He doesn’t just believe what he says; he puts his words into action.
Justin is a member of the school board for the Trenton Special School District. In this role, he is pushing for more certified technology courses.
A field engineer team leader with the Gibson Electric Membership Corporation, Justin has coached virtually every sport except dance. He also volunteers at his church, working with—you got it—the youth.
“Whatever my kids are involved in, I am going to be involved in,” he says. “If you are capable and your schedule allows, you should be involved with children.”
Emma Durham loved playing basketball.
On the court, her adversaries were often in awe of her ability. Off the court, however, she faced an unfair adversary in the form of cancer. But even when her hair fell out from chemotherapy, she was on the court—smiling, enjoying every minute of the game.
“Don’t forget to smile,” became Emma’s mantra.
Today, the staff and board of directors for Shelby Energy Cooperative help ensure Emma’s message continues. Recently Lynn Joyce, wife of Shelby Energy Board of Directors member Jeff Joyce, created and donated a 5-yard quilt with a University of Kentucky Wildcats design. The quilt was auctioned, and the highest bidders were Jack Bragg Jr., president and CEO of Shelby Energy, and his wife, Janet.
That money goes to the Emma Durham Foundation to honor her memory by providing a $2,000 scholarship each year for a student at both Shelby County and Martha Layne Collins high schools. The foundation also provides small Christmas trees for young patients hospitalized during Christmas. Gifting the trees was Emma’s last wish after a small tree gave her such joy during her final Christmas.
TRENTON, Tenn. — Gibson Electric Membership Corporation hosted a large crowd of members and friends at its 83rdAnnual Members’ Meeting on March 21 at Crockett County High School in Alamo, Tennessee.
The Kurt Stephenson Band entertained the crowd with high-energy bluegrass tunes. Members were served free barbecue and hot dog dinners, toured exhibits and participated in the business meeting.
Gibson EMC Board Chairman Steve Sanders opened the business meeting by thanking members for their participation and support. He also talked about the benefits of cooperative membership including local ownership and control through the member elected board of trustees.
Gibson EMC and Gibson Connect President and CEO Dan Rodamaker began his report by stating the cooperative’s mission which is to enhance the co-op members’ quality of life by providing exceptional services that are reliable, affordable and safe. “Service reliability is a high priority for Gibson EMC and our members,” he said. “Rebuilding the Trenton Substation was a large project we completed in 2018 that was necessary to enhance service reliability for members in and around Trenton,” he explained. “Our 2019-2022 construction work plan includes other significant projects like the construction of a new substation in the south Medina area and the rebuilding of the Alamo substation, along with Phase I and Phase II of the fiber buildout,” Rodamaker said. “Within this four-year work plan, we also will convert some areas in Kentucky to 25kV to improve service reliability.”
Rodamaker talked about Gibson EMC’s commitment to safety and recognized the Alamo, Hickman, Tiptonville and Trenton employees for working all year without a lost-time injury. “Keeping our members and our employees safe is mission critical,” he said. “This is why we emphasize safety every day with our employees and regularly do safety demonstrations for our schools and civic groups.”
Rodamaker explained that affordability is another major concern for Gibson EMC. “During the three years since we merged with the former Hickman-Fulton Counties Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation, our Kentucky members have saved more than $3 million,” he said. Rodamaker also explained that Gibson EMC uses an outside consultant to conduct a cost-of-service study from time to time to understand the true cost of providing service within each rate class of members and to ensure that the rates are fair and equitable.
“In 2018 Gibson EMC completed a 40-GIG ring connecting all of our member service centers to strengthen our internal communications and our ability to remotely monitor and control our electric system,” Rodamaker said. “The fact that there are redundant communications paths to each member service center reduces the likelihood of communications service disruptions. It also provides a strong backbone for our fiber-to-the-home offerings.”
Gibson Connect, Gibson EMC’s wholly-owned, not-for-profit subsidiary, uses a web-based participation system to guide the order of its internet buildout. Join.gibsonconnect.com, was launched October 10, 2017, and Medina was the first zone to reach its participation goal. Dyer and Three Way soon followed. These zones and the area covered by a $1.4 million Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Grant (for Ridgely, Tiptonville and Samburg) are included in Gibson Connect’s fiber-to-the-home buildout. “Our goal is to ultimately provide all of our eligible members with access to high-speed, fiber-based service, but we must use a phased approach and it will take time – probably about five years to complete the buildout,” Rodamaker said.
To help move the project along and hold down costs, Gibson EMC is pursuing grants for those areas that qualify. So far, the co-op has been awarded a $1.4 million Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Grant for Ridgely, Tiptonville and Samburg and $1.22 million in CAF II funding for areas in both Tennessee and Kentucky. This year Gibson EMC applied for two more Tennessee Broadband Accessibility grants, one to serve a section of Obion County and the second to serve parts of Crockett and Gibson counties. Rodamaker said that Gibson EMC will continue to apply for grants and low-interest loans on behalf of its members as it works to provide access to all of its members.
At the meeting Brandon Gibson, Senior Advisor in the Office of the Governor for the State of Tennessee, announced that Gibson EMC had just been awarded a $588,974 grant to serve the Gadsden community in Crockett County and part of Gibson County. “Access for rural broadband is a real issue,” Gibson said. “Electric cooperatives have deep roots in their communities, and in 2017 the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act created the infrastructure grant program and permitted electric cooperatives to provide broadband internet access. Earlier this week, the Governor was pleased to announce the round two awardees of the Broadband Accessibility Grant. For this round of grants, we received 59 applications for $15 million in grant funding. The total of these applications was $62 million in requests. Gibson EMC was one of 13 providers across the state whose project was funded in round two,” Gibson said. She explained that Gibson Electric is unique, because it is only one of two providers who have been awarded grant funds in both rounds of the state’s grant process. The first was to put fiber in rural areas of Lake County. “Both grants demonstrate Gibson EMC’s commitment to its rural communities and using all funding sources available to them,” she said. “The state was very impressed with the buy-in from Gibson EMC customers and the willingness for everybody to sign up and commit to using the services.”
Rodamaker thanked the co-op’s board and employees for their dedicated service and he thanked the co-op’s member-owners for their trust and support. He closed saying, “By helping those who are less fortunate, joining together to recruit jobs to our communities, reinvesting in our electric infrastructure, and building a broadband system to provide an increasingly intelligent electric grid and access to high-speed internet service, Gibson EMC is working every day to provide its member-owners power andopportunity.”