Author: Wade Harris

Big Rivers names Don Gulley new CEO

Succeeds Bob Berry after nationwide search 

After an extensive, nationwide search, the Big Rivers Electric Corporation board of directors has named Don Gulley as the organization’s next president and chief executive officer. Gulley has been president and CEO of Southern Illinois Power Cooperative (SIPC), a generation and transmission (G&T) cooperative, for ten years. He will succeed Bob Berry who is retiring from Big Rivers after a 43-year career with the cooperative and nine years serving as CEO.

Gulley has over 35 years of diverse utility management experience working for regulated & merchant investor-owned utilities (IOUs), as well as G&T cooperatives. Before joining SIPC, Gulley served as Vice President of Regulatory and Market Affairs for Sunflower Electric, a G&T cooperative located in western Kansas. Gulley began his career with Ameren, formerly Union Electric, in 1988, where he worked in various leadership capacities for both the regulated and merchant business units.

Gulley will start with Big Rivers on January 8.

‘Cleaning Up Kentucky’ Recognized as the 2023 Beautify the Bluegrass Governor’s Award Winner

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Sept. 29, 2023) – Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear and Chris Perry, Kentucky Electric Cooperatives President and CEO, presented the 2023 Beautify the Bluegrass Governor’s Award to Whitney Lewis of Cleaning Up Kentucky today. For the seventh year in a row, the Governor’s office, Kentucky’s electric cooperatives and their flagship publication, Kentucky Living, partnered on the Beautify the Bluegrass initiative to recognize Kentuckians who help make the Commonwealth a great place to live and call home.
“All of the beautification projects we’re celebrating today have made Kentucky a better place to live and raise a family,” said Governor Andy Beshear. “I am so grateful to every individual, family and organization that volunteered their time and showed love to their communities by improving their hometowns. I also want to thank Kentucky Living for sharing these amazing Kentucky stories.”
The program recognizes Kentuckians who take an active role in preserving the state’s natural beauty and helping their communities shine.
“I’ve always picked up trash when I’m out in nature. I take my girls and we go out and enjoy nature. Now we pick up trash while we’re there to give back a little bit,” said Whitney Lewis, recipient of the 2023 Beautify the Bluegrass Governor’s Award. “Thank you to everyone that has supported me. I’m so very grateful. I’m thankful for my girls and my friends that believed in me and I hope to inspire others.”

Whitney Lewis of Jessamine County has made it her mission to make Kentucky cleaner while kayaking or hiking. She attempts to make the places she visits a little cleaner and better than she found it. While recording her trash pick-ups on social media, she inspires others and posts often to keep track of her trash pickups. As of this year, she has collected more than 2,000 bags of trash. 
“Like the electric co-ops that were built by local Kentuckians to improve their communities and help their families, these Beautify the Bluegrass projects are homegrown,” said Chris Perry, Kentucky Electric Cooperative President and CEO. “These projects were not completed to win an award. They were the result of these Kentuckians taking it upon themselves to identify how they can make our Commonwealth a better and more attractive place to live. We love sharing these stories in Kentucky Living – which celebrates the energy of Kentucky – and we greatly appreciate the Governor and his team partnering with us to make sure that these efforts do not go unnoticed.”
In August, Kentucky Living and Governor Beshear announced five Beautify the Bluegrass finalists, and Kentucky Living readers voted online for their choice to receive the 2023 Governor’s Award. The other finalists included: 

  • Somerset Veterans Memorial Park (Pulaski County)   
  • Manchester Splash Park Upgrade (Clay County)  
  • Art in the Garden (Marshall County)
  • “Community Crossroads” Mural (Shelby County)

It takes every Kentuckian to beautify the Bluegrass, so start your 2024 Beautify the Bluegrass project today and watch for the nomination form to go live next year. This annual program is about more than recognition or honor, it’s about making the state and our communities as beautiful as they can be.

$12M in broadband funds to Pennyrile Electric

The broadband expansion efforts in the Pennyrile Electric service territory are getting a $12 million boost from the Kentucky Broadband Deployment Fund. In 2021, the Kentucky General Assembly allocated $300 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars to the fund for the construction of high-speed internet infrastructure to connect areas currently without access. On Tuesday, Gov. Andy Beshear announced 56 grants totaling more than $196 million.

Pennyrile Electric Cooperative is honored to be selected as a recipient of broadband funding support from Gov. Beshear and the state of Kentucky,” said President and CEO Alan Gates. “We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with the state to build a fiber-to-the-home network for our members who are without access to reliable high-speed internet in unserved or underserved rural areas. This funding will allow these areas to grow and thrive economically. We are grateful to the state of Kentucky for their support of the members in the Pennyrile Electric service territory.” 

“Kentucky’s historic investments in broadband expansion would not have happened without the vision and commitment of Rep. Phil Pratt, Speaker Pro Tem David Meade, and Representative Brandon Reed,” said House Speaker David Osborne. “They recognized the need to expand broadband services throughout the commonwealth and drove the legislative initiatives that created and funded the Kentucky Broadband Deployment Fund and the Office of Broadband Development, despite the Governor’s vetoing critical provisions of the plan.”

Big Rivers HQ officially open

Congratulations to Big Rivers Electric Corporation as it officially opened its new headquarters with a ribbon cutting in Owensboro on Tuesday.

The cooperative’s board and staff were joined by representatives from member-owners Jackson Purchase Energy Cooperative, Kenergy Corp and Meade County RECC, as well as city officials, community members and Governor Andy Beshear.

“Big Rivers Electric has always been there for Kentuckians,” Beshear tweeted. “From ensuring service reached our farmers at the company’s inception to now serving new business and fueling economic growth, Big Rivers Electric Corporation is helping us succeed and the new Owensboro headquarters will be another win.”

The 47,000-square-foot modern facility positions Big Rivers in a central location to serve the entire 22-county service territory. The new construction at 710 W 2nd Street consists of a four-story building and a design incorporating more modern meeting and collaboration spaces that match future utility needs. 

The City of Owensboro provided incentives to offset the projected $10.8 million building cost, including a full rebate of the downtown property purchase price.

‘Co-ops Vote’ Aims for Voter Turnout Rebound

FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 22, 2023) – After disappointing voter turnout in the 2022 election, Kentucky’s electric cooperatives again partnered with Secretary of State Michael Adams today to launch Co-ops Vote, a non-partisan effort to increase civic engagement. 

In Kentucky’s 2022 General Election, 41.9 percent of registered voters cast a ballot, the lowest turnout for a mid-term election in nearly 30 years. National voter turnout was several percentage points higher at approximately 46.6 percent. In 11 Kentucky counties, the voter turnout was below 35 percent.
“With all statewide offices at stake in the 2023 off-year election, co-ops across the commonwealth are making a special effort to remind their consumer-members of the power of the ballot,” said Chris Perry, president and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “The members of rural electric cooperatives democratically elect their co-op boards, and it’s important their voices and the concerns of Kentucky’s local communities are also heard in elections for public office.”
At the Kentucky State Capitol on Wednesday, 100 high school students representing electric cooperatives across the commonwealth on the Frankfort Youth Tour joined Sec. Adams to kick off 2023 Co-ops Vote. The non-partisan initiative began in 2016 with the goal of reversing a downward trend in rural voting.
The Co-ops Vote initiative includes several programs to connect voters with their elected officials and publicize registration and ballot deadlines through social media and Kentucky Living, the flagship publication of Kentucky’s electric cooperatives.
Since the creation of Co-ops Vote in 2016, voter turnout has outpaced the 2015 rate in each election. Turnout in the most recent election of constitutional officers in 2019 rose to 44.2 percent, an increase of more than 15 percentage points since 2011.
The 2023 ballot will again include contested elections for governor, secretary of state, attorney general, auditor, treasurer and agriculture commissioner. Sec. Adams, Governor Andy Beshear and the General Assembly have worked across party lines in recent years to enact significant election reforms to improve accessibility, security and to address pandemic concerns.
”If you want the government to pay attention, you need to vote,” said Sec. Adams. “I encourage all Kentucky voters to take advantage of the recently increased ease in voting, and to be heard.”

Kentuckians can connect with elected leaders and candidates and stay informed on issues facing rural Kentucky on, a grassroots portal that links to Co-ops Vote resources.
“We are grateful to Sec. Adams for his partnership on Co-ops Vote,” said Joe Arnold, Kentucky Electric Cooperatives vice president. “Like our youth tour program, Co-ops Vote is non-partisan and does not endorse any candidate. This is all about civic engagement.”
In addition to helping Sec. Adams launch this year’s Co-ops Vote initiative, the civically-minded Kentucky Youth Tour students also met with Gov. Andy Beshear, Senate President Robert Stivers and State Representative Samara Heavrin.

NRECA honors Ted Hampton

Ted Hampton, CEO of Cumberland Valley Electric in Gray, Kentucky, and the longest-serving co-op manager in America, is the winner of the NRECA President’s Award. It recognizes individuals who have made outstanding leadership contributions to rural electrification, the nation, their states or communities. Hampton became manager of the co-op in 1964.

“Ted has led Cumberland Valley expertly through periods of enormous change, while never faltering from his commitment to provide reliable and affordable power to his consumer-members,” said NRECA President Chris Christensen. “Today, Cumberland Electric has some of the lowest electricity rates in the country.

“Not long ago, Ted faced a struggle few can imagine. He contracted a severe COVID-19 infection that required a long hospitalization, including a month spent in a coma, and six weeks of rehabilitation.

“But after spending more than 100 days hospitalized, he returned home and was back at work as soon as he was able. Through it all, Ted has used his vast knowledge and experience to guide others and sets a shining example for young leaders—calm under pressure, humble in success and always respectful of others.”

Hampton said that, during his 59 years as the co-op’s manager, “I have had plenty of bad days, but many more great or good days. I was very humbled to win this award. As any of my fellow co-op managers know, you don’t do these things for awards, you do them for people. I am very grateful for NRECA to recognize me and my career.”

O-I Glass invests in Bowling Green

Cutting-edge technology, time-tested material and up to $240 million in new facility investments are headed to Bowling Green thanks to O-I Glass, the world’s largest manufacturer of glass containers. 

The company’s new glass bottle manufacturing facility builds on a long tradition of innovation. In 1904, company founder Michael Owens revolutionized the glass industry with a machine that automatically manufactured glass bottles. And when production begins at the new plant in 2024, the Kentucky Transpark facility will be the first of its kind to use a new technology, known as Modular Advanced Glass Manufacturing Asset (MAGMA). 

MAGMA benefits include increased overall speed and efficiency in the manufacturing process. The Warren County operation will include renewable electricity, gas-oxy fuel and other innovative technology and processes. 

“O-I is determined to be the most innovative, sustainable and chosen supplier of brand-building packaging solutions,” says Andres Lopez, CEO of O-I Glass. “The new plant is an important milestone as we continue the pursuit of our expansion plan in the United States and globally, building a bright future for the company and its stakeholders. Glass is more relevant than ever, and we’re proud to support our customers with innovative solutions.” 

The plant’s innovative energy needs will be served by Warren RECC. The electric cooperative’s president and CEO, Dewayne McDonald, anticipates continued growth for O-I Glass, which employs about 24,000 people across 70 plants in 19 countries. 

“We are excited to welcome O-I Glass as a new Warren RECC member,” McDonald says. “We look forward to working with them as they grow their world-class business right here in Warren County.” 

O-I says the Warren County location will significantly increase its production capacity of glass bottles for a variety of consumer beverages, with a focus on the premium spirits market. 

The proximity to key customers in bourbon country will reduce logistics and further enhance O-I’s customer service, flexibility and sustainability, company officials say. The first production line is expected to start mid-year 2024, followed by up to two more production lines to serve the growing market and continued development of MAGMA, creating about 140 jobs.

Co-op leader advocates for Kentucky co-op consumer-members

FOR THE LAST TWO YEARS, Tony Campbell has been writing to President Joe Biden, pleading on behalf of Kentucky electric co-op consumer-members for the U.S. government to rethink policies that undermine the reliability and affordability of electric service. 

In late December, when electric utilities across the country struggled to meet record demand triggered by sustained subzero temperatures, Campbell’s repeated warnings leapt off the page, now describing a real-world crisis. 

In each of his six letters to the White House, Campbell, the president and CEO of East Kentucky Power Cooperative, which serves 16 member-owned cooperatives in the state, has stressed the life-or-death consequences of the U.S. prematurely shutting down traditional power plants while allocating hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to incentivize unreliable alternatives. 

“The threat is that, without proper planning, our grid operators could find themselves without enough resources to serve power demand, leading to rolling blackouts,” Campbell warned in February 2021. 

In late December, that’s exactly what happened. To prevent a catastrophic system failure that could have led to prolonged power outages, local power companies in more than a dozen states implemented emergency plans to reduce the energy load. Utilities asked account holders to cut back on unnecessary power use and some had to take the extraordinary step of creating short, temporary power outages. 

Announcing a thorough review, the Tennessee Valley Authority, which serves five member-owned cooperatives in Kentucky, is pledging to share what they learn, “and—more importantly—the corrective actions we take in the weeks ahead to ensure we are prepared to manage significant events in the future.” 

The renewables dilemma 

Because electricity is generated at the same time it is used, the electric grid needs to be built to meet peak demand, such as during the extreme cold temperatures this past December. 

Although solar panels and wind turbines generate electricity, they work only when the weather cooperates. Meanwhile, plants powered by coal, natural gas and nuclear, are “dispatchable,” meaning they can generally respond quickly to electricity demands. But the retirement of reliable coal and nuclear plants has forced utilities to rely heavily on natural gas to fill the gaps when wind and solar are not available. Meanwhile, the U.S. has not expanded its gas pipelines to keep pace with this growing reliance, and there is rising worldwide demand for U.S. natural gas, leading to extreme price swings along with declining reliability. 

In his letters to the White House, Campbell politely corrects rampant misinformation that has been used to rush the transition to solar and wind resources. 

“The rapid expansion of renewable capacity creates the façade that America has plenty of surplus energy for emergencies,” Campbell wrote President Biden in November 2021. “However, the U.S. is rapidly painting itself into a corner where there are few options to provide reliable, affordable energy when extreme situations arise.” 

The 24/7 reliability of renewables depends on developing dependable, cost-effective utility-scale batteries that can be mass-produced, he wrote. Despite promising advances, that technology is years or perhaps decades away, Campbell said. 

Consumers pay the bill 

In addition to his White House letters, Campbell collaborates with Big Rivers Electric Corporation President and CEO Bob Berry on op-eds that speak up for Kentucky electric consumers. (Big Rivers Electric serves three member-owned Kentucky co-ops.) In July, they explained how Kentucky electric ratepayers are paying the price for policies that are driving coal and nuclear plants into retirement. 

“The high costs they are experiencing are largely the result of years of unsound government energy policies, which have cut options to fuel reliable energy,” the co-op leaders wrote in July. “U.S. electricity producers have been forced to depend more on natural gas and must compete against foreign nations for our domestic natural gas supplies.” 

Cooperative hopes 

Campbell hand-delivered five of the letters to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm when she visited EKPC’s 60-acre Cooperative Solar Farm in March. 

Commited to advocating for local co-op consumer-members, he and Kentucky’s electric cooperatives are speaking up. 

“I understand the importance of reducing carbon emissions to address the effects of climate change,” Campbell wrote. “But make no mistake, there will be disastrous consequences if we do so in a manner that continues to make the electric grid vulnerable to widespread outages during extreme temperatures and inflates the price of electricity, making it unaffordable for our most vulnerable populations—the poor and the elderly.” 

Kenergy announces new president and CEO

Kenergy Corp’s Board of Directors has announced the selection of Tim Lindahl as the cooperative’s new President and CEO. Lindahl succeeds Jeff Hohn, who will be retiring in March.  Hohn, who has served as CEO since October 2015, will remain at the co-op until Lindahl starts his duties on Monday, March 13.
“Tim has more than 28 years of experience in executive management in the agricultural, information technology and energy industries, and for more than 15 years has worked at rural electric cooperatives.  He also served on the board of directors at a rural electric cooperative for a year,” says Billy Reid, chairman of Kenergy’s Board of Directors.  “He believes wholeheartedly in this business model and understands the important relationship between a cooperative and its member-owners.  The Kenergy board is confident in Tim’s experience and leadership abilities.”
In addition to his time spent with rural electric cooperatives, Lindahl was a co-founder and led a technology group dedicated to bringing technology and telecommunications to rural areas from 1995-2005.

Frankfort Youth Tour scheduled for March 22

The statewide office is pleased to announce the Frankfort Youth Tour is now scheduled for March 22 and will include the launch of the 2023 Co-ops Vote initiative in partnership with Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams.

The new Manager of Cooperative Outreach is Mallory Wafzig who will lead the youth tour programs, among other duties. Mallory brings over 7 years of association experience to Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. Most recently, she served as Director of Members Services for the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities where she focused on member services, grassroots initiatives, and event management. Please welcome her to the cooperative family –