Category: Public News

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.”

Tim Farmer Honored as 2023 Distinguished Rural Kentuckian

Kentucky Co-ops Present Award at 77th Annual Meeting that Emphasized Grid Reliability

Kentucky Electric Cooperatives recognized outdoorsman and television host Tim Farmer as its 2023 Distinguished Rural Kentuckian during the co-op association’s 77th Annual Meeting in Louisville. As the host of “Kentucky Afield” for 20 years, and on the nationally syndicated “Tim Farmer’s Country Kitchen” since 2012, Farmer casts a positive light on Kentucky. Overcoming a traumatic injury while a U.S. Marine in the 1980s and a persistent painful condition to this day, Farmer’s story exemplifies the best of Kentucky.
Distinguished Rural Kentuckian is the highest honor bestowed by the association, which consists of 26 electric cooperatives across the commonwealth. It 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. Kentucky Electric Cooperatives President and CEO Chris Perry presented Farmer with the award following a special video tribute. The full video can be viewed on the association’s YouTube channel.

“If I ever did anything worthwhile, it’s because I have been surrounded with wonderful worthwhile family and friends,” said 2023 Distinguished Rural Kentuckian Tim Farmer. And having the best parents in the world is the greatest blessing. Some of the wisest words I have ever heard came from the deepest hollers. What an honor to be in the company of folks that have preceded me in this tradition.”
Farmer is the 39th Distinguished Rural Kentuckian. Since 1982, the association has honored recipients from the arts, politics, journalism, business, education, religion, athletics, and agriculture. Three former honorees were in attendance at this year’s banquet, including 2004 recipient Jim Host, 2017 honoree Byron Crawford and 2021 recipient David Beck.
“We are so proud to celebrate another outstanding year for Kentucky’s cooperatives and to recognize Tim Farmer’s inspirational story and dedication to Kentucky,” said Kentucky Electric Cooperatives President and CEO Chris Perry. “Behind our responsibility to deliver safe and reliable energy at the lowest cost possible, is the underlying mission to improve the quality of life in the communities we serve. This meeting made clear, Kentucky’s electric cooperatives will advocate for their consumer-members, no matter what it takes.”
The Annual Meeting’s banquet also featured a keynote address from Hall of Fame basketball coach John Calipari of the University of Kentucky. Speaking to several hundred co-op members, friends and guests, Calipari praised Kentucky’s cooperatives, saying: “They serve half of our state. They’re about people first, not profits. And they’re big basketball fans. My goal for my team is to have the same commitment and resolve as you do in this room.”
With a theme of Support, Advocate, Educate, the meeting also included remarks by Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, Attorney General Daniel Cameron, Youth Leadership Council delegate Brennan Christmas of Logan County High School and nationally known energy journalist Robert Bryce, who urged co-ops to push back against government policies that threaten reliable and affordable power.   
During the Annual Meeting, the co-ops also celebrated the 75th anniversary issue of Kentucky Living magazine, the flagship publication of the association that spotlights the people, places and activities that make Kentucky a great place to live, work and play.

Eight million transformers | UUS cheers ERMCO

Kentucky-based United Utility Supply Cooperative (UUS) is congratulating its sister cooperative and strategic partner ERMCO, Inc. upon the manufacture of its eight-millionth transformer since the company was founded in 1972.

At a ceremony at ERMCO’s Dyersburg, Tennessee plant on June 29, ERMCO President and CEO Tim Mills delivered the milestone pad-mount transformer to Chris Perry, president and CEO of both UUS and Kentucky Electric Cooperatives.

“ERMCO is the largest producer of distribution transformers and components in the United States,” Mills said. “We continue to invest in expanding our output, including the recent acquisition of Spire Power Solutions. We’re also increasing manufacturing efficiencies and developing our workforce to accelerate production to meet the nation’s critical infrastructure needs.”

In 2015, Kentucky Electric Cooperatives reached an agreement with ERMCO for UUS to utilize its industry-leading warehouse and distribution network to distribute ERMCO transformers across the UUS footprint primarily in the eastern United States. As part of the agreement, ERMCO purchased the assets of the Kentucky cooperatives’s transformer manufacturing plant.

“UUS and ERMCO were once fierce competitors,” Perry said. “But my board and I saw recognized our mutual commitment to cooperative principles and that together we would be successful. It is our duty as cooperatives to diligently look out for the best interests of our members, and thanks to the dedicaton of our respective workforces, our members have greatly benefitted from this partnership.

ERMCO is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc (AECI).

“The board of directors of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. are committed to ensuring that ERMCO has the support needed to achieve its commendable production goals,” said Buddy Hasten, president and CEO of AECI. “AECI has a 50 year investment in the organization and will continue to serve as an advocate for ERMCO as the company continues its efforts to provide products that are critical to our nation’s power delivery infrastructure.”

ERMCO and United Utility Supply have worked together to meet supply chain challenges and industry pressures.

“ERMCO has stepped up to meet the growing needs. Our partnership is a testament to our shared commitment to excellence, innovation, and customer satisfaction,” Perry added. “Together, we will redefine industry standards, develop groundbreaking technologies, and drive the transition toward a sustainable and resilient energy future.”

Mills provided perspective on the tremendous growth of the cooperative’s transformer manufacturing.

“Our first million took 258 months to produce, and reaching eight million took 27 months,” he said. “Moving forward, we see the potential to produce one million transformers each year. With our incredible team, we will make that happen.”

Biden’s War on Affordable Energy

Column by U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell

“I want you to look me in the eyes,” President Biden told a young woman during his 2020 presidential campaign. “I guarantee you. We’re going to end fossil fuel.”

Well, the President is making good on that promise with yet another assault in his War on Affordable Energy. The Biden Administration announced new regulations in May that will further cripple America’s domestic energy production, threaten our national security, and squeeze workers and job creators in Middle America.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) latest rule will resurrect devastating emissions standards that liberals have spent more than a decade trying to drop on folks in Kentucky and the rest of coal country. The measure revives the Obama Administration’s so-called ‘Clean Power Plan’ with the intention of drastically reducing coal-fired power plants. In fact, the new requirements would require a whopping 60 percent of power plants in our country to either slash their greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent over the next decade or shut down.

By imposing unworkable deadlines and requiring unproven technologies that are not commercially available, the Biden Administration’s message to Kentucky’s power plants and the rest of coal country is clear: shut down.

“This could rein in Kentucky’s ability to generate further economic development moving forward,” said one Kentucky energy producer.

Jim Matheson of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association warned: This new rule would “force critical, always available power plants into early retirement.”

It “will further strain America’s electric grid and undermine decades of work to reliably keep the lights on across the nation,” he went on.

This latest version of the ‘Clean Power Plan’ comes at a time when energy usage is up 73 percent over the past four decades and widespread power outages continue to surge. Power plants that fail to meet the EPA’s stringent new requirements will be forced to shut down, further threatening the reliability of our power grids.

For two years, President Biden has given liberal activists the green light to push a radical climate agenda that only compounds the pain of Washington Democrats’ inflation. Lower-income ratepayers in particular will see their energy bills creep up as a result of these new mandates. And Eastern Kentucky, the heart of our coal country, could see more plants close and even more jobs lost.

By hollowing out production of affordable and reliable American energy, the Biden EPA’s new rule will threaten our energy security. Rather than unleash our own abundant reserves, Washington Democrats would apparently prefer to lean even further on our adversaries for critical supply chains.

Sadly, this is a story Kentuckians know all too well. For eight years under the Obama Administration, they watched the “War on Coal,” kill jobs and cripple communities across Appalachia. In his eight years in office, President Obama helped put more than 10,000 Kentucky miners out of work. Coal employment declined to levels we haven’t seen since the 1800s. And the damage is still being felt to this day. Now President Biden is picking up where he and President Obama left off. The Obama-Biden War on Coal has come in many different forms, but the same basic disdain for Middle America keeps showing its face.

Given President Biden’s track record on executive overreach, it should come as no surprise that the Supreme Court struck down a similar EPA mandate only a year ago. Last April, the Court made it clear that it’s Congress that gets to create energy policy, not unelected bureaucrats. But the Biden Administration’s climate activists are trying to ram this policy through again anyway. So I’m proud to stand with my Republican colleague, Senator Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia, who is leading the charge in Congress against this punitive measure.

Washington Democrats’ latest power grab from the EPA is a recipe for soaring energy prices, electricity blackouts, and less national security. Working Americans cannot afford it — and Kentuckians least of all.

Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, is the Senate Republican Leader.

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.”

Restoration nearly complete, but dangers remain

More than 1,000 broken utility poles

All across Kentucky, local electric cooperatives are wrapping up massive power restoration efforts five days after an historic windstorm snapped more than 1,000 utility poles and threw trees and other debris into power lines.

From a high of more than 300,000 consumer-members without power on Friday, as of 8pm (eastern) Wednesday, about 2,000 consumer-members remain without service, primarily in Kentucky cave country where restoration could take until the end of the week in the most severely damaged areas. Hundreds of members are without power in Edmonson and Grayson Counties. Much of that area is served by Warren RECC where local crews are working alongside mutual aid crews from several states. At Warren RECC alone, at least 385 broken poles are reported.

“We continue to ask for patience as we restore the remaining areas,” said Kim Phelps, Sr. Dir., Communications and Public Relations. “We are in the stage of restoration where pole replacements, removing trees from power lines, and putting up lines allows us to turn the power on to just a few houses at a time.”

Even as co-ops complete restoration efforts, linemen are still on the job, checking on areas that still have power but where infrastructure is damaged.

“Crews are coming across broken poles where electric service is live,” said Randy Meredith, Director of Safety & Training at Kentucky Electric Cooperatives, the association which supports local co-ops. “We cannot emphasize this enough. Please report such broken poles to your co-op and stay away from these dangerous situations, including damaged trees leaning into electric lines.”

Most of the mutual aid crews from more than 60 sister co-ops in 11 different states are now headed home. Because the national network of transmission and distribution infrastructure owned by electric cooperatives is built to federal standards, line crews from any co-op in America can arrive on the scene ready to provide emergency support, secure in their knowledge of the system’s engineering.

Kentucky-based United Utility Supply Cooperative continues to assist with storm response to cooperatives across the region. Its Cooperative Distribution Center in Louisville is responding with transformers, power lines, poles and all other materials needed to outfit an electric utility.