Author: Wade Harris

Beautify I-65 Project in Warren County Receives 2022 Beautify the Bluegrass Governor’s Award

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Sept. 28, 2022) – Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear and Kentucky Electric Cooperatives President and CEO Chris Perry announced the Beautify I-65 Project in Warren County is the winner of the 2022 Beautify the Bluegrass Governor’s Award. For the sixth straight year, the Governor’s Office, Kentucky’s electric cooperatives and their flagship publication, Kentucky Livingcollaborated on the Beautify the Bluegrass initiative to recognize and celebrate efforts that enhance the Commonwealth and make us proud to call Kentucky home.

“It’s a privilege to congratulate the Beautify I-65 project, along with all the other Beautify the Bluegrass initiatives, for their incredible efforts to make Kentucky a better place to live and raise a family,” said Governor Beshear. “The Beautify the Bluegrass program is one of my favorite examples of what it means to be on ‘Team Kentucky.’ I am so grateful to every individual, family and organization who volunteered their time to improve their community.”

“All five of these projects are worthy of this award,” said Johnny Webb, the project’s organizer and fundraiser. “We hope to make other communities in Kentucky jealous of us, but jealous in a good way. We would like for other communities in Kentucky to do what we’ve done because we want to elevate the commonwealth of Kentucky. It creates community pride, and it’s an economic development tool for our community.”

Warren Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation (WRECC) nominated the Beautify I-65 project, which involves planting flowers and trees, installing fencing along five local interchanges and creating “gateway” exits with attractive signs and colorful flags. The project is a partnership among Operation PRIDE, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the City of Bowling Green, and Warren County. Organizers hope to entice travelers to explore the community and engage with local businesses.  

“Because co-ops belong to and are led by people in the communities they serve, improving the quality of life in those local communities is at the heart of the electric cooperative mission. I’m especially pleased that Warren RECC and the entire Bowling Green area rallied around this project to earn this recognition,” Perry said. “The statewide association of electric cooperatives takes great pride once again highlighting impressive, homegrown projects across our Commonwealth that are making Kentucky a better and more beautiful place.”

Kentuckians cast votes for their favorite beautification project from five finalists on KentuckyLiving.com. The other finalists included: 

  • Veterans Memorial Park Beautification Project, Liberty;
  • Eastern Elementary Garden Club, Pleasureville;
  • Lifeline Recovery Center Playground, Paducah; and
  • Hodgenville Elementary School Natural Trail and Outdoor Classroom

North Carolina co-ops and employees donate over $20,000 to Kentucky flood relief

North Carolina’s electric cooperatives have joined together to support co-op communities in Kentucky affected by recent flooding. In late July, portions of eastern Kentucky were struck by torrential rainfall and devastating floods that led to the destruction of homes, businesses and livelihoods. At least 39 people have died as a result of the historic flooding, and two women remain missing. Thousands of people lost their homes, and it remains to be seen how many businesses and jobs will be restored.

In response to this disaster, North Carolina’s electric cooperatives activated the Human Connections Fund to provide needed support to people and communities impacted. Electric cooperatives and co-op employees from across North Carolina made generous donations to aid relief efforts, raising a total of $20,205 to assist communities and families impacted by the flooding.

“The long-term recovery from the flooding devastation in eastern Kentucky is going to need a lot of assistance” said Chris Perry, president and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “We are humbled but not surprised by the generosity and leadership of North Carolina’s electric cooperatives who immediately stepped up to help their co-op family in this critical time Kentucky’s electric cooperatives enjoy a long and sincere friendship with our counterparts in the Tarheel State, from mutual aid after disasters to advocacy for the members we serve. When I think of the co-op spirit of North Carolina’s electric cooperatives, I am reminded of their state motto: To be, rather than to seem. Thank you for being there for Kentucky.”

“In times of crisis, co-ops and their employees always step up to assist our neighbors,” said Nelle Hotchkiss, senior vice president and COO of association services for North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives. “Whether it’s through sending line crews to assist in outage restoration efforts or donations to local charities and non-profits, the cooperatives’ focus on community and the power of human connections shines when their members need it most.”

The Human Connections Fund was established in December 2005 and gives North Carolina electric cooperatives and their employees the ability to assist sister cooperatives and their members in times of need. The initiative has previously provided donations to those affected by severe storms, hurricanes and other disasters here at home and throughout the country.

In Time of Rapid Change, Matheson Tells Electric Co-ops ‘It’s Good to Be Us’

NRECA CEO Jim Matheson urged electric cooperative leaders at Regional Meetings 1&4 to take on the historic changes and opportunities emerging across the industry and know the association is ready to lead and partner to ensure co-ops are equipped to best serve their members.

“It’s all about change and the opportunities it brings,” Matheson said in his keynote address Wednesday in Indianapolis.

“This meeting is your chance to meet the people at NRECA who are leading these efforts, and for you to learn more.”

Matheson noted three key areas of transformation and opportunity for co-ops—broadband, infrastructure and politics—and how NRECA is evolving in its own right to meet their needs.

“It’s the most important work we’re doing right now, and we want you to make the most of these opportunities to invest in your co-op’s reliability, resilience and relevance,” he said.

NRECA Broadband launched in July for co-ops delivering high-quality internet, building networks or finding other ways to help close the digital divide. Its team of experts are steeped in telecommunications policy, regulations and its highly competitive politics, he said.

“We’re positioning NRECA to best support our members [and] to make darn sure we are on a level playing field,” said Matheson.

When it comes to infrastructure, the $1.2 trillion federal law offers enormous opportunities for co-ops to invest in electric vehicles, disaster mitigation and technologies for a smart grid, microgrids and cybersecurity.

To help smooth the complex compliance process, NRECA is bringing co-ops together to work on projects and grant applications.

“NRECA is here to make it as easy as possible to access these programs and put them to work for you,” Matheson said.

In the political arena, polarized gridlock may be a constant, but “electric co-ops will be as respected, as relevant and as effective in politics as we’ve ever been,” he said.

“You have credit and credibility on both sides of the aisle for the work you do. NRECA’s reputation, your reputation, is sterling. And that matters more now than ever before.”

For example, Congress came together last month to pass the budget reconciliation bill with provisions giving direct-pay tax credits for electric co-ops to deploy new energy technologies—a top priority for NRECA.

“It covers any tax credit for energy technologies—renewables, storage, carbon capture—anything the federal government might offer as an incentive to a for-profit utility, a not-for-profit co-op can now use, too,” Matheson said. “Now, and in the future. And that’s a pretty big deal.”

In many ways, NRECA member co-ops “are much bigger than politics,” he said. By revolutionizing the electric industry and making key investments in their communities, co-ops draw bipartisan recognition in Washington, he said.

“It is a time of rapid change—to be sure—but it’s also good to be us,” Matheson said. “Thanks to the work of your co-op, we have every advantage with us as we lead the way to that bright future.”

Cathy Cash is a staff writer for NRECA.

Allen Purnell of Purnell’s ‘Old Folks’ Country Sausage Honored as Distinguished Rural Kentuckian

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (August 17, 2022) – Kentucky’s electric cooperatives honored Allen Purnell as the 2022 Distinguished Rural Kentuckian. Purnell of “Old Folks” Country Sausage has been making “gooo-od” sausage in Simpsonville for more than half a century. The company has over 250 employees. The Distinguished Rural Kentuckian award is the highest honor bestowed by Kentucky’s electric cooperatives, which consists of 26 member co-ops across the Commonwealth.

Chris Perry, CEO and president of the Kentucky Electric Cooperatives, presented the award following a special video tribute to Purnell at the 76thAnnual Meeting of the Kentucky Electric Cooperatives on Monday, August 15. The tribute and remarks from the meeting can be viewed on the association’s YouTube channel.

Photo by Tim Webb


“The Good Lord has been with this company,” Purnell said in an interview for the video tribute. “We’re country and proud of it! I do the best I could, and I really love what I do. It’s not hard.”

“For generations, Kentuckians have been greeted by Al with a wave and a warm ‘Hello, Friend.’ His entrepreneurial success, paired with his love for the Commonwealth he calls home, make him a wonderful choice for this year’s Distinguished Rural Kentuckian award,” said Chris Perry. “Every year, this award recognizes someone who leaves a lasting impact on Kentucky and its people. I’m proud Al ‘the Sausage Man’ Purnell is joining the ranks of our honorees.” 

The Annual Meeting’s Monday night banquet also featured a keynote address from former college basketball coach and ESPN sportscaster, Bob Valvano, in front of several hundred co-op members, friends and guests.

Background on Distinguished Rural Kentuckian Award:
Since 1982, the Distinguished Rural Kentuckian honor has been awarded by Kentucky’s member-owned electric cooperatives. Previous Distinguished Rural Kentuckians include elected leaders, authors, journalists, business executives, physicians, and sports champions. The award recognizes outstanding individuals who have devoted their lives to Kentucky in a way that matches the co-op mission of enhancing the quality of life here.

NRECA Broadband Will Give Co-ops a ‘United Voice in Washington’

NRECA has launched a new level of service for electric cooperatives that provide broadband or are considering offering it.

NRECA Broadband, which opened July 12 to NRECA voting members, offers a growing number of exclusive resources, including additional legislative and regulatory experts to represent participating co-ops’ interests in Washington, D.C.

“Co-ops entering the competitive broadband business face a whole new set of regulations, reporting requirements, tax implications and other issues specific to the telecommunications space,” said NRECA CEO Jim Matheson.

“Through this new service tier, we aim to be a strong, united voice in Washington to represent our unique interests and stand toe-to-toe with big telecom.”

Co-ops that participate in NRECA Broadband will gain access to new strategic communications services, education and events, and focused business and technology support in addition to targeted advocacy. The first NRECA Broadband Leadership Summit for tier participants will take place Nov. 17-18 in Washington, D.C.

“This new level of service will amplify our voice as a national organization in Washington, where telecommunication issues are discussed and where telecommunication business policies are decided,” NRECA Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Connor said.

“This is about building partnerships that NRECA can develop to be a more powerful voice for our members’ interests,” he said.

Participation in NRECA Broadband is voluntary and open to any NRECA voting electric co-op. The annual fee for co-ops that are in the broadband business is $12,000 plus $1 per broadband customer. The annual fee for co-ops not yet delivering broadband is $6,000.

Matheson said the time was right to expand NRECA’s service in broadband as hundreds of member co-ops work to bridge America’s digital divide.

“NRECA’s mission is to be an advocate for quality of life in the rural and diverse communities our members serve and has been for 80 years,” Matheson said. “NRECA Broadband services are a natural extension of our advocacy. We are committed to serve electric cooperatives for broadband as we do for the electric side of their business.”

Cathy Cash is a staff writer for NRECA.

Shelby Energy welcomes international copper producer Wieland 

Shelby Energy Cooperative today welcomed Wieland North America to Kentucky as the international copper producer broke ground for a $250 million copper and copper-alloy recycling facility in Shelbyville, Ky. 

“Wieland’s tremendous dedication to quality, people and sustainability makes the company a perfect fit for our community, and we welcome them with open arms,” said Jack Bragg, President & CEO of Shelby Energy Cooperative, which worked with state and local officials to help recruit Wieland. “We are proud Wieland chose Kentucky and particularly Shelbyville as the location for the next chapter in its 200-year history.” 

Wieland is constructing the new recycling facility on a 79-acre site near Interstate 64 in Shelbyville. With 75 full-time employees, the operation will melt copper and copper-alloy for recycling for use in manufacturing semi-finished copper and copper-alloy products for customers throughout North America. The facility is expected to begin production in 2023. 

“With customers located throughout North America and the globe, Wieland was looking for a centrally located site with outstanding transportation access, and we knew this site would fit their needs,” said Brad Thomas, Manager for Economic Development for Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives. “We are thrilled to play a role in helping Wieland find a home here in Kentucky.” 

Wieland North America manufactures copper and copper-alloy products, including sheet, strip, foil, tube, bar and other fabricated components for its North American customers. The company also rerolls and forms other metals, such as stainless and carbon steel. 

Last year, Wieland, based in Ulm, Germany, brought its North American headquarters to Louisville. 

Story: Nick Comer

Line trainees learn the ropes at EKPC

Dozens of electric line worker trainees received hands-on training for three days in mid-May at EKPC to better their skills in rigging and hoisting operations.

The three-day training was led by Kentucky Electric Cooperatives Director of Safety and Training Randy Meredith and held at EKPC’s headquarters and outdoor training facility. Trainees from 15 different electric cooperatives across Kentucky learned skills designed to improve the work of apprentice and entry-level line workers, including how to set poles and how to install transformers and other heavy power-line materials manually.

“Performing these tasks within the bounds of OSHA Standards is the core component of the training that Kentucky Electric Cooperatives is providing,” Meredith said.

Safety is a critical component of the training. Meredith said instilling the core safety components of the job early in the careers is not only a key to working safely, but working safely for years to come.

“We know that with a foundational understanding of the compliance standards, even the most rigorous work can be performed safely and efficiently. We want all line workers to be safe during the day and go home fully intact every night.”

NERC: weather, demand and supply delays could threaten reliability this summer

Extreme weather conditions, high seasonal demand and supply and shipping delays could pose reliability challenges for the nation’s electric utilities this summer, the North American Electric Reliability Corp. said in a new report.

“The utility industry prepares its equipment and operators for challenging summer conditions, but persistent, extreme drought and its accompanying weather patterns create extra stresses on electricity supply and demand,” said Mark Olson, NERC’s manager of reliability assessments, in a May 18 briefing on NERC’s Summer Reliability Assessment.

“Grid operators in affected areas will need all available tools to keep the system in balance this summer,” he said. 

Olson outlined industry concerns, which include ongoing inventory disruptions that are delaying generation and transmission construction and upgrades, cybersecurity threats, supply challenges for coal-based generation, and an anticipated active late-summer wildfire season in the western United States and Canada.

The report notes that reliability challenges are being compounded by evolving demands on the power grid, which has grown increasingly complex as renewable energy assets are added and consumers assert more control over their electricity use. 

“There’s clear, objective, inclusive data indicating that the pace of our grid transformation is a bit out of sync with the underlying realities and the physics of the system,” said John Moura, NERC’s director of reliability assessment. 

“We look at that long-term, and we see the transformation that’s happened over the last 10 years with our traditional baseload generation resources like coal and nuclear retiring, and lots of new natural gas and variable generation, mostly solar and wind,” said Moura.

NERC officials discussed the potential impact of summer weather and associated demand on regional transmission operators who manage large portions of the nation’s power grid. 

Seven areas face risks of energy shortfalls this summer, said Olson. “Their anticipated generation resources may not be sufficient to meet the operating reserves of a peak summer day in an average year.”

But 2022 is not shaping up to be average. Drought conditions and the early beginning of wildfire season in the West and Southwest coupled with low winter snowfalls could pose problems for the Midcontinent Independent System Operator. That prompted a “high risk” designation for MISO, which serves 15 states and Canada’s Manitoba province. 

“Drought can lead to reduced output from several types of generation, and it can also set weather conditions for higher temperatures,” said Moura.

Areas facing elevated risks include:

• The Southwest Power Pool: Drought conditions could contribute to low output from thermal and hydro generation needed to balance wind output.

• Texas: Increased wind and solar have eased capacity concerns, but drought conditions and summer heat may challenge the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and prompt manual load shed events during periods of low wind and high power plant outages.

• While the Pacific Northwest and California should have sufficient reserves under normal conditions, regional heat events could cause transmission congestion and energy emergencies. Wildfires, drought and supply chain issues could pose localized risks. 

“The risk of energy shortfall in these areas is elevated because more extreme conditions that drive above-normal demand or low resource output could deplete the reserves and lead to an energy emergency,” Moura said. He added that hydroelectric output could be curbed by drought conditions, particularly in California. 

NERC officials also warned that as older generation is retired, smaller baseload and peaking plants are being driven harder, increasing the risks of mechanical failures and forced outages. Officials also warned that some utilities are facing slowdowns in coal delivery, creating additional concern about falling reserve margins.

NRECA reacted to the report with a statement to reporters that noted “the ongoing energy transition must recognize the need for time, technology development and be inclusive of all energy sources to maintain reliability and affordability. A resilient and reliable electric grid that affordably keeps the lights on is the cornerstone of the American economy. American families and businesses rightfully expect the lights to stay on at a price they can afford. And a diverse energy mix that includes adequate baseload supply is essential to meeting those expectations day in and day out.”

Derrill Holly is a staff writer for NRECA.

Co-op profile: Logan Reeves | Kenergy

In the latest co-op profile video by your statewide association, we are pleased to feature Logan Reeves. 

In his 2 1/2 years as a system controller for Kenergy, he has demonstrated the power of positivity and is an inspiration to all of his fellow colleagues after overcoming a huge obstacle in his life.

Does your co-op have an interesting story to tell or other developments to share? If you have an idea for a video produced by the statewide co-op association, please email wharris@kyelectric.coop or mdennis@kyelectric.coop

Biden’s 2023 Budget Proposal: What Co-ops Should Know

The Biden administration’s proposed 2023 budget would increase funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect broadband program by 33%—from $450 million in fiscal year 2022 to $600 million.

The ReConnect program provides loans and grants to electric cooperatives to help pay for the construction, improvement or acquisition of facilities and equipment to bring high-speed internet to rural communities that have little or no service.

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of broadband as people have relied on it to work from home, attend virtual classes and access telemedicine appointments.

President Joe Biden’s budget proposal is, like that of all presidents, a request to Congress. Legislators have the power of the purse and ultimately will decide spending priorities and levels for federal agencies and programs.

“While we recognize that the final decision lies with Congress, we welcome the administration’s support for increasing broadband funding to help close the digital divide that is keeping rural America from reaching its full economic potential,” said Hill Thomas, NRECA’s vice president of legislative affairs.

Turning to another USDA program vital to co-ops, the administration’s proposed budget calls for continuing to fund the Rural Utilities Service Electric Loan Program at $6.5 billion. Congress increased funding for the program by $1 billion in fiscal year 2022 from $5.5 billion in 2021.

Co-ops use RUS loans to help build and improve infrastructure that provides reliable, affordable electric service to their consumer-members. Repayment of those loans with interest to the U.S. Treasury helps reduce the federal deficit. 

“We are glad to see that the administration’s budget supports the increase that Congress provided to the RUS loan program that is so crucial to electric co-ops and the communities they serve,” Thomas said.

In a departure from the Trump administration’s budget proposals, the Biden administration is not seeking to sell off transmission assets that provide affordable hydropower from federal dams to hundreds of co-ops.

The Trump administration—in an effort that drew bipartisan opposition in Congress—had proposed to privatize assets held by the Tennessee Valley Authority, Bonneville Power Administration, Southwestern Power Administration and Western Area Power Administration.

The Trump administration had also sought to increase rates for federal Power Marketing Administrations by changing the cost-based rate structure to make it comparable to rates charged by investor-owned utilities.

In its budget plan for 2023, the Biden administration proposes increased funding for climate-related activities at nearly every federal agency. That includes a boost of almost $17 billion, for a total of $45 billion, to the five agencies with the most climate-related programs. The budget requests a record $11.9 billion—a nearly 29% increase—for the Environmental Protection Agency alone.

Erin Kelly is a staff writer for NRECA.