Month: April 2021

Safety Committee votes to postpone Rodeo

The Safety Committee of the Kentucky Electric Cooperatives has voted to recommend that the 2021 Lineman’s Rodeo be postponed because of ongoing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and the ability to comply with safety restrictions.

The full Board of Directors will hear the recommendation at its May 18th meeting.

The committee’s recommendation was informed by a survey of Kentucky co-ops. 

Pending board action, it will be the second year that the Kentucky Lineman’s Rodeo to be hosted by Jackson Purchase Energy in Paducah will be postponed.

Governor, co-ops partner to ‘Beautify the Bluegrass’

Initiative encourages Kentuckians to spruce up local communities with beautification projects

Gov. Andy Beshear and Kentucky Electric Cooperatives are encouraging Kentuckians to “Beautify the Bluegrass” for the fifth straight year by improving public spaces across the commonwealth.

“Over the past year, we’ve seen Kentuckians come together again and again to protect their communities. As we head into a beautiful, hopeful spring and summer, we’re asking Kentuckians to come together in a new way, by identifying a project to help revamp, improve or beautify their community,” said Gov. Beshear. “From landscaping to painting, dozens of Kentucky communities have been enhanced in recent years through this initiative, and I am excited to see how our people will ‘Beautify the Bluegrass’ again in 2021.”

Kentuckians are encouraged to submit “before and after” photos and a description of their projects to Kentucky Living magazine by Aug. 20, 2021. Submissions can include existing projects performed since August 2020.
Kentuckians will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite project on Sept. 6-17, 2021, and Gov. Beshear will announce the results this fall. Kentucky Living, the flagship publication of Kentucky’s electric cooperatives, also will recognize the winning project.

Kentucky Electric Cooperatives, the statewide association of Kentucky’s 26 locally owned and operated electric cooperatives, joined the “Beautify the Bluegrass” effort in 2018, in partnership with the Governor’s Office, because the initiative’s goals align with the cooperatives’ mission to improve quality of life in the communities they serve.

“Cooperatives are led by, belong to and were built by the communities we serve,” says Chris Perry, president and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “Our member co-ops are excited to partner with Gov. Beshear to recognize Kentuckians who roll up their sleeves and complete beautification projects because they care about their community.”

“We can think of no better way to celebrate the energy of Kentucky than by supporting efforts to take pride in our local communities,” says Anita Travis Richter, Kentucky Living editor.

Previous “Beautify the Bluegrass” winners include the Leslie County Community Canoe Cleanup, Carroll County Friends of Camp KYSOC and the improvements to a downtown park in Mt. Sterling.

Senator Commends Electric Co-ops for Taking on Rural Broadband

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., says he knows that the big internet providers don’t always deliver when it comes to broadband access in rural America, but financial help from Congress is on the way.

Warner brought that message to BARC Electric’s broadband subsidiary in the Shenandoah Valley on April 7. The former Virginia governor discussed his plan for assistance to get rural networks built.

“In many communities, the deck is stacked in favor of the incumbents, and we have not put in place, I think, the kind of programs and resources we need to incite really expanded high-speed coverage,” Warner told a roomful of co-op and local officials from the areas where BARC Connects delivers broadband.

“I commend the co-op for taking this on, and I would love to see other co-ops be as bold as you guys have been,” said Warner, who co-founded former cellular giant Nextel Communications before it merged with Sprint. “This is an area where many of the big incumbent providers, the Comcasts, the Verizons, the AT&Ts, have quite honestly not done the job they should have.”

The senator said he believes that dynamic will change with new financial resources for rural broadband in the latest federal COVID-19 relief bill signed by President Joe Biden on March 11. It allows $350 billion in recovery funds—$219 billion in state and $130 billion in local—to be applied to broadband deployment and creates a $10 billion capital projects fund for states, territories and tribal governments that includes projects enabling remote work, education and health monitoring.

The new law also sets up a $7.2 billion emergency connectivity fund at the Federal Communications Commission to close the “homework gap” by paying for internet service, hotspots and equipment at eligible schools and libraries.

“There’s no reason why the kids in Bath County [part of BARC’s territory] shouldn’t have every bit the high-speed internet connectivity as the kids in Alexandria” just outside Washington, D.C., Warner said. “This needs to be an economic justice issue.”

Local officials, school representatives and business owners, socially distanced in the co-op’s large solar learning center, talked with Warner for an hour about the challenges of getting affordable high-speed internet service throughout the region. The senator encouraged them to contact his office when encountering barriers to rapidly expand broadband connectivity to unserved areas.

“To have him take an interest in BARC and everything that we’re doing and see the progress that we’re making, it’s a tremendous honor,” said CEO Mike Keyser.  “It is clear that Senator Warner shares our passion for this issue. To have his support in overcoming the financial and operational challenges associated with rural broadband deployment means everything.”

Cathy Cash is a staff writer at NRECA.

Meteorologists Warn of Another Active Hurricane Season This Year

Researchers at Colorado State University are predicting a more active hurricane season than normal this year for the Atlantic Basin with 17 named storms, including eight reaching hurricane strength and four developing into major hurricanes. But the early forecast falls short of last year’s unusually active season.

The researchers predict about 80 named-storm days for the Atlantic season, compared to just under 60 for an average year. They rate the probability of landfall along the U.S. coastline at about 130%, based upon 38 years of data.

Hundreds of electric cooperatives serve members within 400 miles of the U.S. coastline, from Texas to Florida along the Gulf of Mexico and between Florida and Maine along the Atlantic coast.

Climatologists with the university’s Tropical Meteorology Project, in their earliest preseason forecast ever, on April 8 cited projected atmospheric patterns as factors that could lead to increased storm formation.

The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins June 1 and continues through Nov. 30. Storm development is affected by a combination of ocean temperatures and atmospheric wind patterns.

La Niña conditions—when surface water in the equatorial Pacific becomes warmer than average and east winds are weaker than normal—may transition to neutral by this summer, wrote Phil Klotzbach, a principal researcher in the university’s department of atmospheric science. He added that the odds of a significant El Niño seem unlikely.

 “Sea surface temperatures averaged across the tropical Atlantic are currently near average, while subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are warmer than normal,” wrote Klotzbach.

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was unusually active with 30 named storms, including 13 that developed to hurricane strength with sustained winds topping 74 mph. Of that number, six reached major hurricane status of Category 3 or higher, with winds topping 115 mph.

For the 2021 season, researchers warn of an “above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean.”

“Coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them,” Klotzbach wrote. 

Colorado State forecasters will begin issuing their monthly updates in June, before increasing to biweekly updates in August. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center will issue its 2021 hurricane season forecast in May.

Derrill Holly is a staff writer at NRECA.

From Haiti to Texas: Apprentice Lineworker Thrives at Electric Co-op

When electricity came to Cahess, Haiti, in 2013, Gimps Louis-Charles bought a DVD player and invited 40 people to his home to watch movies.

“It was a happy moment for me and everyone in my community,” said Louis-Charles, 31, a contract groundworker for NRECA International at the time.

While that “flip the switch” moment marked the start of progress and promise in his hometown, it also set off a series of events for Louis-Charles that rivals any movie ending.

Today, Louis-Charles has a new life in the United States, where he’s a lineman-second class at Bandera Electric Cooperative and lives near its Bandera, Texas, headquarters with his wife, Marotine, and two stepchildren.

Louis-Charles’ connection to BEC began in 2015 when he met volunteer lineworkers John Hernandez, Jay Raspberry and Garrett Clark during an NRECA International job to extend lines to an orphanage in Caracol. The job was grueling, especially for the Americans accustomed to power tools and trucks. But not for Louis-Charles.

“He was willing to work and do whatever it took to complete the job,” said Hernandez, who’s now Louis-Charles’ foreman at BEC. “He never backed off anything, and he was always wanting to learn, always asking questions. It’s a job that very few of us can do, and he had it.”

The four men became fast friends. “I always try to ask people where they work, and one of the things they kept saying was how their company values them and how it’s a great place to work,” said Louis-Charles, who had wanted to move to the U.S. “That was the place I wanted to be and the team I wanted to join.” 

In late 2015, Hernandez heard from Louis-Charles’ supervisor in Caracol. Louis-Charles was in Louisiana and was looking for a job in the industry.

Hernandez found donors to help pay the $4,000 in immigration attorney fees to obtain a work visa for Louis-Charles, a six-month process. Later, he helped the family settle into their new home by loaning Louis-Charles money for a car and a deposit on a rental home.

“I’ve been in a similar situation where someone helped me,” said Hernandez. “I wanted to bless Gimps like I was blessed.”

Louis-Charles landed the lineworker apprentice job in 2017, but the journey to Texas wasn’t easy. His wife had close family in Louisiana, and the family had to endure a 15-hour bus trip to Texas.

“When I moved here, I didn’t know the next thing,” said Louis-Charles, who has since repaid Hernandez. “I didn’t have a place, or even money to get a place. When we arrived, we found the house ready with beds and food. All I had to do was bring my family.”

BEC is also paying Louis-Charles’ tuition at Northwest Lineman College. Classes are on hold because of the pandemic, but Louis-Charles is attending other trainings.

“He’s a great, hardworking guy who’s given employees a perspective on how some people’s lives are harder,” said Bill Hetherington, the co-op’s CEO. “His story proves through hard work and resilience and effort, you can be successful.” 

As Louis-Charles waits for linework school to resume in full, he’s working to relocate his two children from a previous marriage who are still in Haiti. He loves the camaraderie at the co-op and the small-town friendliness. “I have a great relationship with the managers and my coworkers, and it is a good place to work. I’m honored to be part of that team.”

Victoria A. Rocha is a staff writer at NRECA.

President Biden’s Infrastructure Plan: What Electric Co-ops Need to Know

President Joe Biden has announced a sweeping $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan that would affect electric cooperatives by increasing investment in broadband and electric vehicles, strengthening grid resiliency and dramatically reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

A key provision would make not-for-profit electric co-ops eligible for the first time for direct-pay investment tax credits and production tax credits for clean energy generation and storage projects. One of NRECA’s legislative goals this year is to ensure that co-ops are included in any federal incentive programs that encourage the use of renewable energy.

“For far too long, electric cooperatives have not had comparable incentives to develop energy technologies,” said Louis Finkel, NRECA’s senior vice president for government relations. “This has held back innovation.”

It is now up to Congress to turn Biden’s blueprint—the American Jobs Plan—into legislation. NRECA will work with lawmakers to help craft the details that are most important to co-ops, said CEO Jim Matheson.

“We’re encouraged to see electric co-op priorities reflected in President Biden’s infrastructure proposal,” Matheson said. “As we plan for a future that depends on electricity as the primary energy source for a majority of the economy, strategic investments in grid modernization and energy innovation are critical. Equally important is support for expanded rural broadband and other efforts to help rural families and businesses.”

As Congress begins drafting the bill, “we look forward to staying engaged to ensure that the priorities of rural America and electric co-ops remain front of mind,” Matheson said.

Here’s a look at some of the highlights of Biden’s proposal: 

Tax Incentives for Renewables

  • Makes electric co-ops eligible for the first time for direct-pay investment tax credits and production tax credits for clean energy generation and storage projects. The tax credits are expanded and extended for 10 years. Tax-exempt co-ops would finally get incentives comparable to those provided to for-profit companies to develop energy technologies.

Grid Improvements

  • Invests $100 billion in the electric grid to “create a more resilient grid, lower energy bills for middle-class Americans, improve air quality and public health outcomes, and create jobs … on the path to achieving 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035.”
  • Creates a targeted investment tax credit to spur the buildout of at least 20 gigawatts of high-voltage capacity power lines.
  • Reforms and expands the Section 45Q tax credit for carbon capture and storage projects, making it easier to use to retrofit existing power plants.
  • Establishes a new Grid Deployment Authority at the DOE that permits better use of existing rights of way along roads and railways and supports creative financing tools to fund more high-voltage transmission lines.
  • Develops an Energy Efficiency and Clean Electricity Standard aimed at cutting electric bills and pollution, increasing competition in the market, spurring more efficient use of existing infrastructure and continuing to leverage carbon-free energy from existing sources, such as nuclear and hydropower. 


  • Invests $100 billion in infrastructure to deliver reliable broadband to every American, especially the more than 30 million in communities that lack infrastructure for even minimal internet access, namely rural areas and tribal lands.
  • Prioritizes support for broadband networks owned or operated by or affiliated with local nonprofits and co-ops as providers driven by “a commitment to serving entire communities” rather than profit.
  • Prioritizes deploying “future proof” broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas for 100% delivery of high-speed internet access nationwide. 
  • Levels competition for rural electric co-ops by requiring for-profit providers to fully reveal their prices. 

Electric Vehicles

  • Invests $174 billion in the electric vehicle market, including grant and incentive programs for state and local governments and the private sector to build a national network of 500,000 EV chargers by 2030.
  • Enables automakers to ramp up domestic supply chains from raw materials to parts, retool factories to compete globally and employ American workers to make batteries and EVs.
  • Offers U.S. consumers point-of-sale rebates and tax incentives to buy American-made EVs. Biden said the plan will ensure that EVs are affordable for American families.
  • Replaces 50,000 diesel transit vehicles with EVs and electrifies at least 20% of the nation’s yellow school buses through a new Clean Buses for Kids Program.
  • Sets the federal government on a course to electrify its fleet by buying EVs when it replaces old vehicles. 

Support for Rural Communities

  • Proposes $5 billion for a new Rural Partnership Program to spur local economic development, led by rural communities, to meet critical needs. 
  • Provides tax credits, grants and other assistance to build, sustain or retrofit more than 1 million affordable, energy-efficient homes and extend affordable housing opportunities to rural and tribal areas.
  • Invests $20 billion in 10 regional innovation hubs and a Community Revitalization Fund to create new businesses in rural regions and community-led redevelopment. 
  • Quadruples support for the Manufacturing Extensions Partnership to boost minority and rural involvement in technological advancement.
  • Calls for $30 billion for R&D to spur innovation and job creation, including in rural areas, involving advanced technologies in communications, energy and biotechnology.
  • Calls for $12 billion in community college infrastructure to address “education deserts” in rural communities, boost local economies and improve energy efficiency.

Authors: Erin Kelly and Cathy Cash.