Month: August 2021

2021 Beautify the Bluegrass finalists

The partnership of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives and the Governor’s office encourages Kentuckians to come together and enhance areas in their local communities. Kentuckians can vote for their favorite project on September 6 – 17. Beautify the Bluegrass winners will be announced on on September 27.

“Again this year, Kentuckians have inspired us with their projects,” said Governor Beshear. “And a special shout out to the local electric cooperatives who have led the way. When we say “Team Kentucky,” this is what we’re talking about, Kentuckians who care about their communities and take action to help.”

Congratulations to this year’s finalists:

  • McDougal Lake Trail Cleanup and Beautification (Hodgenville) – Knob Creek Conservancy
  • Ohio County Park amphitheater stage reconstruction (Hartford) – Big Rivers Electric Corporation volunteers
  • Lake Liberty transformation (Liberty) – Liberty Tourism and Trail Town Task Force
  • The Monarch Mural (Franklin) – Franklin-Simpson Garden Club and volunteers
  • Beattyville City Park restoration (Beattyville) – Jackson Energy volunteers and City of Beattyville
  • Leslie County Community Canoe Cleanup (Leslie County, Middle Fork Kentucky River) – Organized by Kammy, Wyatt, Gabriella, and Jackson Ostrander, community volunteers

Tennessee Co-op Suffers Losses but Works to Restore Power After Flooding

An electric cooperative that lost an office, several vehicles and equipment to Tennessee’s deadly floods over the weekend continues to restore power in its hard-hit service territory.

More than 17 inches of rain fell in a matter of six hours Saturday in Middle Tennessee, causing widespread catastrophic flooding that destroyed homes, swept away vehicles and claimed at least 20 lives, with dozens more people still missing.

“Within a matter of five to six minutes, homes were flooded all the way to the attic,” said Keith Carnahan, president and CEO of Centerville-based Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative. “The creeks just couldn’t hold that much water and got beyond their banks very quickly.”

Meriwether Lewis EC’s Humphreys district office and service center are located on one of the flooded creeks, and the offices, warehouse and shops at that location quickly filled with muddy water and storm debris.

“We had three to four feet of water wash through our buildings,” Carnahan said Monday. “We still haven’t found one of our vehicles, and the bucket trucks and digger derricks stored there were flooded and will need to be repaired.

“All the transformers we had on hand were under water, so they will need to be returned to the manufacturer for testing.”

The flooded facility was the co-op’s largest, and upward of 20% of its total inventory has been damaged or destroyed, he added. “We’ve lost poles, cross arms and other materials. It all just floated away.”

Ditches and creeks across portions of Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative’s service territory were pushed beyond their banks by 17 inches of rainfall Saturday. (Photo By: Meriwether Lewis EC)

Flooding and high winds knocked out power to about 10,000 of the co-op’s 35,000 meters, but with mutual aid help from neighboring co-ops and contractors, only about 1,500 members were still without service Monday afternoon. Carnahan estimated that about one-third of the remaining outages were unlikely to be reconnected soon due to extensive damage or total property losses associated with those meters.

“We have employees who’ve suffered property damage and have also lost members of their extended families,” said Vanessa Clayborn, the co-op’s manager of member services. “Some of them fought through the floodwaters to get to the co-op’s offices so they could help restore power and keep their communities running.”

As of Monday, most hospitals, nursing homes and institutional assets being used for shelter and relief efforts across the co-op’s service territory had their power restored.

Meriwether Lewis EC’s Humphreys District Office had more than four feet of water in its service center and warehouse before flooding began to subside. (Photo By: Meriwether Lewis EC)

The co-op has shifted operations to its other four service centers and is not only working to restore electric service to affected members but is also trying to re-establish broadband connections that were lost as a result of the flooding, equipment damage and power outages.

“These are hard times, but under these conditions, the dedication that co-ops have for their communities really shines through,” said Clayborn. “Electricity and dependable communications are what people need right now, and we’re doing all we can to make sure they have services or get them back as quickly as possible.”

Derrill Holly is a staff writer for NRECA.

Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Includes Billions for Broadband, EVs, Energy R&D

bipartisan infrastructure bill approved Tuesday by the Senate would provide billions of dollars for electric cooperative priorities, including broadband deployment, electric vehicle charging networks and development of energy storage, carbon capture and other clean energy technologies.

The bill must still be taken up by the House, which is in recess but could be called back to vote on the legislation.

“Investing in our energy infrastructure is vital to ensuring that electric cooperatives can continue to do what they do best: provide reliable, affordable power to 42 million Americans,” said Louis Finkel, NRECA’s senior vice president of Government Relations. “Passage of this bill is a great start. We’ll continue to work with Congress to press for more co-op priorities to be included in the bigger infrastructure packages that lawmakers are expected to take up later this year.”

The $550 billion bill does not include the Flexible Financing for Rural America Act, which would allow co-ops to save a total of more than $10 billion by repricing their existing Rural Utilities Service debt at current low interest rates without prepayment penalties. It also does not include legislation to provide co-ops with direct federal payments to develop renewable energy and battery storage projects.

Inclusion of those proposals was hampered by the absence of tax or agriculture sections. NRECA will continue to push for those two top priorities to be included in separate infrastructure legislation expected to be considered later this year.

Among the Senate-passed bill’s key provisions benefiting co-ops:

• Broadband: Provides $65 billion to connect rural communities and low-income urban residents with high-speed internet service. This includes $42.5 billion for a broadband grant program administered by the states. Co-ops would be eligible to participate in the program, and funds could be used for deployment and mapping projects to show which communities need service most.

• Electric vehicles: Authorizes $7.5 billion for EV charging infrastructure. The money goes to the states to partner with co-ops and other businesses to create charging networks. The bill also provides $2.5 billion for zero-emission school buses. Some co-ops have partnered with local school districts to help bring electric school buses to their communities, and this money could assist those efforts.

• Energy research and development: Authorizes billions to explore clean energy technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

• Carbon capture: Provides $3.5 billion for large-scale carbon-capture projects, including two demonstration projects each at coal-fired power plants and natural gas-fired power plants. It also authorizes $2.2 billion to enable the capture of more carbon emissions by building storage infrastructure, including wells and pipelines.

• Wind and solar: Boosts renewable energy by providing $400 million for research and development into wind energy and $320 million for solar energy.

• Energy storage: Provides $355 million for pilot projects that explore the potential of energy storage. An additional $150 million would go toward an initiative that focuses on long-duration storage.

Erin Kelly is a staff writer for NRECA.